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Dumpling wisdom from a retired dumpling professional

pork-and-prawn-dumplings-049

I am a lucky girl who grew up eating home made dumplings. The dumplings we ate were stuffed with pork mince with different variations. I asked my Mum what ingredients were in the dumplings of my childhood and this post is based around her answer.

12 years ago, back when I was still a hungry design student, I worked in our family’s Chinese take-out. Since I loved dumplings so much, I helped myself to dumplings at the start of every shift. Free dumplings is a (self-proclaimed) perk of working in the family business. Dad made the filling and wrapped a hundred dumplings ahead of time and the dumplings were cooked during service. One of my duties was cooking dumplings fresh to order. So while I can’t proclaim I was a professional dumpling wrapper, I did get paid to cook dumplings. This makes me somewhat of a retired dumpling professional (see pro tips at the bottom of this post).

Fast forward 12 years, my love of dumplings has grown. I don’t cook dumplings for money anymore and my friends and I go out for dumplings regularly and we pay other people for dumplings. On Dominion Road, which is right on my doorstep, there are over 30 places offering dumplings, plus a bunch of Asian markets where you can buy a tray of 30 frozen dumplings for about 8 bucks. Where I live, finding dumplings to eat is super easy.

Store-bought dumplings are cheap and they’re pretty good.

But…

Home made dumplings are the business. Made fresh with quality ingredients, there is a place for home made dumplings and I find the ritual to be meditative. I’m not going to lie, this process takes about 2-3 hours from start to finish. It’s a rainy weekend activity, not a weeknight mission. Enlist a friend or two to speed things up or put on a podcast or two and commence dumpling therapy. I use store-bought dumpling wrappers which can be found in the chilled section in any Asian market. I don’t make my own wrappers because the process is long enough without.

Dumpling recipes can be fairly forgiving and after you’ve made dumplings a couple of times, feel free to change up the ingredients according to your tastes. Try different meats and vegetables, different herbs and flavourings. There are too many variations to list. Make sure you check out my tips at the bottom of this post!

Pork and prawn dumplings

Makes 60 dumplings

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of round dumpling wrappers (60 pieces)

Filling ingredients

  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 750g (1 1/2lb) free range pork mince
  • 1 tbspn fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • A pinch of ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbspn Chinese rice wine (optional)
  • 2 tbspn light soy sauce
  • 300g (11oz) prawns, peeled and deveined

To cook:

  • 1 tbspn oil
  • 1/2 cup water (per batch)

Preparation

  1. To make the filling: Place mushrooms in a small bowl or cup fill with warm water. Cover to keep mushrooms submerged and soak for about 30 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. In the meantime, add the pork mince to a mixing bowl. Add the pork, ginger, spring onion, pepper, corn flower, salt, rice wine, soy sauce and mix well until evenly distributed. Cut each prawn into 4 or 5 pieces and add to the bowl. Drain the mushrooms and remove the woody stems. Finely chop the mushroom caps and add to the bowl. Fold in to combine.
  2. To wrap the dumplings: place a gently heaped teaspoon of filling onto the centre of a dumpling wrapper. Fold in half and pleat pinch closed to create a crescent shape, making 5 pleats along the edge. An overfilled dumpling is impossible to close so start with less filling until you get the hang of the pleat and pinch. Repeat until you run out of filling or wrappers. Place wrapped dumplings in a single layer on a baking paper lined plate or tray as you go.
  3. To cook the dumplings (this is same for fresh or frozen): Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place the dumplings, flat side down in the pan in a single layer. I can fit 15 dumplings in my largest pan. Fry dumplings for 2 minutes until the bottoms are golden (see picture).
    pork-and-prawn-dumplings-014

    Carefully add half a cup of cold water and immediately cover with lid (use a large plate if you don’t have a lid). Allow the dumplings to cook in the steam for 10 minutes until the water has evaporated and a little water still clings to the dumplings. Remove the lid and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until all the water is gone. Optional: Shake the pan to tip dumplings on their sides and cook for a further 1-2 minutes so that the dumplings crisp all over.

  4. Tip dumplings onto a platter and serve with sauce on the side for dipping or drizzled on top.
  5. My dipping sauce recipe is 1 part soy sauce, 2 parts black vinegar and a touch of chilli oil.

pork-and-prawn-dumplings-001

Dumpling tips and notes:

  1. Dumpling wrappers I bought come in packs of 60 and are 10cm in diameter.
  2. If you can’t get the hang of the pleat and pinch method of wrapping dumplings, you can just squeeze them shut. As long as they’re closed, they’ll still cook the same and taste just good. You can also buy a dumpling press for pretty cheap but I haven’t tried them so YMMV.
  3. To get a head start on eating, begin cooking dumplings when you’re about half way done wrapping and finish wrapping the rest while the first batch is cooking.
  4. If you are unsure about a new filling recipe, make 1 or 2 dumplings using the filling and cook them up. Taste the the cooked dumpling for seasoning and make any adjustments required before wrapping the remainder of the filling.
  5. Freeze any dumplings you won’t be eating immediately. I flash freeze the dumplings in a single layer on a tray and then transfer to a container or bag once frozen.
  6. Frozen dumplings can be cooked in the exact same way as fresh dumplings. There is no need to thaw before cooking.
  7. Non-stick pans makes life easier but if you don’t have one, use a regular pan. Always make sure the pan is HOT before adding the oil and make sure the oil is HOT before adding the dumplings. If you don’t do these things, your dumplings will stick to the pan and make you sad.
  8. Cover most of the pan with the lid leaving a little gap so it acts as a shield when you pour water onto the pan through the gap. Oil and water can react with splatter so the shield is for your safety!
  9. Cook dumplings in batches, you can totally start eating the first batch while the second batch is cooking. Just set a timer so that you don’t forget about them. Have more than 1 pan going at once to speed up the cooking time.

 


our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage bloggers to try new food related things.

This month’s host is Chrystal from The Smallwood Parsonage and the theme this month is FAMILY RECIPES.

If you have a blog and you are eating or cooking something new this month, click below to join. More information here.

This entry was posted in: Recipes

by

I am Genie, a designer/photographer obsessed with food and bunnies. I live in Auckland, New Zealand with my rabbit, Tofu and my husband, The Koala. I write about my hedonistic ways and I love the mantra "Eat well, travel often". I prefer not to write about myself in third person. www.bunnyeatsdesign.com

28 Comments

  1. Thank you for such detailed instructions on cooking dumplings, I would have never guessed to pan fry them first and then add the water to boil them to cook, quite a different technique than the way I cook and crisp most other dumplings. It’s so cool that your parent had a Chinese food restaurant, is that what gave you your love of food?

    • It’s not so much that they’re being boiled, but steamed with just a little water in the pan. I’m not sure what sprouted my love of food, but I started cooking shortly after that time. Had no interest in cooking before. Might be in the blood.

  2. Pork & mushroom – I may have to try these next dumpling round I make. They look amazing Genie – I could go a few (or twenty) dumplings now! 🙂 xx

  3. Just lovely! Will give it a try next week-end.
    I’ve always been a bit scared of making dumplings myself: I love dumplings too much to take the risk and discover I’m a crappy dumpling-maker…couldn’t live with myself, haha! But now I have good instructions to follow and good tips. Keep u posted, greets from Belgium!

  4. Oh wow you are a dumpling expert! I make homemade sim sum (the round ones where you see the filling) about once a year but I’ve never made these kinds of dumplings. I’ll look at your instructions on a raiiny day!

      • Yes I do, because I usually make too many in one go, I usually have pork, prawns and then a mix of other ingredients like carrots, mushrooms, whatever.. and make a combination of many flavours by mixing and matching. I think it’s the time of the year that I should do it again! Do you make them too?

  5. it always helps when the food blogger offers tips in addition to the recipes. Thanks for helping us to make the best dumplings we can (after a few tries, anyway!)

    • Thanks Paula, I like tips too. So many tidbits I’ve picked up over the years that I do without really thinking about it. It’s funny seeing them all written down.

  6. OMG, i love dumplings, any kind of dumplings, any time of the day, any day and every day! And your dumplings look incredibly tasty!

  7. I am lucky too, because in my house we were always making dumplings with meat, cabbage+mushrooms, even strawberries with kinda greek yogurt on top (wrappings we made by ourselves of flour). I miss it now so much! Especially because I became gluten free so I can forget this taste… do you know if they sell gluten free wrappings? Anyway, yours look delicious. Have a good day! And you are welcome to visit my iamthyroidtoday.com blog too 🙂

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