It would be impossible for me to express just how much I love dumplings. My mom’s are by far the best (sorry other moms out there) and restaurant dumplings don’t come close to hers.
My mom taught me how to make them about 10 years ago, and I now always have a stock of them in the freezer for easy meals when we don’t feel like cooking and are too lazy to go out to eat.
Wrappers & Filling
There is a way to make your own dumpling wrappers, but I haven’t gotten that far yet
and just buy them from the Chinese supermarket. There’s only one brand at the one near me, but if you have a choice, you might want to try a couple brands to see which ones live up to your personal preference of thickness. For me, wrappers that are too thin will tear while you’re assembling or cooking them and wrappers that are too thick or gummy throw off the ratio of wrapper to filling. But this is all based on your own taste preferences and I’m fairly picky when it comes to this.
My favorite filling is very simple: ground pork and cabbage. I’ve tried many other varieties, but always come back to the original. I don’t know if it’s a reminder of my childhood and mom’s home cooking or what, but I don’t feel the need to go any fancier than these two ingredients. I also make ground pork and chive dumplings to add some variety for other people who eat my dumplings. For this, I just chop up one bunch of chives that I get from the fresh vegetable section in the grocery store. Everything else is the same as the pork and cabbage dumplings.
For the cabbage, I used to chop it all up by hand (my mom still does), but now that I own a food processor, it’s made this step go by much more quickly. I use most of a small head of cabbage for each package of dumpling wrappers, which ends up being about 1.5 lbs. I pulse it until it’s small pieces like the picture below. For the chives, just get a fresh bunch from the market and chop them up.
For the meat, I use 1 lb of ground pork, which is a whole package from the grocery store. Several years ago, it actually wasn’t that easy to find packaged ground pork, so you would have to ask the butcher behind the counter to grind it for you.
Once the vegetable of choice was chopped, I combined it with the pork and mixed it together in a large bowl.
This is the time-consuming part and it took me a couple times to really get used to it. The first thing I do after the filling is ready is to set up the area where I’m going to be assembling the dumplings. Aside from the ingredients, I also place a bowl of water (you don’t need a lot) to help the cornstarch on the wrappers stick together, a dish that I can use to put the dumplings after I assemble them (you can use a casserole dish, a styrofoam platter, or basically anything that will easily fit in your freezer), and paper towels to help contain the mess.
Then time to put it all together. I use a regular spoon from the kitchen and use what I believe is about a heaping tablespoon of filling into a wrapper. Then I dip my finger in water and wet the entire outer ring around the filling – this usually takes 3-4 dips depending on how much cornstarch has accumulated on your finger. I fold the wrapper in half and pinch it in the middle. I then dip my finger in the water again and start making the folds on each side. On just one side of the wrapper (the back side is easier for me), pull a little bit of the wrapper and fold it onto itself, pinch together, and repeat 2 more times. The assembled dumpling will have three folds on the left and three on the right (although it really doesn’t matter how many folds). Then put the assembled dumplings in your dish and line them up to fit as many as you can in each row. I separate each row with some wax paper.
Since you probably aren’t going to be eating 40+ dumplings right after you assemble them, keep out the ones you plan to cook immediately and put them the remainder in the freezer. Once they’re frozen through, transfer them to zippered bags and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to cook them.
Most people like their dumplings fried and this is how you’ll get them at most restaurants. In order to cook them this way, use medium-high heat to heat some oil in a saucepan that has a cover and then place the dumplings in there in a single layer until the bottoms are bit browned (about a minute or so).
Then add enough water in the pan so that the entire bottom is just covered and all the dumplings are sitting in a bit of water (about 1/2 cup). Cover the saucepan and steam the dumplings for about 2 minutes until the filling is basically done. Then remove the cover and cook off the remaining water and let the bottoms crisp up to how you like it. You may want to cut a dumpling in half to ensure the pork has been cooked all the way through.
I like using a mixture of low sodium soy sauce and chile-garlic paste to dip my dumplings in. You can also add grated ginger, minced garlic, and/or balsamic vinegar to soy sauce, depending on what taste you’re looking for.
Chinese Pork Dumplings
Servings: approx. 40 dumplings
- 1 package dumpling wrappers
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1.5 lbs cabbage or 1 cup chives
- Small bowl of water
- ~2 tbsp oil
- ~1/2 cup water
- Grind or chop the cabbage/chives
- Mix cabbage/chives with ground pork
- Place heaping tablespoon of filling into middle of dumpling wrapper
- Dip your finger in water and wet the outer rim of the dumpling wrapper
- Fold the dumpling wrapper in half and pinch in the middle
- Dip your finger in water and create about 3 pleats on each side by folding one side of the dumpling wrapper onto itself and pinching (see above for pictures)
- Freeze dumplings you don’t plan to eat immediately
- To cook, heat oil in saucepan that has a cover
- Place dumplings in a single layer in the saucepan and cook ~1 min until bottoms are browned
- Pour in ~1/2 cup water, cover, and let steam for ~2 minutes
- Uncover pan, cook until water evaporates and bottoms are crisp
- Serve with dipping sauce of your choice (see above for options)
- Nom nom nom!
Estimated Nutritional Information (per dumpling): 53 calories; 2.4g fat; 7.4mg cholesterol; 8.6mg sodium; 55.9mg potassium; 5.4g carbs; 2.7g protein
*Estimates are for Pork & Cabbage Dumplings. Estimates for Pork & Chive Dumplings are roughly similar