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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Steamed Asian Dumplings


Well, so much for specificity in the title, huh?  I have tried to research the origin of these dumplings, and have managed to come across a myriad of stories, names, and explanations from multiple Asian cultures - Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Korean....  At the very least, it seems everyone wants to claim a piece of these little guys.  And who wouldn't?  These fragrant, tender little dumplings are nothing short of delicious!  We've probably all had them in one form or another at some point, whether they were steamed, fried, boiled, or simmered in a sauce.  In reading the description from the various cultures, these seem to be most closely aligned with the Chinese steamed dumplings, rather than the Japanese (which use a wonton dough that is quite a bit thinner).

Regardless, I think these are great.  Truthfully, they are a bit time consuming, but not difficult to make at all.  That said, the steps could definitely be broken down into several make-ahead parts and assembled later, or assembled early and frozen or cooked later.  All the sites I visited reported that the home made dough tastes so much better than using pre-made wontons, so we thought we would give it a whirl.  I have watched several chefs on television fret over making the crimps and folds just right, etc., which just makes everyone scared to attempt them.  I figured the worst that could happen is that we would make a huge mess and laugh about it later.  No harm, no foul.  But actually it was a lot of fun! We were VERY pleased with the outcome, the authenticity, the texture and flavors.. and just plain proud of our little dumplings. 
            Couldn't resist adding in a photo of this angelic face helping me out.

So next time you have some time with your kids, grandkids, neighbors, or friends, just make some! Good times, skills learning, and making memories with the kids is ALWAYS worth it!

Oh, and one more thing - These share little resemblance to some of the deep fried, greasy dumplings that I've had in some of the restaurants.  Steaming the dumplings is a totally fat free step, and you can add as many healthy veggies as you want to them!  Even my oldest teenager, who won't go near a vegetable, loved them... and he even looked inside and saw the green and orange.  Ha!  There's a new miracle each day!

Want to see me make them as a video?  Click here for my YouTube tutorial on making these.  They are easier than you think!             My Video Tutorial for making Steamed Asian Dumplings

Ingredients:

Dough -
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (plus more for working and rolling dough)
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Filling -
  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced fine
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dried apricots, minced fine
  • a small handful of green onions, chopped fine (~ 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2-3 cups napa cabbage
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp salt
  • optional - black pepper to taste
Dipping Sauce -
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions or chives
  • * optional - Sriracha chili sauce for heat if you would like.

 Step-by-step
A. PREP -
Dough: In a stainless steel bowl, mix 4 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Slowly add boiling water to flour in 1/4 cup increments. Mix until a ball is formed and the dough is not too hot to handle. On a floured surface, knead the dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. This took me about 10 minutes. Place back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Allow to rest for at least 1 hour.
Like any good scientist, Lily was learning how to level off the measuring cup for an accurate measurement.  

Add the 4 cups flour to a large stainless steel bowl.

Add the 1/2 tsp salt to the flour.


Add the 1 3/4 cups boiling water to the flour and salt. 

Mix and mix.  The original recipes say to mix with chopsticks.  That is probably over my head, so we Americanized this step with a spoon.
Our initial dough ball.  See how rough and grainy it is?  Time to get to kneading.
Knead, push, fold over, turn 90 degrees, repeat. Again and again.


LOTS and LOTS of kneading.  About 10 minutes.

Our final dough ball.  Much smoother, silkier, and more elastic now.

Cabbage:  Chop the cabbage and sprinkle with the 1/2 tablespoon of salt.  Allow it to stand for 30-45 minutes to draw out the water. Place the cabbage on a clean dishtowel and squeeze out any water (just like when using frozen spinach). The dryer the cabbage the better.
2 - 3 cups of Napa cabbage, chopped fairly small.

Sprinkle 1/2 - 1 tsp salt over the chopped Napa cabbage.  Let it sit 30 - 40 minutes.

After 30 - 40 minutes or so, collect the cabbage in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the water.

That is the water coming out of the Napa cabbage.

The Napa cabbage, wilted and with all the water squeezed out.  See how wet the towel is?
Filling: Combine ground pork, ginger, apricots, green onions, carrots, and wilted cabbage in a non-stick skillet.  Break up the pork into small pieces while it is cooking.  Add in the soy sauce and sesame oil and continue cooking until pork is cooked through.  Check for seasoning.  I think I also added a sprinkling of black pepper at the end.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool so that you can handle it.
1 pound ground pork.

Start the pork cooking first.  You do not need cooking oil.

Fresh ginger.  Mmmm... can you smell it?!

Finely minced fresh ginger. 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced fine

One large carrot, peeled and grated

Grated carrot
The wilted, squeezed Napa cabbage

chopped green onions

2 Tbsp chopped, dried apricots

2 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sesame Oil
Sauce:
Combine all ingredients and serve in a small bowl.
Our dipping sauce. 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/3 cup green onions, 1 Tbsp brown sugar
B. ASSEMBLY - 
Working on a floured surface with floured hands, cut the dough into several large chunks that are of manageable sizes.  Roll out the dough to to form long 'noodles,' about 1-inch in diameter. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch pieces and turn them over so the cut sides are facing up. Flatten them with your palm and roll out thin using a rolling pin. The dumpling wrappers should end up about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Our "noodle" would have wrapped around the kitchen, so we cut it into chunks first.

Trying to get our bearings to see where our cuts would be.

Cut into 1/2" pieces

Smash them with your hand

Roll out thin

We ended up making them 3 - 4 " in diameter.
Place a small mound (1-2 tsp) of filling in the middle of the wrapper, being very careful not to touch the edges with the filling (this will prevent proper sealing of the dumplings). Wet one edge of the wrapper, and fold in half over the filling to form a half moon shape. Starting on one end fold/pinch the wrapper tightly together. We found this worked better if we wet these edges as well.  Proceed with this fold/pinch method until the dumpling is completely sealed. Some directions instructed that we should expect 10 to 14 folds per dumpling.  Ha!  Don't worry about how many you get.  This isn't Iron Chef and no one is judging you.  Have fun!  Allow the dumplings to rest with the folded edge straight up.  My son got creative with his shapes and made several unique designs that we enjoyed.
Load the fillings. 1 - 1 1/2 tsp filling.

Don't stress over this.  Just have fun!

At this point, you can cover them and put them in the fridge to cook later, or even freeze them.  If you freeze them, I recommend laying them out separately in a single layer on a sheet pan to freeze, then placing them in a zip top freezer bag.  If you put them in a bag while the dough is still a bit sticky, you may end up with one big giant dumpling clump!  Not attractive.

C. COOK -
Add a small amount of water to the bottom of a wok (around 1 inch).  Set the bamboo steamer down into the water.  The water level should almost, but not quite, touch the bottom level of the steamer. 

Line the steamer "trays" with Napa cabbage.  This prevents the dumplings from sticking to the steamer.  The steam will go up through the cabbage.  I was worried about this.  But it worked like a charm.
Line with Napa cabbage first

Place dumplings on the cabbage and cover with the second filled "tray" and the cover. 
Allow the water to boil so that steam will rise up through the bamboo steamer.  I steamed the dumplings for around 10 minutes (once it really started steaming). 
Load up the trays

10 minutes of steaming
I asked around at my local Asian market if you could just use an electric steamer (like the one I use for broccoli).  He said "Yes, you can; although it will not taste quite the same.  The bamboo steamer is partly responsible for giving it its own unique flavor."  Right now, I'm pretty darned happy about the $11 that I spent on the bamboo steamer.  What a great price for authenticity!!
Serve on a bed of napa cabbage with the dipping sauce on the side.  


Delicious!  Light.  Flavorful.  Tender.  NOT greasy!
Lily LOVES using chopsticks... but she is also quick with a Plan B helping hand action!
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Written Directions
A. PREP -
Dough: In a stainless steel bowl, mix 4 cups flour and 1/2 tsp salt. Slowly add boiling water to flour in 1/4 cup increments. Mix until a ball is formed and the dough is not too hot to handle. On a floured surface, knead the dough until it becomes a smooth, elastic ball. This took me about 10 minutes. Place back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Allow to rest for at least 1 hour.
Cabbage:  Chop the cabbage and sprinkle with the 1/2 tablespoon of salt.  Allow it to stand for 30-45 minutes to draw out the water. Place the cabbage on a clean dishtowel and squeeze out any water (just like when using frozen spinach). The dryer the cabbage the better.
Filling: Combine ground pork, ginger, apricots, green onions, carrots, and wilted cabbage in a non-stick skillet.  Break up the pork into small pieces while it is cooking.  Add in the soy sauce and sesame oil and continue cooking until pork is cooked through.  Check for seasoning.  I think I also added a sprinkling of black pepper at the end.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool so that you can handle it.
Sauce:  Combine all ingredients and serve in a small bowl.
B. ASSEMBLY - 
Working on a floured surface with floured hands, cut the dough into several large chunks that are of manageable sizes.  Roll out the dough to to form long 'noodles,' about 1-inch in diameter. Cut the dough into 1/2-inch pieces and turn them over so the cut sides are facing up. Flatten them with your palm and roll out thin using a rolling pin. The dumpling wrappers should end up about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Place a small mound (1-2 tsp) of filling in the middle of the wrapper, being very careful not to touch the edges with the filling (this will prevent proper sealing of the dumplings). Wet one edge of the wrapper, and fold in half over the filling to form a half moon shape. Starting on one end fold/pinch the wrapper tightly together. We found this worked better if we wet these edges as well.  Proceed with this fold/pinch method until the dumpling is completely sealed. Some directions instructed that we should expect 10 to 14 folds per dumpling.  Ha!  Don't worry about how many you get.  This isn't Iron Chef and no one is judging you.  Have fun!  Allow the dumplings to rest with the folded edge straight up.  My son got creative with his shapes and made several unique designs that we enjoyed.
At this point, you can cover them and put them in the fridge to cook later, or even freeze them.

C. COOK -
Add a small amount of water to the bottom of a wok (around 1 inch).  Set the bamboo steamer down into the water.  The water level should almost, but not quite, touch the bottom level of the steamer. 
Line the steamer "trays" with Napa cabbage.  This prevents the dumplings from sticking to the steamer.  The steam will go up through the cabbage.  I was worried about this.  But it worked like a charm.
Place dumplings on the cabbage and cover with the second filled "tray" and the cover. 
Allow the water to boil so that steam will rise up through the bamboo steamer.  I steamed the dumplings for around 10 minutes (once it really started steaming). 
I asked around at my local Asian market if you could just use an electric steamer (like the one I use for broccoli).  He said "Yes, you can; although it will not taste quite the same.  The bamboo steamer is partly responsible for giving it its own unique flavor."  Right now, I'm pretty darned happy about the $11 that I spent on the bamboo steamer.  What a great price for authenticity!!
Serve on a bed of napa cabbage with the dipping sauce on the side. 


Footnote -While I was in graduate school, my major professor was Dr Yuan Luo.  Dr Luo, who was from China, made us many dumplings over the course of the years we worked together.  Her dumplings had a way of making those long lab meetings a lot more enjoyable, and brought us all together - regardless of the multiple cultural personalities working together.  This is where I really learned to love these tasty bites.  I can't believe it took me this long to attempt them on my own!

Dr Luo - If you are reading this... thank you.  You taught me so much!  Your encouragement and confidence in me meant so much... and I still remember you saying "Julie, Make a plan."  I wish you were here to taste these and give me some feedback.

10 comments:

  1. Very cool. Thank you so much for breaking this down into the steps you used. I am going to forward to my 15 year old daughters and see if they want to try this together one weekend. We all love dumplings!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Denise - I hope y'all enjoy. We did! Good times together.

      Delete
  2. Your dumplings look great!! I love the addition of the apricots. Thanks for the recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Hope you will give them a try!
      Julie

      Delete
  3. About how many dumplings/servings does this recipe make? Looks delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 3 - 4 dozen, depending on the size you make them. LOTS!!!

      Delete
  4. I came across ur site when I was you tubing how to make dumplings,,I'm so glad I did,, cause u explain so much better with really calming voice,,thank you so much for ur effort in trying to share ur knowledge,,I'l surely try this out really soon,,thank you once again :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I really like your cooking recipes one of the best and well guided instructions I've seen over the net. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  6. My kids do love these, although I have to admit anything with homemade dough looks daunting to me. But I am pinning this anyway...your instructions look really good and I'd like to try it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Michelle... (shaking my head) Okay! Here's the plan! Pick a day to do these with the kids or your girlfriends (you CAN, I promise!), pull out the step-by-step directions on one of the kids iPads. You could always have a pack of those egg roll wrappers on standby JUST IN CASE! LOL!!!! (They work great for these as well, you know.) But you really should give the dough a shot. You will be SO PROUD that you did. Seriously. I can already here you calling everyone, "You are NEVER going to believe what I just made... from SCRATCH!!!" Yep!!!

      The worst thing that can happen is you didn't like the way a bunch of flour and salt and stuff came out. You have a Plan B to put your lovely filling in!!! RIGHT?! I'm going to stay on you about this one. I expect an update!
      Julie

      Delete

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