I’ve been on a dumpling craving lately. I’ve never made dumpling from 100% scratch: wrapper to filling. I was ambitious to begin my dumpling journey with the king of all dumplings: the Shanghai soup dumpling. Sadly to say but expected, I failed miserably. I vowed to try my stab at the Shanghai soup dumpling again soon until I get it right.
OBJECTIVE: Basic dumpling skill a stepping stone to making Shanghai soup dumpling?
As I plan when to take on the challenge again, 5 days later, I decided that I need to go back to crawling first. That’s probably true of all human nature. We’re ambitious and we end up striving too fast to accomplish the hardest task instead of starting with stepping stones.
I decided I need to try some basic dumplings recipe and techniques before I level up with the king. The most basic Chinese dumplings are probably the wonton and shui jiao. They are easy, quick and delicious They required practically no pleating skills (just squeeze it all shut, fold it flat halfway like a flat moon, or if fancy, into a ring). Even easier, the wide availability of premade wonton wrappers makes this a no brainier for many beginners. It’s great for learning how to make the meat fillings. Premade wonton wrappers was my thing in the past. I just made the filling and wrapped. It was quick and easy and I was happy with it up until now. Premade wrappers wasn’t really suitable for more advanced dumplings like the huotie or Shanghai soup dumpling. They were hard to adjust in size or thickness.
Since I needed a dumpling to practice pleating and I craved a fried dumpling or huotie and I needed to use up my leftover chives, thus I decided to take my aim at pork and chive fried dumpling from scratch. There’s some partial crimping /pleating required which will help me build on my pleating skill for Shanghai soup dumpling. The dough needs to be thick enough to hold a large amount of pork fillings and uphold frying.
Crescent-Shaped Pleat Dumpling
The huotie ((鍋貼) is a Northern Chinese dumpling (known as potsticker in West which is what the Chinese translates to-sticking to the pot). It is crescent-shaped formed by pleating only one side of the wrapper and pressed against an unpleated side of the wrapper. As a result, the wrapper will end up curving against the meat and form a crescent-shape.
Even though the huotie didn’t get mention until the Song Dynasty the earliest. The moon is a popular motif in Chinese culture and history. Chinese poets loved to use the moon as an inspiration for their poems. They believe that the moon has mythical power (since the moon goddess lived there) that can allure the inner soul of a human being. Usually, the effect of the moon’s power is the product of many poems. One of the famous Tang poem by poet Li Bai is a well-known poem that a 3 year old Chinese kid can recite today:
Li Bai (701–762): Night Thoughts
床前明月光 Before my bed the moon shines,
疑是地上霜 so bright that the floor seems to be covered in frosted snow,
舉頭望明(山)月 I raise my head and with the moon I see,
低頭思故鄉 I lower my head and I suddenly miss homeland.
So a dumpling formed in a crescent moon shape is surely a big symbolic food for the Chinese culture. It symbolizes a new beginning as well (crescent moon = new moon). Drinking wine and reciting poetry with the moon as the backdrop was the classy way to gather for scholars in ancient China. On cloudy days, people can now bring the moon into the dining table to socialize. It is delicious and inspirational.
Special frying technique
In the past when I bought these premade, I thought people boiled them first then fry them separately. That method always scared me since oil would splatter like crazy if I put a wet dumpling in hot oil.
Now I realize that there’s a certain way they steam and fry them at the same time making it time efficient and less dangerous.
The Steam and Fry method. See below in direction.
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup green chives, finely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
6 teaspoons Chinese rice wine, such as Shaoxing
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
Season to taste with pepper, salt or oyster sauce.
Dough (makes approx 18 wrappers. double recipe for more-I had lots of extra fillings)
150g all purpose flour
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoon dumpling dipping sauce (or black vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon scallion, chopped
1 Thai bird chili, chopped with some seed
1. Mix well all the filling ingredients. It might be best to mix with your hands so it’s more even or do it longer with a fork. Refrigerate while you make the dough. Taste test by pan frying a small amount. Season to taste.
2. Make dough. Make a well in the middle of the flours, add hot water. Using a fork or chopsticks, stir in the flour into the hot water well. Once cool enough to handle, mix with hand. until flour comes together to form a loose ball. Add cold water. Continue mixng with hand until a smooth ball forms. Remove from bowl and knead for approximate 10 minutes – turning and kneading in rhythm to strengthen the gluten. Add 1 teaspoon water at a time if dough too dry. Add 1 teaspoon flour at a time if too wet. Dough should be shiny and still be slightly sticky when you press it between your thumb and index finger. Let it rest for 20 minutes at least.
3. Cut the dough into quarters. Take one quarter at a time and roll into a 1 inch thick rope. Cover the rest of the touch with a towel or plastic wrap to prevent drying. Cut the rope into 1 inch wide pieces. One piece at a time, roll each piece into a ball. Then flatten the ball with the palm of your hand. Roll it out with a rolling pin or a straight-edge object (I used a cup) until you get a 1/4 inch circle wraper.
4. Place 2 teaspoons of fillings in the center of the wrapper. Wet half the wrapper edge with water slightly.
5. To pleat: using right hand to hold the side farthest from you and use the left hand to hold the side closest to you. Fold in half to get the meat properly centered but do not seal it shut. Right hand will pleat in a fan-folding motion that’s 1/4 inch apart. Left hand will take the flat edge and seal it against the pleated side. As you move along, the pleated side will force the dumpling to bend into a crescent shape. Seal the end but pressing against the both edges.
Steam and fry dumpling
6. When ready, take a wok, pan or pot with a lid. Add 1 tablespoon oil or sufficient to fry the amount of dumplings you’re putting in the pan.
7. Add dumplings. Add cold water covering dumplings halfway up. Boil on medium heat. Cover to let steam until water dries out – approx. 10 minutes. Watch carefully, dumpling will start frying with the oil once water is gone. It will burn quickly if you forget it. Fry bottom until golden brown. May flip to fry sides too if you wish. Blot with tissues.
8. Serve with dipping sauce.
Since this is meant to be stepping stone for Shanghai soup dumplings, I won’t know the verdict until I attempt it again. But I will say making huotie gave me confidence back to try the Shanghai soup dumpling again. I will update the verdict once I get to it. For the time being, bon appetit with Pork and Chive Fried Dumpling.