This recipe is passed down by my father, and I’ve acquired it in pieces over the course of about a decade, which is why the following instructions total 30 distinct points. I promise you, it’s worth it.
My family has been making dumplings for a long time, long enough ago that when we were children, my little brother got mad at us for our lack of assembly-line production, which hindered efficiency. Now that I’m no longer at home, it’s harder to make dumplings without five other highly trained people at the ready. But last week for Chinese New Year, I decided to just go for it. I don’t claim to have created an exact version of my dad’s famous dumplings, but this is my best-effort approximation at a traditional, time-consuming, crazy-worth-it dish. Enjoy!
Note: if you’d like to cut the preparation time of these in half, buy some premade round dumpling wrappers from your local Asian market. They won’t taste the same (self-made dumpling dough adds so much texture to the bite) but they will save you a great deal of effort.
My Dad’s Pork, Shrimp, and Chive Dumplings
Makes about 100.
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb fresh shrimp
- large bunch of chives (enough to wrap two hands around)
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon five spice powder or allspice
- 1 head finely minced ginger
- 8 cups all-purpose flour, with extra for sprinkling
Starting the dough
- Pour your flour into a large bowl and create a small crater towards the side. Slowly stream water in, little by little, while you mix with chopsticks. Treat the flour as if it’s separated into quadrants (this makes handling the volume of flour much simpler). Incorporate the water into each quadrant, forming a loose, shaggy dough.
- Knead a few times to form a coherent mass. You will have a significant amount of dry flour underneath and/or around your dough. Lift your dough out of your bowl, and stream a touch more water into the remaining flour.
- Knead the entire ball of dough until well incorporated. The dough may be a little lumpy-textured, which is okay.
- Cover the dough with a damp paper towel for at least 1 hour for it to “wake”.
Making your filling
- Hopefully, while you’ve been making your dough, someone else has been washing chives. If not, wash the chives thoroughly.
- Beat the eggs and fry, omelette-style, in a pan. Keep the eggs as unfolded and sheet-like as possible. Set aside to cool.
- Put your ground pork in a large bowl and, using chopsticks, begin to mix. Ground meat is generally a pebbly texture, and we want meaty wisps. When the meat is broken up, begin to stream in soy sauce and continue mixing until pork is cohesive and threads begin to form.
- Add finely minced ginger and continue mixing. It’s practically impossible to over-stir this filling.
- Slice your raw shrimp into small pieces, about 1 cm. Add to filling.
- Add five spice powder and mix thoroughly. I didn’t have any on hand so I substituted allspice, which worked fine.
- For extra umami, I like to add shiitake mushrooms. Finely mince and add to filling.
- Finely mince your scrambled egg sheet and add to filling.
- Pour in sesame oil.
- Working in batches, begin to slice chives into small lengths. I like mine about 3-4 mm long, but typically I just tell people “as small as possible”. Add to filling and stir to incorporate.
- If you want to taste your filling for seasoning, my dad always forms a small patty on a plate and microwaves it on high to taste. I didn’t personally do this but these ratios turned out fine.
Now you’re ready to dumpling
- Prep some sheet trays with a sprinkling of flour to prevent sticking.
- Your dough should now be supple and smooth. With a knife, divide the dough into four parts and take one out.
- Use your thumbs to punch a hole in the middle of your dough and work the dough into a ring about 4 cm thick.
- Cut the dough ring to create two ropes of dough. Roll these ropes out to make them thinner, about 2 cm or to your liking. A thinner rope will create smaller dumplings. I never have the patience for all this rolling, so my dumplings inevitably come out huge. You decide— do you want a 1- or 2-bite affair?
- Once the dough ropes are rolled evenly, use your knife to cut about 2 cm from the end. This is your first individual dumpling wrapper.
- Now, roll the rope 90 degrees upwards so the crease of your first cut lies perpendicular to the board. Again, cut about 2 cm from the end. You will roll and cut every time to create dough lumps that have cut creases through the middle. If you don’t want to do all this roll and cut nonsense, I’m sure cutting pieces without rolling is fine as well.
- Thoroughly flour each dough nubbin and use your palm to press them into flat circles.
- You will be controlling the rolling pin with your dominant hand (for me, right) and turning the dough with your non-dominant hand (for me, left, so I’ll be referring to these as right and left for the rest). Make sure your rolling pin is floured as well.
- Hold your dough circle by its edge with your left hand as it lies on your board. With the rolling pin beneath your right palm, roll the pin from the edge of the circle to a little before the middle. Your right hand should just be rocking the rolling pin back and forth.
- Slightly turn the circle and continue rolling in this manner. Keep the center of the circle slightly thicker than the sides— I describe this as a “nipple;” it prevents the fullest part of the dumpling from breaking the skin.
- To fill, use a spoon to portion out about 1 tablespoon of filling and place in the middle of your circle. Seal the dumpling shut in whatever way suits you— some people pleat, some people press, at the end of the day, it’s all aesthetic. The only thing that matters is that there aren’t any holes and your dumpling doesn’t leak.
Cooking and eating
- You can of course bring a pot of water to a boil and boil these dumplings for a traditional preparation. But my favorite way to eat these is as potstickers. Heat some oil in a pan and line the pan with dumplings, standing up. It’s often best to fry your bigger, plumper dumplings since there’s less chance of breakage in the pan.
- Once the bottoms of your dumplings are lightly golden brown and crisp, add about a half cup of water or stock and put the lid on to steam.
- When the liquid has almost entirely evaporated, remove the lid so the bottoms can stay as crisp as possible.
- If you want to create this flipped lacy potsticker look, which can be impressive for gatherings or people who love crispy bits, add a little bit of cornstarch slurry to your pan after the dumplings have steamed. This will connect the dumplings and create this crispy lace. Then turn it all out onto a plate and serve hot.
- My favorite condiment for Chinese dumplings is black vinegar, which lends a nice acidic bite to the rich, savory dumpling. It’s an explosion of taste, and who doesn’t love that?