As our first recipe for this blog, Sarah suggested we make dumplings. She had some experience making them when she was in China, and I do love a good dumpling, so I agreed! We googled avidly and decided to work off of a recipe from Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen. I had tried several of her other recipes before, and found them straightforward and easy to follow. So we used her recipe as a base, with some minor alterations based on our own experience. After the first picture we took of them, we decided they look like more delicious versions of terracotta soldiers.
We went back and forth on making the dumpling skins ourselves, but we decided we’d buy them the first time. We found the ingredients at my favorite little Japanese store in DC- Hana Japanese Market. If you live in DC, it’s a real gem! It’s on 17th and U and looks like a travel agency out of the fifties. It is such a treasure trove of goodies. If you grew up in Asia, like me, you will find familiar food friends everywhere! I found Yakult, which is an odd-shaped little yogurt drink I used to have almost everyday as a child, and have not found anywhere in the U.S. but here. Anyway, they get no produce on Thursdays from a Japanese farm in California, so if you want produce- go on Thursday. We found a pack of 50 dumpling wrappers for $1.50- we weren’t going to argue with that.
When buying the ingredients, it’s worth noting that while it may be easier with a food processor, it isn’t entirely necessary. We discovered the limits of a blender (somewhere between bamboo shoots and shrimp), and ended up scooping half-blended gunk out of the machine to cut by hand. But if you don’t own a food processor, it should be relatively easy to just do the work yourself with a nice, sharp knife.
Much like the poor proverbial skinless cat, we found that there are a million ways to pleat a dumpling. We tried a few of our own, and then defected to Jaden’s carefully written documented method. It basically involves slightly folding the dumpling into a half-moon shape, and then only pleating it on one side. This was the fastest way to do it, but you’re welcome to try whatever way you would like, as long as it has a flat bottom to pan fry it with.
Be careful not to add too much oil at the beginning of each frying round. One tablespoon will suffice for 7-9 dumplings. Otherwise, when the water is added, it will smoke and sputter which is not fun for your hands or the dumplings themselves. Since we had two people, we could quickly put the lid on after adding water, to let them steam for 3 minutes.
Then, we served them with some delish dipping sauce, watched the Oscars and played a round of Shogun. Which, if you were as clueless as I was, is an awesome board game which is kind of like a Japanese version of Risk but with way more rules. But I believe the dumplings were still the highlight of the night. Here’s why:
Look at that. That’s pretty amazing for a first blog post.
1 package of 50 dumpling skins (defrosted for 40 minutes or overnight in the fridge)
1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 stalks green onions, cut into 2 inch sections
1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots (about 2 bamboo shoots)
1/2 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon rice cooking wine
for the slurry: 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water in a small bowl
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (we used sambal olek)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1. Wash shrimp, chop into 1/4 inch sections, and chop bamboo shoots finely. Mix with green onions. Alternately, pulse shrimp, bamboo shoots and green onions in food processor until shrimp is about 1/4 inch long.
2. In a large bowl, add this shrimp mixture with ground pork, soy sauce, salt, cornstarch, ginger and rice wine. Mix well with a fork.
3. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filling into the dumpling skin. Dip your finger in the cornstarch slurry and just brush it along the circumference of the skin. Fold all the dumplings and make sure they have a flat edge.
4. Spray a baking sheet or pan with a thin film of cooking oil, and then place dumplings on them in a row. We could fit about 25 dumplings on each cookie sheet. If you don’t plan on making them immediately, cover with saran wrap so it stays moist. If you make them in advance, you can place them in the fridge for up to 4 hours or so with the saran wrap over it.
5. To cook, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the dumplings but don’t crowd them. Make sure they don’t touch. Let them fry for one minute until the bottoms are light golden brown. Then pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan and immediately cover with lid. Turn heat to medium and let dumplings steam for 3 minutes. Then, remove lid and let remaining oil/water cook off.
6. Check one dumpling from each batch to see if its fully cooked (cut in half to see). Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, drain the pan or wipe it clean with a thick paper towel or dishcloth, and repeat from step 5.