August 3, 2009 by skwishface
I love love love Chinese food. I am fully capable of gorging myself at a buffet or cheefully adding items to my take-out order so I meet the (ridiculous) $15 minimum for delivery. The stuff is so tasty, and so often done badly, that I’ve been known to swear my undying loyalty to a Chinese restaurant that I like.
However, these economic times, they are a-difficult. So I’ve been exploring the replication of my favorite restaurant dishes at home. Turns out, it makes a whole helluva lot more financial sense to cook your own Chinese take-out. I decided to start this little experiment with that most delectable of Asian appetizers: the pork dumpling.
Cost of an order of dumplings at my favorite Chinese restaurant: $5.75
Number of dumplings: 5 (presumably so you and your dinner partner can fight over the last one)
Cost per dumpling: about $1
Cost of ingredients for homemade dumplings: $9.00
Number of dumplings: 25-30
Cost per dumpling: about $0.30
This recipe is easy, but it’s got a whole lotta steps. Steps which I felt the need to document anal-retentively in photographs. So bear with me.
Pork Dumplings (prep time: about 30-45 minutes)
1 pound ground pork
25-30 wonton wrappers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or less, depending on your tastebuds)
2 tsps sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
(you can find a printable version of this recipe at the Tasty Kitchen)
Okay, so I totally forgot to put the bottle of soy sauce in the picture. I have no good reason why. Can’t even blame the kids – they were napping at the time. Sigh.
Anyway, let’s not dwell on it. We’ve got alot of chopping to do.
See that big ugly brown thing on the left? That’s the mondo-supersize ginger root that The Husband brought home from the grocery store. He does all the grocery shopping, see. I give him a list, and he plugs into his iPod, blasts through the store at Ludicrous Speed, and somehow picks out the best produce ever. He is the Produce Whisperer. If you ever admire some fresh fruit or veggie picture on this site, know that The Husband is responsible.
Although I must admit, not all of his produce purchases are quite so amusingly shaped …
I’m entirely too classy a dame to say what, precisely, this reminds me of. Let’s move on, and address proper ginger chopping technique.
The stuff is potent, so you only need a bit. Cut off a nub, slice off the brown bark-like outer skin, the mince the yellowish root-flesh-stuff.
You will only use a fraction of the whole ginger root, if you’re buying a brand new one. Whatever you don’t use, put it in a baggie and freeze it. It’ll outlive you.
Mince up your garlic, and toss it into a pan with a bit of oil, along with the ginger. Let those cook up a bit and soften over medium-low heat. While that’s going, cut the hairy little heads off of your green onions and chop them up. Then toss the green onions in with the garlic and ginger.
The idea here is to soften up the veggies so that when you eat your dumpling, you don’t encounter a big half-raw hunk of ginger. If you’ve never had this particular palate-bomb get dropped on you before, you can easily replicate the experience by politely requesting that a police officer spray you with mace and then kick you in the teeth. Or just taste the raw ginger while you’re chopping it. Whichever is easier for you.
Set your sauteed veggies aside to cool, and turn your attention to the meat.
Ground pork is about as economical as it gets. I got a little over a pound, and it cost $1.91. I thought I had a picture of the label on the package to prove this, but apparently it went the way of the soy sauce image. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Trust in the cheap meat!
Throw your cheap meat into a bowl. Add a dash of salt-n-pepper, the soy sauce, and the sesame oil. Tread lightly with the sesame oil, that stuff is just as potent as the ginger in its own way. Toss in your sauteed veggies, mix it all together till it’s evenly distributed and pretty.
Now the painstaking part. One by one, you must assemble your dumplings. Don’t fret over how pretty they are. The point is to get a little nugget of yummy meat inside a dough wrapper. With minimal air bubbles. It’s not hard, it just takes for-e-ver.
There are roughly a bajillion ways to fold up your dumplings. Some professional chefs make their dumplings into works of delicately pleated art. That’s way, way above my pay grade. I’ve experimented, and found a shape that’s easy to put together and gives the dumpling a nice little bottom to rest on for greater stability while cooking.
First, lay out your wonton wrapper.
Wonton wrappers aren’t a terribly common ingredient here in Central Texas, so we’re mostly at the mercy of the grocery store’s stockboy. Today it was the square wrappers, but sometimes it’s the round ones. These are dusted with cornstarch to keep them from sticking to each other. This comes in handy when you need to seal the edges, because just a dab of water (dipped on your fingertip in the little bowl nearby) around the edges will get the job done.
Get a spoonful of the meat mixture and drop in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Be sure to not let the mixture touch the edges – it’s oily enough that it’ll prevent the edges from sealing up. Dab your finger in the water and trace the edges of the dough.
Bring up two opposite corners of the dough and press them together.
Pull up the remaining two corners and press them together. Gently seal up the edges, making sure to push out any air bubbles that might be trapped inside. Air bubbles will make your dumpling ‘splode during cooking.
You might find it easier to do this in your hands, rather than on a plate. Just lay the wonton wrapper on your palm and go from there. That’s actually how I normally do it, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna post pictures of my chubby little fingers on the interwebs. We all have our vanities.
Get comfortable – you’ll be assembling your dumplings for about the next nine years. It’s worth it, though, because the recipe makes alot of dumplings. And any that you’re not eating right away can go into the freezer.
Like that entire pan full of dumplings in the back? Yeah, straight into the freezer. When you do freeze them, make sure they’re not touching, or they’ll get stuck and stay that way. Once they’re frozen solid, you can just toss them into baggies. They’ll keep in the freezer for about 3 months. After that, the dough gives up on life and turns into petrified cardboard (so sayeth the voice of experience).
Now you have dozens of little raw dough bundles of raw meat. What to do with them? Well, you could drop them in oil and fry them. You could steam them. You could boil them. These would all be delicious, no joke. But I stayed up late watching Food Network one night, and found a method that both steams and partially pan-fries the little darlings. It’s my favorite dumpling cooking method, and I share it with you.
First, heat up a bit of vegetable oil in a pan. I suppose you could use olive oil, but it always seems too heavy for the job to me. Then place your little dumplings in the shallow layer of oil and let them sizzle till they’re golden brown on the bottom (about 2-3 minutes).
Then pour in about 1/4 cup of water and slap a lid on it real fast.
Let the dumplings steam for about 2 minutes, then cut the heat let them sit while you stir up a sauce.
How much sauce depends on how many dumplings. Go with a simple 2:1 ratio of soy sauce to rice vinegar, and only a drop or three of the sesame oil. Mix it together, toss in some leftover chopped onions, and plate charmingly.
You will never pay someone to make these for you again.