Remember that leek-corn-potato chowder recipe that I wrote about last week? This is a companion recipe which offers a way to use up those leek greens!
My husband introduced me to the wonderful world of dumplings during our college years. We would buy 50-count bags of frozen dumplings in Chinatown (R.I.P. Prosperity Dumplings) for $9 to keep in our freezers for emergency meals. Extremely greasy, and potentially rat/cockroach-contaminated, but so good.
On weekend trips to my husband’s house we would often make dumplings with his mother. These dumplings, made with a bounty of chinese chives from their yard, were a complete balanced meal conveniently wrapped in dumpling skins.The Yeh-family dipping sauce is to-die-for, and I’ll be sharing that recipe in a future post. Let’s just say that I, as well as my entire spice-averse Caucasian family, have been convinced to like a sauce with some kick!
Chinese chives (as pictured above) are not a standard American vegetable, and therefore, can be hard to come by. Here in southeastern CT we do have access to a few Asian grocery stores, but my husband has not been impressed by either the quality or the price. For this reason, we often substitute leek greens as the vegetable component.
An important thing to note about this substitution: leeks are significantly more stiff than chinese chives, so they must be chopped into very small bits (as pictured below) so that they will mix well with the rest of the dumpling ingredients.
Once the filling has been prepared, it’s time to fold! Pictured below you can see the four step-method used by the Yeh family, but there’s more than one way to skin a dumpling (pun intended). Lately, I’ve been putting the time in to make dumpling skins from scratch since they are easier to fold and have a tastier texture, in our opinion. However, I recommend that you go with store-bought skins for your first few batches because the skin-making process can be very long and frustrating!
Dumplings can be steamed or boiled to cook, but we prefer a pan-steaming method. Basically, dumplings are tightly arranged in an oiled pan, water is added, and then everything is cooked over medium heat with a lid on. By the time that the dumplings have finished cooking (about 10 minutes), the water has fully evaporated and left behind crispy bottoms and a consistently-cooked interior.
These crispy-morsels need to be eaten fresh! My husband gets stuck in the kitchen monitoring each round of dumplings as they go in and out of the pan, so our dinner-guests usually feel awkward starting the meal without their hosts. However, anyone who has witnessed my husband inhale a plate of dumplings in mere seconds understands that manners take a backseat to deliciousness on dumpling night!
Recipe: Pork & Leek Dumplings
2 lb ground pork
1 lb leeks greens (one bunch)
1/2 lb to 1 lb of shrimp, cut into quarter-inch chunks
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp hondashi / dashi stock granules
1 tsp white pepper powder
1/2 tsp salt
Dumpling wrappers, approximately 2 packages of store-bought (100 total) or 80 homemade skins
Finely chop leek greens (see above pictures ).
Mix all ingredients (except the wrappers) together thoroughly.
Fold dumplings (see above pictures).
Heat pan over medium-high heat with 1-2 Tbs. oil (I prefer Canola oil)
Arrange dumplings tightly in pan and add water, enough to submerge them by 1/3.
IMPORTANT NOTE on water: The 1/3 assumes a fairly tight arrangement of dumplings in the pan. Don’t compress them too much, but don’t leave gaps. In a looser arrangement, the same amount of water won’t cover as much dumpling, and vice versa. Err on the side of less water if you’re unsure, and add more later, if needed.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes, or until all water has evaporated and dumpling bottoms are crisp. Dumplings should be easy to lift. Transfer to a serving plate and check for done-ness in order to adjust heat/cooking time for subsequent batches.
Notes on cooking: Fully cooked centers should end up being ~70°C (for pork). Skin should be translucent at its thickest point. If you started with too little water, or your heat is too high, you may need more water to finish cooking. If you add too much, you’ll have dumplings that don’t have a chance to fully crisp. The final minute for the dumplings should be when the pan is dry, and the skin is crisping. The bottom of each dumpling will be framed by a web of burnt starches, that will hold them to the bottom of the pan. Break that, and they should start sliding around nicely.
Scrape any bits (like burnt starches) out of pan and repeat process with the next round of dumplings.
Dip into soy sauce, a vinegar, or some Yeh-family secret sauce (recipe coming soon).