I’m about four months along in my pregnancy now and there is one thing I crave on a near-daily basis: Shrimp and pork pot stickers with hot sauce. Make that two, crab salad with creme fraiche sandwiches. But that’s a whole other post. So when I saw the class for “hands-on dumplings” I signed up right away. All cultures have their own version of dumplings. For Armenians, it’s mante, which I wrote about for the Toronto Star a while back. You can find my article here, if you are interested.
In any case, we learned to make three different kinds of Chinese dumplings: Fried dumplings with pork, shrimp, Chinese mushrooms; bamboo shoots; pork pot stickers; boiled pork dumplings to go in chicken broth.

I learned a few key tips that will make it easy for me to duplicate these at home:

  1. Use pork if you can, because that’s the traditional filling and it is more sweet. If you must use chicken, you will need to include some fat by way of vegetable oil. Perhaps a tablespoon or two.
  2. Don’t get greedy when you are filling the dumplings. Aim for about a teaspoon to a teaspoon-and-a-half of filling depending on how large your wrapper is. If you overfill them, they will burst while cooking.
  3. Squeeze out any excess air when closing the dumplings. Again, they could burst, or puff up while cooking.
  4. If you make a large batch of wonton dumplings, freeze them on a cookie sheet, then store them in Ziploc baggies until you are ready to use them. Do not defrost. Simply plop into your soup broth and they are good to go.
  5. This should be an obvious one, but… taste, taste, taste. You should even be tasting your ground meat mixture as you go along. Place a tiny amount in a dish and microwave it until it is cooked. Taste it to see if it needs more seasoning at that point.

If you are still not intimidated by the prospect of making dumplings, try this recipe for pork dumplings. They are the easiest to make, to store, and you will have a homemade soup in minutes if you freeze them. Here’s the recipe as imparted to us by Florence Kwok, who teaches at Upstairs at Loblaws, LCBO, and other cooking schools.

Ingredients for pork dumplings:

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 pound shrimp
  • 1 box, 1o oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out *Please note, the traditional recipe would call for watercress or bok choy leaves, but that makes this recipe more complicated
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 tbsp soy
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chicken powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper (white pepper is the traditional seasoning to use, but black is fine too)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 egg
  • Wrappers (the round ones worked well)
  • Chicken broth (homemade is preferable, but you can just buy the ready-made stock too)
  • Thinly sliced green onions for garnish
  • Sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  2. Place 1 heaping spoonful of filling in centre of wrapper. We edges of wrapper with water and fold in half. Pinch to seal tightly.
  3. Bring large pot of water to boil, drop few dumplings at a time, and boil for about four minutes.
  4. Serve with hot chicken broth, garnish with green onions, and a couple of drops of aromatic sesame oil.