Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ground Pork & Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings (Shui Jiao)

Ahhhh...this dish makes me flashback to childhood memories of those times (and many there were) when me and my sis got conscripted by my mom to fill and crimp dozens upon dozens of these delectable dumplings. Didn't complain back then and won't do it now because water dumplings are a quintessential and totally delicious repertoire of Chinese home cooking. To clarify for those not in the know, water dumplings are boiled in water (hence their moniker) but they can also be pan fried (aka potstickers or Gyoza). The key to this recipe is that you must use ground pork with some fat in it. Most 'American' markets here in SoCal carry only super lean ground pork and that will simply not do (the end result will be a very tough & dry filling). Best bet is to get your ground pork at an Asian market like 99 Ranch Market. Luckily, our local Stater Brothers in Wildomar will grind pork to order (pork butt is the best cut since it has just the right amount of fat to make succulent dumplings). Of course, the best dumpling wrappers are made from scratch - go figure! But if you, like me, often find yourself short on time, then store-bought wrappers are perfectly ok. Just be aware that not all dumpling wrappers are created equal: some are really thin (10-oz. pkg.) with the end product resembling wontons more than dumplings, while others are a bit more substantial (12-oz. pkg.), which is my preference. This recipe is my rendition of my mom's version, replete with ground pork, finely chopped napa cabbage, minced ginger & scallions, Shao Hsing or rice wine, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and salt. The dipping sauce (my iteration) consists of soy sauce, sugar, chili oil, sesame oil, water, finely minced garlic, chopped cilantro, water, and thinly sliced jalapeño peppers. 

Filling Ingredients:

2 lbs. ground pork
1 medium napa cabbage, finely chopped (about 6 cups)
1 tbsp. ginger, finely minced
2 tbsp. Shao Hsing wine
1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. scallion or Chinese chives, chopped

2 packages of dumpling/gyoza wrappers 

Dipping Sauce:

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. Chinkiang/black vinegar
1-2 tsp. sugar
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, halved and thinly sliced

1. Combine all filling ingredients into a large bowl. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes at room temperature to let the flavors meld.

2. Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. Fill a small bowl or saucer with water (for sealing the dumplings). Line a baking sheet or tray with aluminum foil or parchment paper and dust with some all-purpose flour. 

4. To make the dumplings: place about 1 1/2 tsp. of the filling onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip your index finger into the water and dab around the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half (like a half moon) and crimp the edges until well sealed. Place the dumpling on the floured surface of the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers. 

5. You can make a ton of water dumplings because they can be frozen for later use. Just put the freshly made ones single file on a platter or baking sheet and put into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Then, place them into a Ziploc or other freezer bag and pop them back into the frig. They won't stick together because they've been pre-frozen individually. Voila!

6. To cook the dumplings: Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the dumplings and cook 4-5 minutes or until the dumplings float to the surface. Drain and remove to serving bowls. Serve with the dipping sauce.

 Chopped napa cabbage.

 Minced ginger.

 Ground pork butt.

 Chinese chives (you can sub with scallions).

Soy sauce, white pepper, Shao Hsing wine, sesame oil (marinade for pork).

Ground pork filling.

You can always taste test your pork mixture for the salt/seasonings. Just nuke 1 tbsp. in the micro for 20-30 seconds and check it out.

Dynasty wrappers were on the thin side (10 oz.) versus the Twin Dragon brand (12 oz.).

 Twin Dragon Gyoza wrappers were more substantial and, therefore, my fav.

Mise en place: Pork filling, wrappers, and bowl of water.

 Place about 1 1/2 tsp. of filling onto the center of each wrapper.

 Dip your index finger into the bowl of water and dab around the outer edges of the wrapper. Fold in half and crimp to seal.

 Place the dumplings onto a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet that has been dusted with flour.

 Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add the dumplings and cook 3-5 minutes or until the dumplings float to the surface. Remove immediately to serving bowls or platter.

Dipping sauce ingredients: soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil.

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