My wife is chinese. So in our house, comfort food is often something chinese. For her, one of her very favorite things is dumplings, also known as pot-stickers. They're time consuming to make, but not difficult. They're really delicious, well worth the effort. They're best with a homemade wrapper, but that's not easy. If you go to a chinese grocery store, they sell pre-made dumpling wrappers with are pretty good. Not as good as homemade, but more than adequate. The wrappers are circular, and about 2 or 3 inches in diameter.
These are traditionally made with ground pork. But I don't eat pork, so I use chicken thighs. Definitely make sure you use thighs - to come out right, the meat inside can't be too lean - it needs to have some fat in it. Thighs work really nicely; breasts, not so much.
When my wife stuffs them, this recipe makes around 30 dumplings. If I'm stuffing them, it's more like twice that - she somehow manages to stuff an amazing amount of filling into each dumpling. If I try that, I can't close 'em.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- 1/2 medium sized head of napa cabbage (about 1lb).
- Thinly sliced green parts of two scallions.
- 1 tablespoon Oyster sauce.
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
- A small dish of cold water.
- Dumpling wrappers.
- Put the chicken thighs and the oyster sauce into a food processor. Pulse until you've got what looks like coarsely ground meat.
- Finely mince the cabbage. Don't do it in a food processor - that'll just pulp it. You want it minced into little pieces.
- Fold the cabbage, soy sauce, and sesame oil into the ground meat.
- Now you've got the finished filling. Take a wrapper, put a dollop of filling into the center of the wrapper. Lightly brush the edges with water, and then fold the wrapper in half, sealing the edges. (The really correct way of doing it crimps it so that it actually looks like a crescent moon, and stands up by itself. But I have no idea how to explain that! And it tastes good even with the lazy fold.)
- Keep doing that until you run out of either wrappers or filling.
- Heat up a shallow frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. Cover the bottom with oil. You want enough oil to fry the bottom of the wrappers, but not enough that they're swimming in it. And you only want the bottom to fry. (Don't use a wok for this. This is one of the only times that I'll ever say that about chinese cooking - but you really want a flat bottomed pan.)
- Put the dumplings into the pan in shifts. You don't want them too close together, or they'll stick to one another. Let them cook for one or two minutes, until the bottom is a nice dark brown.
- Take about 1/2 cup of chicken stock, dump it into the pan, and immediately cover the pan tightly. Let it cook like that until almost all of the stock evaporates. Then take the dumplings out, and put them in a serving bowl. They'll stick to the bottom a bit; pry them up gently with either a spatula or tongs. (There's a reason that they're called pot-stickers!)
- Keep going in batches until they're all cooked.
- Serve them with a dipping sauce. Spoon a bit of sauce over each dumpling right before you eat it.
There are a ton of dipping sauces you can use. My own favorite is:
- about 1/4 cup of clear rice vinegar
- About 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- one clove of crushed garlic, finely minced.
- One slice of ginger, crushed and finely minced.
- Greens of one scallion finely minced.
- One drop of sesame oil.
- One half teaspoon of sambal or sriracha chili sauce.
These little suckers are seriously good eating. They're sort of like potato chips, in that once you start eating them, you can't stop. So make a lot!
If you really want to make homemade wrappers (which is a lot of work, but which makes these wonderful little things so much better that you'll never go back to store-made wrappers), there's a great recipe for them in Ming Tsai's "Blue Ginger" cookbook.