A few weeks ago I shared my recipe for Pork and Cabbage Pan-Fried Dumplings at the 59th Street Williams-Sonoma store. I could spend a whole afternoon browsing the shelves looking for a new kitchen tool to try out. I just fell in love with the demonstration kitchen, which is about three times the size of my own kitchen, and I wish I had my very own Lauren at home. Lauren is a culinary specialist at Williams-Sonoma with amazing knife skills, and who lent a hand for the event. She also makes delicious samples throughout the day so stop in, say “Hi,” and be nice to her so you can taste her goodies.
Pork and cabbage are a traditional combination for dumplings. Pork fat has a rich, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. This is why sausages, which are mostly fat, taste so good. If you do not eat pork, you can try ground turkey, ground beef, or make vegetarian Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings. Ground beef will be dense so cut it with more cabbage and other ingredients. The oblong napa cabbage is different from the typical round cabbage in that it is light and spongy. The napa cabbage gives the filling a lighter consistency so that it does not have a meatball mouth feel.
I like adding water chestnuts to the dumplings for a crunchy consistency. Chop them less finely if you want more crunch. Sometimes I even use the whole small can so that it does not go to waste (otherwise, the leftover water chestnut slices are great to toss into a salad or stir-fry). I like to buy the pre-sliced water chestnuts. It is slightly cheaper than the whole water chestnuts because they can slice up broken ones, and it saves me time when chopping.
The rice wine adds a savoriness to the dumplings similar to how we cook with white wine in western cuisines. Keep in mind that rice wine and rice vinegar are not interchangeable. Rice vinegar is sour and will make your filling taste slightly rancid. However, the sour notes of the vinegar brighten up the sweet and spicy flavors in the dipping sauce. I once made the mistake of not looking at the bottle and grabbed the rice vinegar instead of the rice wine while making fried rice. (I also poured Lysol instead of Jet Dry into the dishwasher while in a Nyquil induced state, but that is another story.) Once I figured out my mistake, I added extra oil and sugar to compensate. The result was edible, but not something I would write home about.
I also like to add some of the water that the mushrooms soaked in for even more umami. I borrowed that idea from mushroom risotto, where I combine the porcini mushroom soaking water with the broth to infuse the whole dish with a woodsy flavor.
The best part of giving cooking demonstrations is the interaction I get to have with everyone. I love the questions and thought-provoking ideas that people have. One of these discussions led us to a conversation about fusing dumplings with western flavors. And why not? Many other cultures have their own version of the dumpling: Indian samosas, Polish perogies, Italian ravioli, and Latin American empanadas. I think I will experiment with barbeque, curry or tropical flavors. What do you think? Let me know in the poll on the right and in your the comments what kind of flavors you would like to see in a future fusion dumpling post!
Pork & Cabbage Pan Fried Dumplings
Makes 70 – 100 dumplings (depending on wrapper size)
1 pound ground pork
2 cups napa cabbage, diced
6 shitake mushrooms (soaked overnight, save the soaking water), stems removed & finely chopped
4 tablespoon water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated ginger
6 gloves garlic, minced
2 stalk scallions, sliced into 1/8” pieces
2 tablespoons water from soaking the mushrooms
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
WRAPPING & COOKING
1 ½ – 2 packages dumpling wrappers
2 egg whites
10 – 20 teaspoons of vegetable oil for pan frying (can substitute with corn or canola oil)
Combine all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Once the mixture starts to stick together, mix in one direction to help the filling continue to bind together.
Lay one dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand. Use the fingers of your other hand to apply some of the egg white around the edge of the whole wrapper, keeping the center dry.
Spoon 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons worth of filling into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper as shown.
Keep the unused wrappers covered with a wet paper towel to prevent them from drying out.
At this point, you can freeze the dumplings to cook at a later time. Line a baking pan with parchment or wax paper dusted with flour. Place the dumplings in the pan, ensuring that they do not touch each other. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight, and transfer frozen dumplings to a freezer bag to save space. The frozen dumplings may be kept for up to a month.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. Heat the oil until it sizzles when you try to place a dumpling in the pan.
Add only enough dumplings to the pan so that they do not touch each other. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until the bottom of the dumplings are a light golden brown. This pan fries the dumplings and creates a crispy bottom. Do not push the dumplings in the pan, pick them up to check the bottoms.
Add 1 cup of water to the pan and cover. Continue to cook on medium until all of the water evaporates. Remove the cover and continue to cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute until the dumpling bottoms are once again dry and crispy.
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce (or 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and serve with the dumplings.