Pleat, eat, repeat: three lunar new year dumpling recipes from Rosheen Kaul | Australian food and drink
My family celebrates the lunar new year in the Singaporean-Chinese tradition. And like many cultures that celebrate, the focus is on the dining table. On the menu: whole steamed fish, yee sang 魚生 (prosperity toss salad), longevity noodles, braised pork belly, abalone and pan-fried new year cake, along with more regional delicacies. Each dish symbolises health, prosperity or good fortune.
In Chinese celebrations, dumplings feature prominently, as they look like money bags, and eating them is said to bring wealth. Making dumplings is a wonderful way to bring family together, and the communal rolling, filling and pleating – and eating – is a delicious way to welcome the new year.
Of course, any time of year is a good time for dumplings. Gong xi fa cai!
蛋饺 Dan jiao (Lunar new year egg dumplings in broth)
Dan jiao are commonly found on lunar new year banquet tables in China’s southern regions. The golden half-moons are considered lucky because of their resemblance to gold ingots. Instead of wheat flour wrappers, a tiny omelette encases a juicy pork and chive filling.
Making these dumplings is a delicate process but worth every tender, savoury mouthful. The egg wrapper absorbs the juices from the meat filling as it cooks, and the dumplings swell with flavour, enriching the broth they’re served in.
The technique for making the wrappers varies, from swilling the egg mixture in a hot ladle rubbed with ginger, to cooking them in the very centre of a wok on low heat. I’ve found success using a small non-stick frying pan, and a thin rubber spatula to lift the edges of the egg wrapper over itself. Once you get the hang of it, they come together quickly and easily.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 25 mins
For the filling
250g pork mince
100g garlic chives, finely chopped and coated with 1 tbsp vegetable oil
20g ginger, grated
½ tsp ground white pepper
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
For the egg wrappers
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp water
Neutral-flavoured oil, for frying
For the broth
1 litre seasoned chicken stock
2 small bunches of leafy green vegetables, such as wombok, bok choy, gai lan
Soy sauce, sliced spring onions and sesame oil, to serve
To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously. Continue stirring and working the mixture until it is thoroughly combined and resembles a smooth paste. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
To make the egg wrappers, thoroughly whisk the eggs, cornstarch and water and set aside. In a non-stick frying pan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. Gently spoon two tablespoons of the egg mixture into the pan to form a pikelet-sized circle. When the base is cooked but the top is still setting, spoon a teaspoon of filling into the middle of the circle, then use a spatula to fold the egg over. Gently press the edges to seal. Slide on to a plate and repeat with the remaining egg mixture and filling. Note: the dumpling filling is still raw at this point.
In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil and drop in the dumplings. Lower to simmer, and add leafy green vegetables. The dumplings are ready when they float to the surface.
Divide dumplings and vegetables into serving bowls, ladle over the broth, and garnish with soy sauce, spring onions and a sprinkling of sesame oil.
Green chilli and pork guō tiē 鍋貼 (pot stickers) with crispy skirt
These guō tiē (pot stickers) were a recent discovery from my sister’s refrigerator, and they’ve quickly become one of my favourite dumpling fillings. The green chillies lend less spice or heat, and more of a vegetal flavour. Paired with Sichuan peppercorn and a sprinkling of coriander, they are simply delicious. The dumplings are steam-cooked in a slurry of cornstarch and vinegar, and the result is silky, bouncy dumplings with a lacy golden crust. A non-stick pan is absolutely essential here.
I’ve provided a recipe to make your own dumpling wrappers, but feel free to use store-bought white gyoza wrappers instead. Wonton wrappers will not work – they’re too thin for potstickers and won’t withstand this type of cooking.
Prep 30 mins
Cook 15 mins
Makes 50-60 dumplings
For the dumpling wrappers
(This recipe was originally published in Chinese-ish, the book I co-authored with Joanna Hu)
400g plain flour
For the filling
20g Sichuan peppercorns, whole
120ml hot water
1 tbsp neutral-flavoured oil, such as vegetable oil
20g ginger, grated
100g long green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
500g pork mince
50g coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
For the crispy skirt
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp plain flour
½ tsp white vinegar (can substitute with rice vinegar or white wine vinegar)
Chinkiang black vinegar
To make the dumpling wrappers: Combine all ingredients and mix by hand, or with a stand mixer, until a smooth dough is formed. Leave to rest for 15-20 minutes before rolling out dough into a long tube roughly 3-4cm in diameter. To make one wrapper, slice off a piece of dough 1-2cm wide. The technique here is to spin the dough with one hand while working the rolling pin with the other, rolling outwards to flatten the dough on a floured benchtop. You’re aiming for a circular shape with a few millimetres of thickness, however, anything more oblong or rectangular is workable. Cover the dumpling wrapper with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 50-60 wrappers.
To make the filling: Soak the peppercorns in 120ml of hot water to infuse the flavour. Allow to cool, then strain. Reserve the water, and discard the peppercorns.
In a medium frying pan, heat oil until smoking. Sauté the ginger and green chillies for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine the pork mince and ginger-chilli mixture. Gradually add the peppercorn-infused water and continue combining until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Check the seasoning by pan-frying or microwaving a small amount of mixture, and adjust to your taste if required.
To fold the dumplings: If you’re using store-bought wrappers, you’ll need a bowl of water on the side. Wet your index finger to seal the edges of the wrappers. If you’re using your own-made wrappers, this won’t be necessary – the dough will still be pliable and seal on its own by pinching.
Place wrapper on a floured surface. Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre, then draw up the sides of the wrapper, and pinch to seal. You can get fancy with pleats, if you so desire. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
To cook the dumplings: In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Arrange 8-10 dumplings in the pan, and fry until the bottoms turn light brown.
For the crispy skirt: Whisk the cornstarch, plain flour, vinegar and water thoroughly, then pour a thin layer into the pan and cover tightly with a lid. Steam-cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, then remove lid and continue cooking until all the liquid evaporates and a crispy, golden-brown skirt forms. Invert a plate over the frying pan and in one quick motion, flip the dumplings onto the plate (be careful – the pan will be hot!). Repeat the cooking process with remaining dumplings, while re-whisking the slurry mixture between batches. Serve with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, black vinegar and chilli oil.
Spicy mackerel, lemon and dill shui jiao 水饺
Prep 30 mins
Cook 15 mins
Makes 50-60 dumplings
500g Spanish mackerel flesh, bones and skin removed
100g prawn meat, coarsely chopped
50g garlic chives, finely chopped and tossed with 1 tsp vegetable oil
50g dill, finely chopped
100ml Shaoxing wine
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 lemon, zested
20g ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp white pepper powder
White dumpling wrappers (such as gyoza wrappers)
For the spicy dressing
2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
1 stalk spring onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp chilli oil
¼ tsp sugar
In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the fish to a smooth paste and transfer into a larger mixing bowl. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and stir vigorously to combine. Allow to marinate for 20-30 minutes. Fill the dumplings (see the above green chilli and pork guō tiē recipe) and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the dumplings, taking care not to crowd the pot (choosing a large pot will help). Stir with chopsticks or a sieve so they don’t stick together. Return the water to a boil. Add one cup of cold water, return to the boil again, and simmer until the dumplings float to the surface. Repeat with any remaining dumplings.
Meanwhile, while the dumplings are cooking, make the spicy dressing. Combine all the ingredients.
Arrange dumplings in a shallow serving bowl and spoon dressing over the top. Serve immediately.
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