Chinese Leek, Pork, and Shrimp Dumplings and Pot Stickers (韭菜猪肉鲜虾三鲜饺子和锅贴）
December 26, 2020
We moved again! After more than 6 months of waiting, we finally closed on our new construction home in Texas. Under normal circumstances, we should be overjoyed to move into our new home. But moving amidst the height of the pandemic was both nerve wracking and stressful—unlike our move across the states from Virginia to Texas this March, when the pandemic had not picked up speed.
Anyway, despite the anxiety and exhaustion associated with moving during the pandemic, we finally made it! So today’s recipe will be the first post in our new kitchen, which I absolutely love!
I don’t know why I waited a whole year since starting this blog to write about my favorite dumpling recipe, Chinese leek, pork, and shrimp dumplings. Maybe I was subconsciously waiting to do it as a house warming recipe in my new kitchen.
Growing up in Beijing, dumplings have always been an important part of my childhood. We ate dumplings on major holidays and for family gatherings. My grandpa would always say, “nothing tastes better than dumplings.” Indeed, there are so many variations to the dumpling mix. You can practically mix any combination of vegetable and meat that suits your liking.
Making dumplings has always been a family event. Everyone had his or her role: my grandma would make the mix; my dad would make the dough and roll the wrappers; the rest of our family members would fold the dumplings. It’s through these numerous family dumpling-making sessions that I acquired my dumpling making skill.
After moving to the US, I start making dumplings for family and friends during holidays and for gatherings. I have received nothing short of praise for these yummy dumplings. Some of my non-Asian friends specifically request my dumplings for our dinner parties.
This past Monday (December 21st) was the winter solstice (冬至). Since people in northern China, where I’m from, typically eat dumplings on this specific day, I made dumplings to celebrate this shortest day of the year and to celebrate finally moving into our new house.
When it comes to dumplings, the filling plays the most important part. Although versatile, the filling should be flavorful, tender, and soft to bite. It should be in perfect degree of saltiness regardless whether you have dipping or not. In fact, I like to test my dumplings first without dipping to see if it’s too salty or bland.
This recipe uses ground pork, Chinese leek, and shrimp as the main ingredients for the filling. I add shrimp to increase the umami of the filing. The shrimp after mixing in with Chines leeks and ground pork, are not super noticeable nevertheless add much flavor. I also like to use a ratio of 1:2 for vegetable and meat/seafood. For today’s portion, I have 1.5 lb of Chinese leek, and 3 lb of combined ground pork plus shrimp. If you don’t want to add shrimp, you can use all ground pork. Make sure the ground pork has some fat in it (the fatter the better). If using lean pork, I prefer adding at least 1/3 ground pork belly.
These days when I cook dumplings, I always cook two versions, the pot sticker version and the boiled version. Why is it called a “pot sticker?” Pot sticker was the literal translation from the Chinese “锅贴” to describe these dumplings’ characteristic of sticking to the pot after cooking. Thanks to this feature, pot stickers have a crispy golden browned bottom and a soft and juicy filing. It’s been a constant debate among my family and friends over which version is better. My husband is a firm pot sticker lover; my dad likes the boiled ones better. I’ve been changing my position from time to time. In my opinion, each version has its uniqueness and you can’t go wrong with either one.
A word on the dumpling wrapper/skin. Although I do like homemade wrappers better (they are easier to fold, have a more chewy texture, and take less time to cook), for practical reasons, I actually recommend buying dumpling wrappers from your local Asian grocery store. Making the dough and rolling out the wrappers takes a lot of practice to be time efficient. Unless you make dumplings regularly and are accustomed to make wrappers quickly, it’s a little hard to justify given that the store-bought wrappers can result in equally delicious dumplings and pot stickers. For today’s recipe, I skipped the homemade wrappers since I still have many boxes waiting to be unpacked. However, I will include a homemade wrapper recipe in another dumpling post in the near future.
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: ~100 dumplings (~6 servings)
- 2 lb ground pork1
- 1.5 lb Chinese leek
- 0.5 lb peeled and de-veined shrimp
- 2 packs of store-bought dumpling wrappers/skins2 (about 50 in each pack)
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 2 to 3 green onions
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt or 1.5 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 large eggs
Dipping Sauce (1 serving):
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili oil or chili sauce3 (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
- Wash the Chinese leek and drain thoroughly. Chop into small pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Peel and mince the ginger. Cut the green onions into thin slices.
- Chop the de-veined shrimp into relatively large pieces (about the size of a finger nail) and put them in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt or 1/2 of teaspoon table salt and mix well.
- Add the ground pork to the large mixing bowl with the Chinese leeks. Then add everything else except the shrimp. This includes the minced ginger, green onion pieces, the rest of the 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt), 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of five spice powder, 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper, and 2 large eggs.
- Using a pair of chopsticks or a large spoon, start slowly mixing everything in a circular motion either clockwise or counterclockwise. Keep mixing in one direction only. It only takes a few minutes to evenly mix everything by hand. Once everything is evenly mixed, add the shrimp and mix again for a minute or two until thoroughly incorporated. (If using only lean ground pork, add 2 more tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of water.)
- Now fold the dumpling (the pleated way) according to the following directions and pictures. Prepare a bowl of tap water. Take 1 wrapper, place 1 spoonful of mix (~1 tablespoon) in the center of a wrapper, wet the wrapper’s outer edge with water, then fold the dumpling in half and firmly press the top of the wrapper together. Then use two fingers to create a pleat next to the center, pressing firmly again after making the pleat. Keep making pleats until one side of the dumpling is completely sealed (I usually make 3 pleats on each side). Repeat the same folding technique on the other side to create a mirror image of the pleats. Note: there are several other ways to fold the skin (I will cover more in another dumpling post). No matter the method, it’s always most important to make sure all the edges are tightly sealed, otherwise the mix will leak out during the cooking process.
- Once you have folded all the dumplings follow step 7 to make pot-stickers and/or step 8 to boil the dumplings.
- Pot Sticker method (锅贴): Heat ~3-4 tablespoons of oil in a large well seasoned skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is getting warm but not hot, place dumplings one by one on the skillet, flat side down. Closely arrange the dumplings in a circle without touching. Let the dumplings fry a minute or two until the bottoms are golden (see picture). Then pour about 1 cup of water into the skillet (at least the bottom half of the dumplings should be immersed in water) and immediately cover the skillet with a tight lid. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low (the water will keep bubbling) and let the steam from the water slowly cook the dumplings. This should take somewhere between 10-20 minutes (it depends on the dumpling wrappers, skillet, and the lid). Uncover the skillet when almost no water is left, then cook for another minute or two and dumplings should be ready.
- Boiling Method (水饺): Heat a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When water is boiling, put all the dumplings in. Stir immediately to prevent any from sticking to the bottom. Keep the heat at medium-high. When the water boils again, add about 1/2 cup of cold water into the pot and stir gently. Wait a few more minutes until the water boils again. Then add some more cold water to delay the boil. Repeat the same thing one more time (add water a total of 3 times) and the dumplings should be ready to eat. All the dumplings should be floating on top and their skin should be semi-transparent (see pictures).
- Dipping sauce: for every 1 table spoon of soy sauce, use 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. If using Chinese black vinegar, add 1 teaspoon of sugar, mixing well. For a spicy kick, add some chili oil or chili sauce4. For more flavors, add some chopped cilantro and minced garlic.
- Like I mentioned earlier in the intro, when it comes to the dumpling mix, the fatter the ground pork the better. Otherwise the mix can be too dry. I like to ground my own pork using pork shoulder. If using lean ground pork, I usually add 1/3 ground pork belly or ground pork fat.
- You can get either the northern type or southern type (often called Shanghai style). Northern type wrappers are in general slightly thicker and larger whereas the southern type is slightly thinner.
- I like to add a few drops of chili oil or add 1/2 teaspoon of chili sauce. My go-to chili sauce is Laoganma’s Spicy Chili Crisp (老干妈油辣椒), which you can find in pretty much any Asian grocery store. Even Kroger carrys them. I will write a post about my preferred sauces later. But for now, all you need to know is that Laoganma is the number 1 chili/spicy sauce brand in China.