Napa Cabbage Pork Dumplings (白菜猪肉饺子 Bai Cai Zhu Rou Jiao Zi)
March 6, 2021  Print
As I mentioned in my previous posts, thanks to the pandemic, these days I stock my fridge with vegetables that have a long shelf-life. This way I don’t have to go grocery shopping too often. And napa Cabbage or napa, with its long shelf-life, is one of the staple vegetables in my fridge. It can stay perfectly fresh in plastic wrap for 2-3 months in a refrigerator.
There are many ways to enjoy napa cabbage. Due to its mild and slightly sweet taste, it goes well with many things. Check out my previous recipes that include napa, such as Napa Cabbage Tofu Pork Bone Soup, Shanghai Spring Rolls, and Mala Dry Pot Chicken. Today, I’m using napa as a main filling ingredient for a dumpling recipe.
I wrote quite a lot about dumplings in my Chinese Chives, Pork, and Shrimp Dumplings post. So I’m going to try not to be redundant and will instead only tell you what’s new. Although I usually prefer Chinese Chives, Pork, and Shrimp Dumplings, I make Napa Cabbage Pork Dumplings just as often. They taste great and it is much easier to get the ingredients since many American grocery stores (such as Kroger, HEB, and Whole Foods) sell napa cabbage these days. Of course, you will always find napa in any Asian grocery store.
Napa cabbage contains a lot of water. Because of this, it becomes important to remove most of the water before mixing it with ground pork. This way the filling does not become too watery. It is easy to do even without any tools, as you can see in my step-by-step illustrations.
Since this recipe uses two main ingredients, napa and ground pork, I like to add dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp to boost the umami of the filling. If you can’t find dried shiitake mushrooms, you can substitute with fresh ones. Dried shrimp can be found in Asian and Latin American grocery stores, or the Cajun food section in American grocery stores.
Whenever I make dumplings, I always make sure there are plenty left. That way I can freeze the extra ones and cook them when I am pressed for time. The frozen ones taste similar to freshly made ones. The cooking method is also the same except the frozen ones take slightly longer to cook through. I lay the extra freshly made ones on a parchment-paper-lined thin board and put the board directly in the freezer for at least 2 hours until the dumplings have become stone hard. Then I put the dumplings in a large Ziploc bag and place them in the freezer.
On a side note, making dumplings is a great activity to really get kids involved. I have been asking my oldest son (now 4.5 year old) to help me in the kitchen since he was little. Most of the tasks have to do with mixing, sorting, and decorating. My son loves helping out! Every time he gets super excited. I now have him help me mix the filling and fold the dumplings, as you can see from the picture below. He takes the tasks quite seriously and even competes with me on the number of dumplings we each fold respectively. Can you tell which dumplings are his?
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: ~100 dumplings (~6 servings)
Dumpling Ingredients (See notes for substitutes)
- 2 lbs (~900g) ground pork1
- 2 lbs (~900g) napa cabbage – about the size of a medium napa cabbage
- 2 packs of store-bought dumpling wrappers/skins2 (about 50 in each pack) (alternatively, you can try my recipe for homemade dumpling wrappers)
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- 2 to 3 green onions
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt or 1.5 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine 3
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 4 to 5 dried shiitake mushrooms 4
- 4 to 5 dried shrimp4
Dipping Sauce (1 serving):
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar5
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili oil or chili sauce (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (optional)
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional)
- Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp. Put them separately in small bowls. Immerse them with hot water and cover the shiitake mushroom bowl with a lid. Leave both for 20 to 30 minutes or until soft.
- Peel and mince the ginger (the finer the better). Chop the green onions into small pieces.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the 2 lbs (~900g) of ground pork, minced ginger, chopped green onions, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon of table salt), and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, mixing either clockwise or counterclockwise until well mixed. Cover the mixing bowl with a plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Let the ground pork marinate a bit while preparing the other ingredients.
- Line a large mixing bowl with a cheese cloth.6 Peel the leaves of the napa cabbage and clean them under running water. Drain thoroughly. Take 2 to 3 large leaves out at a time and cut the leaves first in half crosswise. Then cut the halves along the grain of the napa into thin strips, as shown. Finally, stack the strips and cut them into small pieces. (The pieces need to be quite small but not to the point that after squeezing the water out, there is nothing but fiber left.) Put the chopped napa in the cheese-cloth-lined bowl. Repeat the same process until all the napa leaves are chopped into small pieces.
- Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or 0.5 teaspoon of table salt) to the chopped napa leaves, mixing well. Wait at least 15 minutes to let the salt do its magic of pulling the water out. Meanwhile, take the softened shiitake mushrooms4 and lightly squeeze the water out of the mushrooms. Remove the mushroom stems, and chop them into tiny pieces (even smaller than the chopped napa). Chop the dried shrimp4 into equally small pieces. Set the shiitake mushroom and dried shrimp pieces aside.
- When at least 15 minutes have passed, lift the cheese cloth and wrap it tightly around the chopped napa to force the water out. If you don’t have a cheese cloth, grab a handful of chopped napa and close two palms together tightly to squeeze the water out (like making a tightly packed snowball). There should be substantial water squeezed out from the napa. Save the napa water.
- When quite a lot of water has been squeezed out of the napa, add the napa pieces to the ground pork mix. Then add the chopped shiitake mushrooms, chopped dried shrimp, and 3 tablespoons of sesame oil, slowly mixing with a pair of chopsticks either clockwise or counterclockwise. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of squeezed napa water until everything is incorporated. If the filling seems dry, add more napa water.
- Follow steps 5-8 from my other dumpling post for detailed instructions on how to fold the dumplings (the pleated way) as well as the two cooking methods I normally use (the pot sticker method and the boiling method).
- Dipping sauce: for every 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, use 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. For more flavors, add some chopped cilantro and minced garlic. For a spicy kick, add a few drops of chili oil or chili sauce.
- Frozen Dumpling: Line a thin cutting board or baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the dumplings in an orderly fashion until the board is filled. Make sure to leave some space between each dumpling so no two dumplings touch. Put the entire board flat in the freezer section of the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until the dumplings have become hard. Take them out of the freezer and quickly put them one by one in a large Ziploc bag. Seal the bag then immediately return the Ziploc bag with the dumplings to the freezer. These frozen dumplings can be stored in a freezer for up to 3 months. To cook frozen dumplings, follow the same cooking method described above. It usually takes only slightly longer than the freshly made ones.
- If you buy ground pork from stores, try to pick the ones with a higher fat ratio (at least 20% fat) than lean pork. 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 and my Chef’s Choice meat grinder attachment. If your ground pork is too lean, you can 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. In my opinion, the northern type is best suited for pot stickers or steamed dumplings, and the Shanghai style is best for boiled dumplings.
- If you don’t have Chinese cooking wine, you can use rice wine or sake instead.
- Dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp can be found in pretty much any Asian grocery store. If you can’t find dried shiitake mushrooms, you can use fresh shiitake mushrooms instead. For dried shrimp, you can substitute it with 1 teaspoon of fish sauce.
- If using Chinese black vinegar, add 1 teaspoon of sugar, mixing well. For a spicy kick, add some chili oil or chili sauce.
- It’s totally okay if you don’t have a cheese cloth. Although it makes squeezing out water faster, you can just use your hands instead.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.