Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lunar New Year Dumplings

Happy Lunar New Year! Some might call it Chinese New Year, but other Asian countries celebrate it as well. Good luck food traditions abound and apply to Chinese, Korean, and other cultures: oranges and tangerines for sweetness and good fortune, long noodles for a long and healthy life, and dumplings, which look like silver ingots and are said to bring wealth and luck. I've always loved dumplings (or "gyoza" in Japanese, and "mandu" in Korean), so I decided to make some to celebrate the new year!

I had no trouble finding recipes online. They all varied infinitesimally, so I cobbled together a generic recipe for pork mandu. A few of the recipes called for the pork to be cooked before stuffing into the mandu skins, but most did not. I, however, was a little freaked out by stuffing raw meat into the skins, so I did cook the pork a little - not to doneness, but just so it wasn't pink anymore. Yes, the filling will be more cohesive and less crumbly if you leave it raw, and please feel free to do so, but it just creeped me out!

Everything should be pretty easy to find in your regular grocery store. You can use won ton wrappers, which are square, instead of mandu or gyoza wrappers, which are round. I used Napa cabbage, but you can easily substitute green cabbage - just be sure it's diced very small since it's pretty stiff.

May you have good luck in the Year of the Rabbit, and may your dumplings be delicious!

Pork Mandu

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 large carrot, shredded or chopped in a food processor
  • about 1/2 cup cabbage, shredded finely
  • 4 green onions, chopped small
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped small
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the cabbage
  • 1 package gyoza skins (mine had 25 skins in the package)
  1. After you've shredded your veggies or chopped them in the food processor, sprinkle with a good teaspoon of salt, focusing on the cabbage. Let sit for 15 minutes or so, and then squeeze out the water. You can do this by hand, or put them in a strainer and press with your hands or the back of a spoon. You don't want watery filling.
  2. You can skip this if you like, but I browned the pork in a little sesame oil, just until it wasn't pink anymore. Take the meat off the heat and into the strainer and press out any water and fat.
  3. Add pork and veggies to a mixing bowl, then add the ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. To fill dumplings, hold a gyoza skin in your left hand, and spoon a teaspoonful (don't be tempted to over-fill!) of filling into the middle. Dip your finger into a bowl of water and wet one half of the edge of the skin, making a C. Fold the other half over and press to seal. I gave mine two little pleats, just to be pretty, but a straight fold is fine too.

To cook: you can add these to soup, or just boil them in chicken broth and add some green onions and a little soy sauce for a really fast dumpling soup. I like mine fried. Heat a teaspoon of sesame oil in a skillet and add your dumplings. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on medium-low heat until they get golden and crispy (watch carefully, they burn quickly!) Flip the dumplings, add 3 tablespoons of water to the pan, and cover. This steams them and cooks the filling evenly. After 3 or 4 minutes, remove lid and cook until golden and crispy. Serve with a dipping sauce of 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sugar.

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