Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pear & Ginger Pork Dumplings

Well I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day!  Mine was full of pork dumplings and pretty tulips from Will.  Roses are nice, but he knows tulips are my favorite flower.  I know I love pork dumplings dipped into salty, spicy sauce.  Winner, winner chicken pork dinner.

See, I always feel nervous making Chinese food.  This might have something to do with my sister's mother-in-law being Chinese and making the best chow mein, fried rice, etc.  Somehow I've missed having her dumplings, but I'm pretty sure they're fantastic.  But I decided to put on my big girl panties and tackle something unfamiliar.
It's not too involved.  You need: Garlic, wonton wrappers, rice wine vinegar, tamari/soy sauce, ground pork, an Asian pear, ginger, and scallions.  If you can find round dumpling wrappers, by all means go for it.  I had these wonton wrappers leftover from the Brie Bites.
 First peel the pear and about an inch to inch and a half of ginger.
Grate the pear with a box grader to get long shreds.  I like to use the microplane for the ginger.
Heat a tablespoon of grapeseed or canola oil in a medium sized skillet.  Add the grated pear and ginger and cook over medium heat.  Add a little of the rice wine vinegar to it.
After about 10 minutes the juice from the pear should more or less cooked down.
Mince the garlic and chop up some scallions.
Place a medium bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice.  Using your hands, mix the pork and tamari together.
Add the scallions, garlic, and pear-ginger mixture.  Fold it in using a rubber spatula.
Once it's all incorporated we're ready to start assembling the dumplings.
Lay out some dumpling wrappers.  Four or five at a time is ideal.  Cover the remaining wrappers with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out.  Scoop a rounded 1/2 tablespoon of the pork mix onto each wrapper.
Using a finger dipped in either water or a beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon of water, moisten the edges of the wrapper.  Fold one corner to its opposite corner and seal the edges.  I found it sealed best by rolling up the edges just a touch.  We don't want any filling escaping!
Repeat until you've used all the filling...or run out of wrappers.  That's kind of what happened to me.  I only had a few tablespoons left, so I just made meatballs out of the remaining filling.
Here comes the fun!  Now, I would recommend you do this in 2 batches.  In fact, if I'd made those last few dumplings I would've had to.  But I was entirely too hungry to even think such a thing.  So in a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of a neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc) over medium-high heat.  Add the dumplings and let them brown on the bottom.
Now the slightly dangerous part.  Science lesson:  Oil and water don't mix.  Hot oil and water splatter.  So do this carefully.  Go ahead and mostly cover the pan with a lid.  Pour in the water from the side and close the lid all the way.  I did it like this and didn't even get near being maimed.  Basically, just avoid pouring a bunch of water into an open pan with oil in it.  Life lessons.
When the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked, let them crisp a little bit on the bottom before serving them.  It won't take long, so take care not to burn the little suckers.  You worked hard!
My favorite dumplings are from Miyos, a restaurant in Columbia.  Part of what makes the dish is the awesome dipping sauce.  It's spicy and salty and soooo good.  I always order dumplings when I go there.  But when I've ordered them from takeout restaurants the dipping sauce is thick and on the sweet side.  Just disappointing.  I would like to thank Ming Tsai for his dipping sauce recipe, which I mostly followed.  It's basically equal parts rice wine vinegar and soy sauce with a little sesame oil and sambal.  I couldn't find sambal in my grocery store, so I used sriracha because it's close to chili paste.  The end result was just what I'd been looking for!  Long story short, I can have dumplings any time I want now, and so can you!

Pear & Ginger Pork Dumplings (makes 25-30)
Loosely based on Ming Tsai's Pork Dumplings

2 tbs oil, divided (grapeseed or canola)
1 Asian pear, peeled and grated
1 tbs grated ginger
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
3/4 lb ground pork
1 tbs tamari/soy sauce
1/2 c scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Wonton wrappers
1/2 c water

  • Pour 1 tbs of oil into a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the pear, ginger, and rice wine vinegar, cooking until pear has broken down some and the juice has cooked down and evaporated.  Let the mixture cool.
  • Fill a large bowl with ice and set a medium bowl over it.  Combine the pork and the tamari in the bowl.  Fold in the cooled pear mixture, scallions, and garlic.  Set out 4-5 wonton wrappers.  Scoop 1/2 tablespoon of pork into the middle of each wrapper.  Using a finger dipped in water, moisten the edges of the wrapper.  Fold one corner toward its opposing corner, forming a triangular shape.  Seal the edges completely and fold the edges up slightly.  Repeat until all the pork is used.
  • In a large skillet with a lid, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the dumplings in a few rows.  You may need to do two batches.  Let the bottoms brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Partially cover the dumplings with the lid and carefully pour in the water.  Close the lid and let the dumplings soften and steam, about 8-10 minutes.  If there is water in the pan when the dumplings have cooked, drain it.  If the dumplings need a little more water to finish cooking, add it a little at a time.  1/4 cup should suffice.  Allow dumplings to crisp on the bottom by letting them cook 2-3 minutes more on the heat.  Transfer to a platter and serve warm with a dipping sauce.

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