Dumplings are always part of the Chinese New Year holiday fare. A few "lucky dumplings" with a coin in the filling are commonly added to the batch. The person who bites into them will have a good year!
Yield: 140 dumplings
Chinese vinegar (dark)
Chili oil (optional)
Finely chopped garlic (optional)
1 medium Chinese (Napa) cabbage
1 pound ground pork
1 pound chopped shrimp
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dark (Oriental) sesame oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cooking wine
1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
Small piece of fresh ginger
8 cloves garlic
2 to 3 green onions
6 to 8 dried black mushrooms, chopped (soak in warm water for about 1 hour before chopping)
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water and/or cabbage juice
Prepare the dipping sauce first so that when the dumplings come out of the pot they are ready to eat. Pour a small amount of vinegar into a small bowl or plate. Add a couple of drops of sesame oil (optional), chili oil (optional) and finely chopped garlic (optional). In other words, vinegar is essential. The rest is up to you.
Finely grate the cabbage by hand or with a food processor. Place a piece of cheesecloth or a cotton dish towel in a large bowl. Add just enough cabbage so the cloth can be lifted out of the bowl and wrapped around the cabbage. Over a bowl, squeeze out as much liquid as possible (you can use it to make the wrapper dough).
Place dried cabbage in a large bowl and add pork, shrimp, egg, vegetable oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, cooking wine, black pepper, ginger, garlic, green onions and mushrooms. Mix thoroughly.
Mix the cabbage juice and/or water with the flour. Be sure it is not too soft. Firm is better (add more flour if needed). Knead into a ball. Cut off small pieces and roll into 1-inch round "sticks."
Cut sticks into 1/2-inch pieces. Flatten each piece with your palm, then flatten with a rolling pin into a 3 1/2-inch circle. The edges should be slightly thinner than the center.
If you are working alone, it's best not to make all the wrappers at once. If you're working with at least one other person, one person can roll out the wrappers while the other fills them.
The ideal dumpling should resemble a chubby crescent moon with well-pressed edges. It may be a little difficult to make ideal ones at first. What's most important is that the dumpling is well-sealed so it doesn't fall part in the boiling water.
Place a wrapper in your palm or on a work surface. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the dough over and use your thumb and forefinger to press the center edges together, and then work toward the ends (top and the bottom of the crescent). Make sure no filling is protruding.
(If using pre-made wrappers, moisten the edges of the wrapper or they will not seal properly.)
Place the dumplings on a lightly floured tray or cutting board; make sure they don't touch one another.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a rapid boil and add about 30 dumplings. Cover the pot; when it returns to a very rapid boil, add 1/2 cup cold water. When it returns to a rapid boil, check to see if the dumplings are puffy and floating at or near the top of the water. The skin should be somewhat translucent. They should be done. (Experienced dumpling makers can just tell by looking at them, but you can open one and make sure the pork is thoroughly cooked.)
When the dumplings are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a large flat plate.
Serve immediately with dipping sauce.
You can make your own wrappers or buy them at Asian or regular grocery stores. Do not buy won ton wrappers. They are square-shaped; dumpling wrappers are round - about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.
If you have leftovers, you can fry them in a little oil until they are brown and crispy.