Dumplings the Way Mama Wat Used To Make
When I was younger, my mom would spoil us with her hand wrapped pork filled dumplings for the family. I remember the smell of sesame oil from the dumpling paste, and watching her use the chopstick to fill the wrapper with the precise amount of meat filling, then expertly pleat the dumplings into a delicious compact treat. My brother and I are big eaters so as fast as she made, boiled, and fried them they would be eaten. I remember at one point she had to wear a wrist brace for all the repetitive motions of wrapping and pleating that she had to do just to satisfy the hunger of two teenage carnivores.
Now with a family of my own and integrating dumplings into our meals, my kids have loved eating them as much I did. So I wanted to try making them from scratch like Mama Wat used to. After many tried recipes and ripped wrappers from rushed pleatings, I found a way to wrap dumplings that stayed intact during the cooking process.
I posted a photo of the dumplings and had many people asking how it was done. In 2019, I hosted three dumpling wrapping parties at our house and it was an incredible time of socializing, cooking, and eating.
So here we are with a video that shows the steps I take each time I make the dumplings and I wanted to share it with you, so you can make it too! These steps aren't exactly the way my mom made them or the ingredients, but it's what I've used to make something my family eats up as fast as my brother and I did. So it's worth it.
Check out below these steps for alternatives, like gluten-free wrappers and meat-free filling that I found online.
1 lb. ground pork (at least 20% fat)
1 Tbsp. ginger, freshly grated
4 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. light soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 c. cabbage (Taiwanese or Napa)
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 package frozen dumpling wrappers
Step 1: Combine the pork, ginger, green onions, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (a dark Chinese rice wine or dry sherry can be a substitute), salt, white pepper. Stir with a spatula until it's all mixed well together. Using your hands is not advised for so many reasons, but one of them would be to keep your warm hands from changing the temperature of the pork. Up to you if you have the patience, but if you want to, you can wrap the mixture in the bowl with a cling wrap and keep in the fridge for 1 hour up to a day to allow the flavours to marinate.
Step 2: When you're ready to wrap the dumplings, cut up the cabbage into course pieces to add the greens that the doctors keep telling you to eat every day and for some more texture to your dumplings. You can use Napa cabbage or no cabbage. I went to my local Chinese grocery and she recommended the Taiwanese cabbage for its sweet taste and crunchy texture.
Step 3: Add 1 egg and 2 Tbsp. of sesame oil to give the paste a little more velvety texture. It's a trial and error, but getting it the right consistency with all the ingredients make the dumplings equally tasty rather than predominantly cabbage or mostly pork.
Step 4: Once you've mixed it all well, set the bowl of filling aside your wrapping "station" and keep another small bowl of water nearby. This water will help seal the wrapper in itself to contain the filling when cooking.
Step 5: Depending on the size of your wrappers, scoop a portion of filling into the wrapper that allows you to make it a plump dumpling but not overfilled where the meat mixture blows out the top of the pleats. For the size of wrappers I use, I found a teaspoon is enough to make a good sized dumpling.
Step 6: This is where I lose a lot of people when it comes to pleating. The video above should show you in slo mo how to pleat the wrapper so that it both looks good and keeps the filling in. Here's the best way that I can describe how to do it:
i. With a portion of filling in the wrapper, shake the wrapper a little so that the filling sits snug up against the bottom.
ii. Dab a little water around the edge of the wrapper. I've found dabbing the outside edge away from you is best.
iii. With your index and thumb, press the wrapper together. With the other hand (depending on which hand is predominant) fold over a small piece of the wrapper slightly over your thumb. Let's say for example you use your left hand to pinch the wrapper with your left index and right thumb. Fold the small piece of wrapper from your right hand over to the left thumb. Use that left thumb to pinch between your index finger. Move slightly over (in this case the wrapper to the left), then repeat the process of using your right index and thumb to fold over to the left hand. Repeat this until you reach the end of the wrapper. Some of the filling might spill out. Either scoop it out into the rest of your bowl, or gently tuck it into the wrapper. Then pleat the other side by reversing the order. Ugh. I'm a visual person so watch the video to see what I mean because I'm struggling to see how it's coming along. Or text me and I'll video chat ;)
iv. Once you've got the wrapper pleated and you've gotten all the cuss words out from a failed wrapped dumpling, Press down on the outer edge that you pleated to make sure that the dumpling is sealed through and through. If there's a leak, it's going to be like my pants when I eat too many dumplings. It'll give and you're not going to like what you see.
Step, I dunno, 7?: Fill a frying pan with enough water to cover half of the dumplings and add some oil to keep the dumplings from sticking to the bottom.
Step 8: Steam the dumplings until they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees. I use a spatula to loosen the bottoms of the dumplings as they cook. Oil is good, but compulsively checking the dumplings to see if they're cooked and not sticking is my go to way of making them.
Step 9: Once the dumplings have cooked, either let the water evaporate out or drain the pan. Add a bit more oil and start frying. You know how to fry so there's not much left other than letting it sit for a little just to brown the bottom like all the pictures of dumplings look like or when you get them at a restaurant. Then flick the pan and pretend you're a professional so your family can be impressed that you made this all from scratch. Yeh, I've dropped a dumpling or two on the ground. But can you tell me which one it was? My family can't.
Step 10: I think these steps don't follow along with the video. So choose whichever works for you. But the last step is to garnish the dumplings. I've been using roasted sesame seeds, any remaining green onions, and a vinegar that kinda makes it difficult for me to say properly in front of my friends. But here it is for you anyway. Chinkiang Vinegar. It's the one I grew up using and it's probably different for each person but I'm gonna use what Mama Wat used.
Here's where I found a gluten-free option for making the wrappers.
Here's a recipe for those who prefer not to eat pork or have a meat filling.
If the links don't work, I just did quick search on the inter web to find it. I haven't tried these recipes so I can't guarantee its success rate.
Well there you have it. I'm a graphic designer/video producer, so these instructions might not be what you're used to with all those fancy food blogs. There are tons and tons of recipes, pleat methods, and cooking tips out there. I'm just happy to have the chance to film how I've done it and hope you enjoy making them and eating the entire batch in one sitting. No judgement.
For storing the dumplings because you're not a monster like me, you can freeze the uncooked dumplings for up to one month or wrap them to make the next day. Make sure they stay relatively flat and with a little space if possible. This gives the chance for the dumplings to breathe without feeling too cramped and stay at a safe distance to chat while they're in the freezer. This also will keep them from sticking together for when you want to cook them. When you're ready to cook them, whether it's 10 minutes from when they're frozen or a month (good on ya!), you can repeat the process of steaming them in a frying pan and make sure they're fully cooked before pan frying them.
I don't have that info and probably won't include it. But this header looks like I tried to make it look like a regular food blog. I'm still learning.