I love dumplings. When I was growing up, Korean mandoo were my favorite. I loved them every which way – steamed, boiled, deep-fried, pan-fried and in soup. (If you live in the New York area, check out Mandoo Bar on 32nd Street.) The process of making dumplings can be long and tedious but I recently found an easy, manageable and delicious recipe for Chinese pan-fried dumplings in The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong.
For those not from the New York area, Michael Tong and his Shun Lee restaurants are responsible for the Chinese dishes that Americans eat in Chinese restaurants across the country. He was a pioneer who introduced Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan cuisine to the United States in the 1960s. The Shun Lee Cookbook is an amazing cookbook for the home cook who wants freshly made and delicious Chinese food at home. The cookbook is now out of print but I was easily able to purchase it used (in excellent condition) on Amazon.
What I love about pan-fried dumplings is that you get the combination of a steamed and fried dumpling in one single dumpling. The top portion of the dumpling is soft and a little chewy while the bottom is golden and crispy. I was able to save a few steps by steaming and pan-frying in the same pan.
Add chopped cabbage to a medium bowl and combine with a pinch of salt. Set aside for at least 10 minutes. This will release moisture from the cabbage.
Combine pork, scallions, soy sauce, chicken stock, vegetable oil and sesame oil in another bowl.
Transfer the cabbage to a clean kitchen towel, twisting and squeezing hard to release excess liquid. (I was able to squeeze out about 1/4 cup of liquid.)
Add cabbage to pork mixture and mix well. Cover and freeze for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight. This will firm up the mixture, making it easier to handle.
Making the dumpling:
Fill a small bowl with water. This will be used to seal the dumplings.
Sprinkle cornstarch liberally on a baking sheet. This will prevent the dumplings from sticking to the pan.
Using a spoon, place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Using your finger, moisten the edge of the dumpling wrapper with water, halfway around.
Fold the wrapper in half and pinch the edges closed. Place it on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers. (Click on the YouTube video link below which demonstrates how to easily fold a dumpling wrapper.)
Cooking the dumpling:
Pour 1/3 cup water and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil into a large non-stick frying pan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 8 - 10 dumplings, pinched side up, to the pan without letting them touch. Cover and let "steam" for 5 minutes. DO NOT peek and more importantly don't touch or move the dumplings around as it will break up the wrapper and jeopardize a golden crust.
Carefully remove the cover (because the water and oil may splatter) and continue to cook until the water fully evaporates and the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately with dipping sauce and/or prepared hot Chinese mustard.
Adapted from The Shun Lee Cookbook by Michael Tong.
Here is the YouTube link for How to Fold Dumplings. It's simple and makes an impressive presentation. If you can't get the hang of it, just fold it the "incorrect way" which is also illustrated in the video.