I've been sitting on this post for weeks--WEEKS. Why? Well, partially because I tend to write about dessert or otherwise sweet things. But MOSTLY because I just cannot get a photo of the finished dumplings that I'm satisfied with!! This is the best I can do, so hopefully it's enough to convince you that these are delicious! I've spent a lot of time experimenting with the filling and I think I've finally hit on the perfect combination (for me, anyway!)
The secret is a mix of ground pork and ground turkey (I know, unorthodox but bear with me)--the ground turkey is very lean so the dumplings don't get so greasy. But won't they be too dry, I can sense some of you thinking--AHA! That's why you also add a tube of soft tofu (the kind that you can get at Korean groceries, I think it's meant for soon dubu). This results in a moist, juicy filling that is not greasy. This recipe makes a large amount, but that's perfect even if you are only feeding a couple of people, or just yourself, because you can put the extra ones on a cookie sheet, freeze, and then bag them up. Then the next time you need to whip up something quick...you already have dumplings on hand. Woohoo!
Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked--in addition to the meat and tofu, you also add vegetables. I like to use spinach that has been blanched, squeezed, and finely chopped, although in this batch I used nappa cabbage that was finely chopped, salted, and then pressed for 30 minutes to squeeze out some of the water. You can use pretty much any leafy vegetable (although I would recommend a mild tasting one as opposed to say, broccoli rabe) that you have on hand, and sometimes it's nice to also add in finely chopped garlic chives and scallions. That's the beauty of cooking, adjust to your own taste! Filling these does take some time, but once you get the motion down, they will go very quickly. I'll make a giant bowl of filling and then sit in front of the TV and fold dumplings. The photo above should give you an idea of how much filling to put in a dumpling; I'd say this is just under a tablespoon, but I don't actually measure it out, so they're not all uniform.
Everyone has their own method of sealing the dumplings; I don't go in for pleating the whole thing because it takes too long and I'm not that dexterous. Besides, this is the way my mom taught me! So, all you do is wet the edges of the wrapper, fold in half over the filing and pinch the center to seal, then make two pleats by pushing the unsealed wrapper edges towards the center. Try it, it's hard to explain but this photo should give you an idea. Press tightly to seal and presto! Dumpling. (Try not to trap any air in the dumplings because that will make them break when you cook them.)
Here's part of the last batch I made; the recipe I'll give makes about 100 dumplings, depending on how generous you are with the filling. If you are planning on freezing them, place them on plastic wrap lined trays or baking sheets (make sure they are not touching each other) and freeze, uncovered. Then bag them up in freezer bags (don't forget to label them!) and store in the freezer.
By the way, when you eat them? This is hands down the MOST IMPORTANT condiment!! Black vinegar. It totally won't be the same if you don't use this to make your dipping sauce. So, read on, and go make these! I'm pretty sure they will make your tummy happy!
Dumplings (in the style of Tofugirl)
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground turkey
half a medium head of nappa cabbage, finely chopped or 1 pound spinach, blanched, squeezed dry, and finely chopped (or a combination)
1 tube of extra soft Korean style tofu (I use Pulmone)
1 teaspoon salt (you can use up to 2 teaspoons, but don't make it too salty because you'll be serving it with a soy dip)
1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, mashed (optional)
2 packages of dumpling wrappers (the round ones)
If you are using nappa cabbage, after you finely chop it (easiest in a food processor, by the way), place the cabbage in a sieve, sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over it, and then weight it down with a plate. Let it stand for about half an hour, then squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it.
Combine all ingredients except for the dumpling wrappers and stir until well combined and the tofu is completely blended into the mixture. I find this easiest to do with the hands, although if you are squeamish about touching raw meat, you can use chopsticks or a big spoon. Be vigorous--you want everything really well incorporated. Wash your hands, then get ready to wrap! You'll want to have a bowl of cold water, chopsticks or a spoon for portioning the meat, a plastic-wrap lined tray to put your dumplings on, and your wrappers.
To form the dumplings, take one wrapper and place in in the palm of your hand. Put a dollop of the filling (a scant tablespoon or so) in the center of the wrapper. The first few you make, you may have to adjust the amount of filling until you figure out what works for you, but the goal is to have it completely enclosed with no filling oozing out. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water, and pleat to seal. (See above for a somewhat more involved description.) Try to press out all the air. Repeat!
To cook, you can boil them or make potstickers. For the former, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil; drop dumplings in, stir (so they don't stick) and let the water come back to the boil. Pour in a soup bowl of cold water and allow the water to return to the boil once again. Repeat. The dumplings will float when they're done, but cut one open and make sure. Remove to plates with a slotted spoon and serve with dipping sauce.
To make potstickers, heat a nonstick skillet with a thin film of oil in it over medium heat. Place the potstickers in the pan, flat sides down. Fry for about 4 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely browned. Add water (watch out, it'll steam up!) to the pan so that it comes up to about 1/4 of the way up the dumplings. Clap a lid on the pan and let it steam. When the water has almost evaporated, remove the lid, and cook until the pan is dry; this will recrisp the bottoms. When they are recrisped, they'll release easily from the pan. Serve, with the crunchy golden bottoms facing up. With dip, naturally!
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
splash of sesame oil
1 teaspoon sambal (optional, but nice if you like a little spice)
finely shredded ginger
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and serve with dumplings.