Dumplings and dirty kitchens
Small cockroaches were crawling over the kitchen table. They were also hanging out in the three microwaves, of which I am sure at most one was working. So before starting to cook, I had to clean the table first. No, this was not in a hostel, but in my own place. A boardinghouse in Sydney. Even though I liked that place for many reasons, among others the view and the location, the kitchen was not exactly clean. Now, I don’t remember which evening this was. It might have been the night that a big huntsman spider was sitting on the wall. Even though it is not a dangerous spider, it was pretty huge so I was watching it carefully. Or it might have been one of the nights that the man who was always mumbling and always cooking bacon and eggs for dinner was in the kitchen. I have to admit, that smelled like a good breakfast… The man never really returned my greeting. In any case, another inhabitant of the house walked in that evening. This man, the most friendly man living there, was not exactly a chef. When I saw him in the kitchen he was usually putting some frozen meat pies in the microwave. But he was always interested in what other people were cooking. That evening he was very surprised and sort of impressed when he saw what I was preparing: I was making Chinese potsticker dumplings. A bit different, since not that many people were actually cooking in that kitchen. This was the first time I was preparing any type of Asian style dumplings, and I was pretty stoked with the result.
Because I have to admit, it has taken a while before I became really interested in any type of Asian food. But when living in Sydney, I spent a lot of time with my friend whom I had met in the USA previously. We often went for walks and visited the national parks and vineyards around Sydney, but of course we also went out for dinner. As she really likes Asian food I started to learn a lot more about different types of Asian cuisine. One of the places we went to that made an impression on me was a dumpling restaurant in the city center. You could see the chefs folding the dumpling wrappers quickly and precisely into beautiful parcels. The steaming baskets were stacked in high towers on top of each other, somehow still steaming all dumplings to perfection. This inspired me to start replicating those flavours that I had gotten to love. Since I clearly did not have a steaming basked in my boardinghouse, I decided to go with the potstickers since they can just be prepared in a normal non-stick frying pan. So far, this recipe has now traveled with me to quite some different kitchens. And I guess it is clear, you do not need a fancy kitchen to prepare this.
Pork and leek potstickers
You could of course also simply use soy sauce or hoisin sauce by itself as a dipping sauce for your dumplings. Hoisin sauce is a Chinese condiment, used as a sauce or glaze. It is sweet and salty, and a little bit like a barbecue sauce. Although it is delicious just as it is, I like to loosen it up a bit and add some garlic, ginger, and chilli.
Ingredients (around 22 dumplings)
- 100 grams of flour
- 50 ml lukewarm water, approximately
- Sunflower oil
- 200 grams of pork mince
- Leek – half of a medium sized one
- Large clove of garlic
- Thumb size piece of ginger
- 2 table spoons of soy sauce
- 2 heaped teaspoons of 5 spices powder
- Black pepper
- Sesame oil – 1 tablespoon
- Hoisin sauce – 6 tablespoons
- 1 clove of garlic
- Ginger – piece of about 1 cm
- Soy sauce – 1 tablespoon
- Water – 2 tablespoons
- 1 red chilli
First of all, prepare the dough for the dumplings. Start by placing the flour and a good pinch of salt in a bowl. Start adding the water bit by bit and combining flour and water until it comes together and you get an elastic dough. Kneed this well on a clean surface. Then place it back in the bowl and cover with some plastic wrap so that it does not dry out.
When the dough is ready, wash the leek and chop into very small pieces. Using the fine side of a box grater, grate both the garlic and the ginger. I peel the garlic of course, but I usually don´t bother peeling the ginger. Place the pork mince in a large bowl and add the leek, ginger and garlic. Add the spices, soy sauce, and a good pinch of black pepper as well. Mix this together with your hands. Try a bit of the meat mixture in order to check the seasoning. The safest way to do this is to just fry a very small amount shortly in a frying pan, until the meat is cooked through. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
For the dipping sauce, grate the garlic and ginger as well and finely chop the chilli. Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan and fry the garlic, ginger and chilli until fragrant. Add the hoisin sauce, the soy sauce, and the water. Stir together and taste to see if the balance is to your liking. Adjust the flavour to your taste. Boil until it starts to get a syrup consistency, but don´t let it boil down too far since it will thicken a bit more while cooling down.
Now it is the moment to start the time consuming part: folding the dumplings. Take a bit of dough, around the size of a marble, and roll this out to a circle of approximately 7-8 centimeter in diameter. Place a good heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle of the dough. Fold the ends together in a half moon shape with the part where the ends are joined on top, so that the dumpling can stand up. Pinch the ends where you join the dough together into a wavy pattern, both because it looks nice and to properly close the dumplings. Continue this process until you finish the dough and the filling. The more frequent you do this, the faster it will go. Place the finished dumplings on a clean cloth to prevent sticking.
Once all the dumplings have been made, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add some sunflower oil. Once the oil is hot, place the dumplings in the pan, standing up straight. Fill the pan with water until the dumplings are half under. Cover the pan, and leave to boil and steam for a bit under 10 minutes. After this time, the water should have evaporated. If needed, add a little bit of extra oil and fry the dumplings until their bottoms are golden brown and crispy.
Enjoy your home made dumpling and dipping sauce. Serve with some greens, or as part of a larger spread of small bites.