How to make Chinese dumplings, step-by-step

Emma Chen of The Red Chamber restaurant in Joburg shares a recipe for her favourite Chinese New Year indulgence: pork dumplings

01 February 2019 - 00:00 By Emma Chen
It's traditional to eat dumplings during Chinese New Year.
It's traditional to eat dumplings during Chinese New Year.
Image: Curtis Gallon

MAKES

Approximately 40 dumplings

INGREDIENTS

Dough:

3 cups (360g) cake wheat flour

1 cup (250ml) cold tap water

Filling:

600g pork mince

Bunch of celery, leaves removed (the ratio of celery to pork is up to you; use less for a more meaty filling)

Salt

Thick stem fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2-4 spring onions, finely chopped

Sesame oil, to taste

10ml (2 tsp) rice wine vinegar

25ml (5 tsp) soy sauce

15ml (1 tbsp) of pepper oil*

METHOD

Step 1: make the dough

Place the flour on a kitchen surface or in a big bowl; using your hands or chopsticks, slowly blend in the cold tap water. More water might be needed, depending on the flour.

Knead with both hands until you have a fairly damp, workable dough.

No salt is added to the dumpling dough as this can make the dumplings tough.
FYI No salt is added to the dumpling dough as this can make the dumplings tough.
Image: Curtis Gallon

Form into a ball and place in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Step 2: make the filling

Place the pork mince onto a board and using a cleaver, finely chop the mince. Use the cleaver to fold one half of the meat over the other half and chop again. Place in a bowl and set aside. 

Break the celery into pieces and pull off the tough outer strands. Chop into very fine pieces, sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Using your hands squeeze out all the liquid from the celery and add to the pork with the chopped ginger and spring onion.

Mix all ingredients together with chopsticks, working clockwise (a tip my mother taught me) as this keeps the meat more juicy.

Traditionally pork mince is used in dumplings, in a ratio of 30% pork fat (which makes a more juicy dumpling) to 70% meat.
TIP Traditionally pork mince is used in dumplings, in a ratio of 30% pork fat (which makes a more juicy dumpling) to 70% meat.
Image: Curtis Gallon

Add as much sesame oil as you like, as well as a pinch of salt, the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and pepper oil.

Test the flavour of the mince by dropping a small ball in boiling water to cook. Remove, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Step 3: shape the dumplings 

On a floured surface and with floured hands, shape the dough by squeezing it into an even sausage shape to form a loop.

Image: Curtis Gallon

Cut the loop in half, rolling it into two sausage shapes of even thickness. With a cleaver, cut the dough into uniform pieces, about 2cm thick.

Using both hands pick up the dough pieces and stand them on their sides. They should all be the same size so the cooking time is the same for all the dumplings.

Sprinkle the dough pieces lightly with flour.

Image: Curtis Gallon

Shape each piece of dough by pressing down lightly into a circular shape.

Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a circle, turning the dough with your other hand and rolling in and out.

Make sure you leave a thicker section of dough in the centre where the meat filling will sit.

Image: Curtis Gallon

Using chopsticks place about 5ml (1 tsp) of filling (or more if desired) on the thicker area in the centre of the dough.

Image: Curtis Gallon

Bring the dough together by folding in half and pressing it together in the centre.

•You are considered very lazy if you don’t use both hands to shape the dumplings.
FYI •You are considered very lazy if you don’t use both hands to shape the dumplings.
Image: Curtis Gallon

Working from right to left crimp the edges together. This shape is known as a sitting dumpling.

Image: Curtis Gallon

Step 4: cook the dumplings

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook dumplings in batches, taking care they do not overlap and stick together.

Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a serving plate. Don’t overcrowd the plate as the dumplings will stick together.

Serve with soy sauce, chopped fresh garlic, chilli sauce and Chinese brown vinegar. The New Year ritual is to drink the stock/soup in which the dumplings were cooked, which aids digestion.

* To make your own pepper oil, soak some black peppercorns in boiling water to release the flavour. Drain and store in a container filled with sunflower oil.