PAN FRIED DUMPLINGS
These little pockets of joy are my go-to whenever I want to impress guests without having to go to too much effort. Filled with delicately spiced pork and wrapped in soft pastry that is first crisped up in the pan and then steamed, which is in my humble opinion quite simply the best way to enjoy dumplings.
You can buy the dumpling wrappers from any good Asian grocery, and they are really versatile, as they can be filled will all sorts of imaginative fillings like vegetarian shiitake and cabbage, minced scallops and prawns or lemongrass beef; the list goes on and on. I serve them with a generous side of my small batch Luck Dragon Asian dipping sauce as the roasted garlic, premium Japanese soy sauce, sesame oil and the hint of ripe Queensland chilli pairs perfectly with any filling.
Did you know? According to ancient Chinese folklore, dumplings were invented during the Eastern Han Dynasty 1,800 years ago by the medical saint Zhang Zhongjing. Legend has it that there lived a master physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine who finally returned to his ancestral village after a long period of absence. During the bitterly cold winter, a febrile disease was turning quickly into disaster. Many of his fellow citizens, especially the poor, succumbed terribly to the unrelenting cold, and because of the lack of warm clothes and sufficient food, many suffered frostbite, mainly around their ears. Seeing their condition, Zhang was determined to do something to help rid them of the frostbite. He cooked lamb, black peppers and a few medicinal herbs, shredded them and wrapped it in a thin dough skin. He shaped the pastry pockets like ears and boiled them. Everyone who was ill was given two ‘ears’ along with a bowl of warm soup. After a few days, the frostbite was magically gone, much to the relief and delight of the villagers.
Chef Dylan Tip: Don’t try to be too fancy with the design of the dumpling ear or crescent shape when you first have a go. The main thing is to simply make sure you pinch the pastry closed. The more you practice, the better you will get. Be sure not to overfill the pastry because they will pop open if you do. Less is more in this case.
Some of the best dumplings I’ve ever eaten were when I visited my sister and her partner Troy when they rented in the inner Sydney suburb of Ashfield. We’ve just returned to Australia from overseas and arrived huffing and puffing from the climb up the many stairs. As my sister turns the handle of her front door apartment, she announces, “Welcome to our humble home, guys!” As we enter, we walk past the small kitchenette and thump our heavy bags down in the lounge room. “Troy will be home in about 20 minutes, and we’re going to take you to our favourite dumpling place. You’ve got just enough time to take a shower, and I’ve placed towels in the bathroom for you guys”.
Feeling refreshed after our long journey, we head down the stairs and into the bustling main street. In only a few short minutes, we are standing in front of a small, modest restaurant called ‘New Shanghai’. A delicately framed girl, no more than sixteen, with deep chestnut eyes and raven coloured silky straight hair, guides us to our table. It’s a long table full of smiling patrons talking loudly in-between slurps of wonton soup and mouthfuls of fried rice and shredded roasted chicken. It’s like a banquet royal gala dinner. The atmosphere is electric.
We each pull out our small green plastic stools and sit down to join in without anyone seeming to notice. Surrounded by the aroma of delicious food, we’re keen to order.“Let’s get the pan-fried pork dumplings,” says Troy. “They are the best around by far. You can see the ladies through that glass window, making them now super fresh and proper authentic.” He turns to point and shows me where three kind-looking older ladies are expertly rolling out pastry. They take each disc into the palm of their hands, then add the filling, and with nimble movements, close the dumplings with expert folds, all the while making it look ridiculously effortless.
As we wait to order, people come and go from the table as if playing a giant game of musical chairs. A waiter carrying our plates of dumplings arrives, and as he places them on the table, “Some chilli and soy, please”, I ask. He elicits a small micro-nod of acknowledgement and turns away. I’m immediately ravenous. “They look mouthwateringly delicious and crisped up to perfection”, I declare. “Don’t dive in too fast”, quips my sister. “I’ve learnt the hard way because last time we were here, I didn’t wait, and the juices inside exploded and burnt the back of my throat!”. The soy and chilli arrive, and I dip the dumpling in and take a bite. “WOW”, I instantly think. What a flavour explosion. Noticing my delight, “Told ya!” says Troy winking, as he pops one into his mouth.
Have a go at these easy dumplings, you will be shocked at how simple they are to assemble and cook. You’ll soon be basking in the praise of everyone lucky enough to have them cooked for them.
PREP TIME: 15 mins
COOKING TIME: 10 mins
240g minced pork
1/4 bunch of chives, cut into thick strips
thumbnail size bit of ginger (2cm cube), minced
3 tbs LUCK DRAGON Asian sauce
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Pinch of sea salt
20 dumpling wrappers
A small bowl of water
In a medium-sized bowl, add all the ingredients for the dumpling fillings together and mix until well combined.
Place a wrapper into the palm of your hand and spoon a tablespoon of filling onto the centre.
With your finger, moisten the edges of the wrapper with some water. Fold the dumpling into a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges and pinch them together to seal them tightly.
Place your dumplings on a plate lined with baking paper.
Get your fry pan to medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and then fry dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom turns a light brown.
Then in the same pan, turn up to high heat and add a 25ml shot glass of water. Cover the frypan with a saucepan lid and steam for 3-4 minutes until water has completely evaporated.
Serve with a condiment bowl of my Luck Dragon Asian dipping sauce. Get ready with your chopsticks for a flavour sensation.