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Chinese Dumplings

Chinese dumplings also known as ravioles Chinoise, or potstickers. These are the delicious little dumplings with the crispy bottoms. I first made these for last years Chinese New Year, and haven’t looked back. These look daunting to make, and it is true that they take a bit of practice to get right but as we are all in lockdown no-one is going to be coming around to critique so I thought I would share my version. If nothing else just to prove that even a novice can do it! If you want to watch a true expert Nan Ping Gao, of Chateau la Bastide, did some great videos around Chinese New Year!

First thing is first, make the stuffing as you need to let it cool before you use it. This is often my biggest issue as I don’t always plan ahead and then I am left with a warm stuffing which melts the dough of the dumplings!

You can put any combination of vegetables, pork, duck and seafood. For the dumplings in the photos below I used a combination of shredded spring onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms, ginger, Savoy cabbage and roasted pork. I then stir fried them with soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili, white pepper and some tamarind. I finished off with some toasted sesame seeds. If the sauce is too liquid thicken with some cornflour as you do not want a runny sauce for the stuffing. Last night I made the stuffing without pork, I used shiitake mushrooms instead and replaced the savoy with white cabbage.

Once you are happy with the seasoning, put aside to chill. If you think of it, it is a good idea to make the stuffing in the morning. Now make the wrappers.

Take 2 cups of strong flour and put into a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Add 2/3 rds of a cup of boiling water and mix, I use chopsticks but you could use a spatula. Now add room temperature water, a little at a time and use your hands to form a dough. You are roughly adding 1/3rd cup of water but as each flour is different you will need to use your judgement on this. Knead the dough on a floured work surface, mine is stone which is great for pastry/dough making as it remains cool. Knead until you have a smooth and springy dough, shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Form into a ball and place on a floured part of the work surface out of the way and cover with a damp cloth for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready uncover the dough and knead again on a floured surface. Cut into two and form both parts into balls. Place one ball under the damp cloth whilst you work on the first ball. Gently roll the ball with your hands to form a sausage shape, try and make sure that the sausage is even  thickness throughout being careful not to apply too much pressure as you go. When you have roughly achieved a uniform sausage of approximately 25 – 35 cm long, start to cut it into portions. Cut in half, then cut each half into half again, and then divide these into equal sized portions. I got roughly 14 per roll. Now flour your hands and roll the dough pieces in-between your palms to form little golf balls, put aside and cover with the damp cloth. Do the same for the second piece of dough.

As with empandillas, sushi, Accras and meat balls, you need to get organised before you start! Get two lined baking trays, lightly flour them and place them somewhere accessible. Get the stuffing, a teaspoon, a fork, plenty of flour, a glass of water, a small rolling pin (there are special rolling pins for these, but I find the best one is the mini child version that Louis has!), turn off your phone and put on the music. Now traditionally there would be several of you doing this and it is very convivial, but I don’t tend to get that kind of help!!!

Flour your work surface, your hands and the rolling pin before you start. Now take a ball at a time and you can either gently flatten with the palm of your hand or with your thumb and fingers. Gently, with the rolling pin, roll to a round shape, roughly 8 cm wide. It is important not to roll too thin,  rotate the dough as you roll. Put to one side. Roll out all of the balls, trying to retain a circle and to keep to roughly the same size. Dont worry if they aren’t perfect, it really doesn’t matter!

Now take the first wrapper in one hand and gently, dampen the edges with your index of the opposite hand . Place a heaped teaspoon of filling into the centre, it is tempting to over fill but that usually ends in explosions whilst cooking, so control your generosity!! Fold the closest part to you over and pinch the edges closed. There are various ways of closing the potsticker wrappers, some easier than others! The simplest is to take a fork and crimp it as you would a pasty! Not traditional but easy. I prefer to pinch the edges closed, similar to an empandillas. The important thing is to create a solid seal so that the potsticker doesn’t open when cooking. Continue on in the same calm manner until completed! It takes time and cannot be hurried, well not unless you are an expert!

If you are not cooking them straight away cover with a damp cloth and store somewhere cool, but not in the fridge. If you are cooking straight away grab a couple of heavy duty non-stick frying pans with lids. Get a cup of water ready per pan and heat a heaped tablespoon of vegetable oil into each pan on a medium fire. Once hot, add the potstickers, as you can see below you can fit quite a few in one go. Watch like a hawk. You want the bottoms to be browned and crispy not black and singed! Gently shake the pan from time to time. When nicely browned, add the water. This is the dangerous part as it will steam and you risk being splattered by hot fat. If you are nervous remove the pan from the heat for this part, otherwise you could put oven gloves on. Cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat. Watch, making sure that the water doesn’t evaporate before the dumplings are fully cooked. Shake from time to time, and it is fine to add extra water if needed. You can turn off the heat when you think that they are close and allow to continue cooking in their own steam. To test if they are ready, you should be able to pierce the potstickers easily with a sharp knife.

Serve with a selection of sauces, we usually go for a sweet chili sauce, a soy, chili and ginger based dipping sauce and then a satay. I often make an oriental salad as a starter then find that we would have enough of these for the next day too. They reheat well, especially if you make a vegetable and noodle stir fry, then you can add the potstickers on the top and pop the wok lid on for the last five minutes of cooking to heat through.

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