Asian dumplings are generally not meaty affairs. Even when a dumpling is filled with pork and Chinese/garlic chives (a classic northern Chinese approach), the quantity of pork used is stretched over a lot of dumplings. Eating eight of such kinds of jiaozi dumplings would never be like eating a steak! Because of limited resources and large populations, the Asian diet is one built on consuming little meat. There just isn’t much to go around. Without doubt, things are different nowadays in urban centers in Asia and in countries such as the United States where we have a relatively plentiful supply of food. In well-off countries like America, there’s a growing movement to cut back on meat consumption for health and ecological reasons. In the long run, it’s better for our bodies and planet if we consume less meat.
But just because you’re trying to cut back on eating meat, it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through eating bland food. These pot stickers filled with a savory vegetable-and-bit-of-meat filling prove just that. The recipe comes from Almost Meatless, a terrific new cookbook by Tara Desmond and Joy Manning. Tara and Joy held a virtual potluck party today and as a guest, I brought these dumplings, prepared from recipe in their cookbook. They named their preparation “Pork Pot stickers” but it’s the vegetable combination that steals the show. The dumplings are scrumptious and I have to admit that there wasn't much left before I 'officially' go to the potluck by publishing this post! To graze on all the contributions, visit their sites: Crumbsonmykeyboard.com and Whatiweightoday.com
Why pre-cook a dumpling filling?
Joy and Tara are great at injecting plenty of flavor in their recipes. For example, pre-cooking the filling, usually done for vegetarian Asian dumpling fillings, concentrates the natural flavors of the vegetable by drying them out a tad. During cooking the natural umami meatiness of the pork gets absorbed by the vegetables, which also suck up the seasonings at the end like a sponge. Because these pot stickers were designed as a finger-food type of appetizer, Joy and Tara didn't use a dipping sauce (less of a mess) and thus, their filling is well seasoned. In fact, I used water during cooking instead of stock because the filling didn’t require extra savoriness. If you want a dipping sauce, offer unseasoned rice, Chinkiang, or balsamic vinegar on the side for a quick dunk.
Feel free to substitute other kinds of ground meat. I like my dumpling fillings to have some fat so don’t be shy. Tara and Joy call for using wonton skins, which cooked up into delicate, pretty dumplings. Pot sticker wrappers are heartier tasting and they pan-fried into pot stickers with nice, crisp bottoms. If you use homemade dumpling wrappers, this filling quantity will make 24 dumplings; remember that you don’t have to moisten the edges with freshly made skins.
Makes 40 dumplings, to serve 8 to 10 as an appetizer
2 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons sliced scallions, white and green parts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 brimming cup chopped fresh shiitake or white mushrooms
1 cup tightly packed chopped napa cabbage (use leafy parts and center spines), or 1/4 savoy cabbage, cored and cut into thin ribbons and then coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot (use largest hole in grater)
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light (regular) soy sauce
1/3 cup cilantro or Thai basil leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
40 wonton skins, store bought or homemade
1 cup water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
1. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook about 3 minutes, stirring to break meat up into small bits. Add the ginger, scallions, and garlic and sauté about 1 minute. Mix in the mushrooms, cabbage and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid released from vegetables evaporates.
2. Remove the mixture from heat and add the vinegar, soy sauce, cilantro, sesame oil, salt, and pepper, mixing well to incorporate the ingredients. Let cool slightly, or cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble. Makes 1 1/2 packed cups.
3. Put a scant 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of a wonton skin. Paint the edges of the wrapper with water and fold in half, pressing the sides together to form a triangle. Set on your work surface, folded spine down, and scrunch in the two pointed corners to create a jagged mountain top finish. Tap the dumpling lightly on the work surface to make sure it sits upright. Cover assembled pot stickers with a damp cloth to prevent drying while forming the rest.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add 8 to 10 pot stickers to the hot pan, frying for 1 to 2 minutes for a brown, crusty bottom. Pour 1/4 cup water in the pan and cover for about 2 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid, and continue cooking for 1 minute more to let the pot stickers crisp on the bottom. Check by lifting the pot stickers with your fingers. Remove from the heat, transfer the batch to a baking sheet and hold in a warm oven (about 200 degrees). Repeat procedure with remaining pot stickers, adding oil to the pan as needed.
5. To serve, transfer pot stickers to a platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like.
Recipe adapted from Joy Manning and Tara Desmond’s Almost Meatless (Ten Speed Press, 2009).
I enjoy vegetarian foods but find that I can't be 100% vegetarian all the time. A little meat is good and yummy. What about you?