Around the Lunar New Year back in February, The New York Times ran a piece about making seafood dumplings at home. My boys and I gasped — and drooled a little — at the paper’s photo of tender, translucent pockets of shrimp and scallops. Though I’d made Italian filled pastas before, I’d never tried their Asian cousins.
But we had a bag of shrimp in the freezer and a can-do spirit. As I rummaged around to see what else was on hand, I found a pound of mushrooms and half a head of cabbage, both standard in vegetable dumplings. However, most of the recipes I found on the web and in my own cookbooks called for shiitakes and napa cabbage, and I didn’t want to do any special, or expensive, shopping. After all, dumplings at their heart are like burritos or sandwiches: you should be able to fill them with whatever you have. I finally found a great recipe using humbler ingredients on a blog called Kokocooks. Though I changed a few things, adding ginger for kick, I cheerfully embraced her suggestion that I pan-fry these as potstickers. My kids preferred them to the shrimp, despite my younger one’s claim that he loathes mushrooms.
Best of all, my kids could help me. We used sturdy prefab wrappers (both round and square) from the grocery store. The boys easily moistened, sealed, and crimped the dumplings closed. My job was to place the right amount of filling in the middle of each wrapper. No need to wait for next year to make these!
- 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
- 1 lb. mushrooms (white or shiitake), washed, dried, stemmed, and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled, and grated fresh ginger
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and shredded on the smaller holes of a box grater
- 1/4 head cabbage, finely shredded, then chopped to yield 1 1/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sriracha (a chili pepper paste, in the Asian foods section)
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 scallions, all but darkest green part sliced thin or minced
For assembly and cooking
- 1 package (about 50) round or square dumpling or wonton wrappers
- A dish of water
- More neutral oil
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until all liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook until wilted, about another 2 minutes. Then add the carrots and cook another minute or two. Remove pan from heat. Stir in all remaining ingredients.
Have filling, wrappers, a small bowl of water, a baking sheet or large clean dish towel, and another clean towel for hands nearby. Keep extra wrappers covered with a damp towel.
Place a small amount of filling (about 1-2 tsp.) in the center of the wrapper. It might take a little practice to get used to using a small enough amount. If you use too much and your dumpling won’t stay closed, just discard the wrapper and reuse less of the filling in another dumpling. Dip your index finger in the water and wet around the edge of the wrapper. Pleat the edges to crimp closed. (There are videos that can teach you.) Place finished dumpling on baking sheet or towel. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
Stir dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet (nonstick if possible) over medium-high heat. Add around 8 dumplings (don’t overcrowd the pan) and brown on bottom side, about 4 minutes. Add ¼ cup water, reduce heat to medium, and cover pan. Simmer dumplings another 3 minutes. Remove lid from pan and allow any remaining water to cook off. Repeat with remaining dumplings, adding more oil as needed. Dumplings will be brown on the bottom, tender and translucent on top.
Serve with dipping sauce.