pan-fried pork + scallion dumplings and wontons
- 1 package (about 50) dumpling wrappers*
- Peanut of canola oil for pan-frying (about 1 tbsp per dozen)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 8 dried shitake mushrooms**
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Discard the stems and finely chop the mushroom caps.
Brief Parenthetical: the fact that I’m mentioning the UNSPEAKABLE MUSHROOM on this small patch of virtual real estate is a testament to how much I loved my experience and dumplings (sans THE MUSHROOM), that I’m willing to allow this brief trespass.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, mushrooms, scallions, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Keep the extra wrappers covered with a slightly damp towel until ready to use, to prevent them from drying out. Fill a ramekin or small bowl of water and have it next to you; this will be for sealing the dumplings. Take a wrapper and place one heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle. Be careful not to put too much, or else it’ll leak out during the folding process.
Dip your finger in the water and moisten the edges all around.
For Dumplings: Take the dumpling in your hand and fold the wrapper in half. With your right thumb and index finger, pinch the edge of the wrapper in the middle and make a fold.
Make two more identical folds in the same directions, until you end up with three folds on the right side. With your left thumb and index finger, make two more pleats on the left side. Press all the pleats to seal. The finished wrapped dumpling should resemble a crescent. If you’re stumped, check out Diane demonstrating the folding process.
Lay the finished dumpling on a plate. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a slightly damp towel while you repeat the process with the remaining dumplings.
For Wontons: Angle a wonton wrapper so that it faces you like a diamond. Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Add water along the top two edges with your fingertips. Wrap by forming a triangle by folding the bottom tip to the top tip and pinching out as much air as possible. Press together. If you want to try “the boat”, start by folding the wrapper in half to form a triangle. Add a dab of water to the bottom edge of the left side and fold it over the bottom edge of the ridge side, so that one overlaps the other. The end result should resemble a boat, with the two tips cradling a puff of filling in the middle.
For pan-frying, make sure to use a large, flat-bottomed skillet or a wok with a wide flat surface area, and have a lid ready. Heat the skillet or wok over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut or vegetable oil and swirl to coat the bottom. (Don’t skimp on the oil; the amount is integral for the pan-fried dumplings to develop their signature brown and crispy bottoms and not become glued to the pan.) Working in batches, line the dumplings in the pan, smooth side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the smooth side starts to brown. Lower the heat to medium. Carefully add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and immediately cover with a lid to contain the spitting oil. Allow the dumplings to steam for 4-5 minutes, until all or almost all of the water has evaporated.
Remove the lid, and loosen the dumplings with a spatula. They should be golden brown on the bottom. Turn off the heat.
If you’re doing repeated batches, wash and dry the pan or wipe it out so that there’s no residual water when you pan fry your next batch. Feel free to freeze the dumplings and reheat for a rainy day.