Make these easy, adaptable, freezable dumplings to celebrate Lunar New Year and enjoy a freezer full of good fortune all year long.
There are few cooking projects more satisfying to me than making a tray of dumplings for Chinese New Year. They're a lot easier to make than you might think and mine don’t even require hunting down any rare ingredients.
Often made with a mixture of ground pork and cabbage, dumplings can really be made with any finely chopped protein: ground chicken or turkey, finely chopped shrimp, even tofu, all make great fillings. I like to use sweet or hot Italian pork sausage because it’s already seasoned plus the added fat helps the dumplings stay moist and tender on the inside.
The only thing you may need to track down are wonton or gyoza wrappers, easy to find at Whole Foods and lots of other supermarkets. You might even want to throw a dumpling mold in your cart while you're there. Otherwise, I bet you have most of the other ingredients in the fridge. A disclaimer: Are these perfectly authentic? No. Do they scratch an itch? Absolutely. Here’s the dumpling recipe I love to make at home.
1. Remove 4 hot or sweet Italian pork sausages from their casings. Place the meat in a large bowl. Add 1 large egg, 3 finely chopped scallions, 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (that’s a small handful), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Use a fork and mix this up really well so everything is evenly incorporated. You might have to go in there with you hands and breakup the sausage, a little squishy at first but ultimately deeply satisfying.
2. Wash your hands, wipe down your cutting board, and set a little bowl of water on your workstation.
3. Lay 3 or 4 of the gyoza wrappers on your clean work surface. Place a rounded teaspoon of the sausage mixture in the center of each wrapper. Dip a finger in the bowl of water and rub it around the edge of each wrapper. Fold one side of the wrapper over the filling and pinch to seal. Now, if you want to get fancy (you do) you can crimp the edges. All you have to do is make three little folds in one side of the wrapper, like little pleats. You will definitely experience a couple “first pancakes” but keep going. As long as you pinch firmly to seal they’ll be delicious. You should hit a nice rhythm right around dumpling number eight.
4. Transfer your assembled dumplings to a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with wrappers and sausage filling until you’ve used all of the filling up. I find I usually get about 3 dozen. If you have any wrappers leftover you can wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and stick them in the freezer.
5. At this point the dumplings can be frozen right on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the dumplings to a resealable plastic bag. You can then cook them straight from frozen whenever you get a craving.
6. If you want to eat them right away you can drop them in a pot of gently boiling water, or steam them in a steamer basket, about 3 minutes either way. My favorite way to cook them is a combined steam-fry. Fill a medium non-stick skillet with just enough water to cover the bottom and bring it to a simmer. Add as many dumplings as will comfortably fit, flat side down—no crowding—and cover the skillet (you can use a baking sheet or foil if you don’t have a lid that fits). Steam until the wrappers look translucent, about 3 minutes.
7. Drain off any water in the skillet and add a little vegetable oil, giving the dumplings a gentle shake to make sure they’re not sticking, and cook until the bottoms are golden and crispy, just about a minute or two. Using tongs, transfer the little bundles to a paper towel and dab dab dab to remove any extra oil (although, I never turn my nose up at a greasy dumpling).
8. Serve them with a little sambal-soy sauce mixture for dipping or this tasty combo: Whisk together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon water, 1 sliced scallion, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil until the sugar dissolves.
The dumplings should keep in the freezer for about 3 months, but I doubt you’ll wait that long to eat them. Craving dumplings of another kind? Check our our famous Classic Chicken and Dumplings recipe here.