Dumplings are a popular dish for Lunar New Year, but they’re fun to eat year-round. They come in different shapes and colors, including coin-pouch and tael shapes which symbolize wealth and fortune.
For this recipe, the dumplings have pointy ears on both ends and a round bubble in the middle. With the yellow color of the wonton wrapper, they resemble a tael, the golden nuggets of currency in ancient China. They are a lucky omen to welcome the start of the Lunar New Year.
There are so many wonderful combinations for filling dumplings, usually involving a protein and a vegetable. In this recipe, I use ground pork and Chinese chives, an iconic duo with an umami hit from the pork and a mild garlicky flavor from the chives.
What are Chinese Chives?
Chinese chives resemble small, thin scallions with flat leaves and are commonly used in Chinese cuisine. They are different from the other chives in that they have a delicious garlicky flavor.
Look for fresh Chinese chives at the supermarket near the scallions and at Asian grocery stores.
Choosing a Dumpling Wrapper
Most dumpling wrappers come in two shapes: squares and circles. The square wrappers are used in this recipe to create the sharp points of the tael-shaped dumpling, but circular ones will work as well.
Dumpling wrappers usually come in white, yellow, and sometimes green. The white dumpling wrappers are wheat-based so they are softer, making them easier to pleat into a coin pouch-style dumpling. They are also the most commonly used dumpling wrapper since they pan-fry beautifully with a seared crust.
Wonton wrappers are made using egg yolks, giving them a yellow color. They are more paper-like, so pleating might require a little more finesse and skills. Wontons are commonly boiled and steamed but can be pan-fried as well.
Since yellow resembles gold, wonton wrappers are the ideal choice for this Lunar New Year celebration recipe.
Steaming Chinese Dumplings
Steaming is a very common method in Chinese cooking. It is often considered to be a healthier or more mindful way of cooking since it doesn’t require oil. Steaming highlights natural flavors, so it is really important to have high-quality and fresh ingredients. It’s also a great cooking method for maintaining the delicate shape and folding of tael-shaped pork and chive dumplings.
Steaming food might feel like an intimidating process, but it is actually one of the easiest cooking methods. It takes away a lot of the guesswork since water evaporates into steam at its boiling point (212°F). This means the temperature of the steam will remain the same as long as the water is boiling, so you don’t have to worry too much about the heat level.
Another perk: steaming tends to be very forgiving since the heat is evenly distributed and gentle. A few minutes over the suggested time will not cause your food to be charred or burned—just make sure all of the water doesn’t evaporate.
A bamboo steamer, also known as a bamboo steam basket, is a dependable method for steaming food. There is about an inch between the bamboo stage and the pan surface so steam can pass through without the boiling water touching the food and diluting the flavors.
Additional bamboo baskets can be stacked on top, and small slits in the bamboo allow the steam to travel through the baskets and cook multiple baskets of food at the same time.
How to Steam Without a Bamboo Steamer
There are a variety of ways to steam food at home. In fact, you might already have all the necessary utensils and cookware to steam. In Chinese cooking, a wok is the default choice in cooking, including steaming. The shallow and wide surface makes it an ideal choice to steam.
A stainless steel rack (often included with woks) allows you to add water to the wok and place a plate of food on top of the rack without the water touching the plate. Use a heatproof plate that will fit inside the wok with the lid on top.
Alternatively, you can invert a small stainless steel or heat-safe bowl (which acts as a rack) in a pot and place the plate of food on top of the inverted bowl. Ensure the plate will fit with the lid on top and use just enough water to allow the water to bubble up and boil without touching the plate.
Tools for Avoiding a Sticky Situation
All dumpling wrappers have a tendency to stick to the cooking surface when steamed, which makes it difficult to avoid tearing the delicate skin. There are a few solutions to this:
- In restaurants, they use steamer paper, which is designed for steaming without disintegrating in the presence of water. They are disposable and do not imbue any flavor to the dumplings.
- An alternative solution would be to use thinly sliced cucumber, carrots, or napa cabbage leaves and place the dumplings on top. This will provide a stick-free surface between the bamboo and the dumplings. It also cooks the vegetables at the same time, which is a fun addition to your meal. Depending on your personal preference, it might add a touch of flavor from the cucumber and carrots, too.
- If you do not happen to have extra vegetables around, you can line the bamboo steamer or plate with parchment paper.
Lunar New Year Eats
Pork and Chive Dumplings
Dumplings are often a communal event. It is a wonderful way to get friends and family to participate by filling and forming the dumplings.
If you have any extra dumplings you’d like to save for later, skip steaming them. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the dumplings apart on top in a single layer. Freeze for 4 hours or until fully frozen before transferring them to a plastic storage bag in the freezer. The frozen dumplings can be stored for up to a month and steamed from frozen.
For the dumplings
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
4 ounces Chinese chives, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 package square wonton wrappers (50 to 60 wrappers)
1/4 cup water, or as needed, to seal
For the black vinegar sauce
3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Thinly sliced fresh ginger, optional
- Bamboo steamer
Make the dumpling filling:
In a medium bowl, add the ground pork, Chinese chives, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and sugar. Mix together using clean hands.
Prepare the wrapper:
Place a square wonton wrapper in a diamond formation with the bottom corner pointing towards you. Cover the remaining wrappers with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out.
Dip your fingertips in water and brush along the edges of the wrapper to moisten. You may have to dip your fingers a few times. Place a tablespoon of dumpling filling in the center of the wrapper.
Fold the dumpling:
Fold the bottom half of the dumpling over to the top to create a triangle. Seal by pressing along the edges. Dip your fingertips in water and wet the bottom two folded corners of the wrapper.
Gently bring the left and right sides of the dumpling together and press the overlapped corners to create a tael shape.
Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. Cover the dumplings with a damp tea towel or paper towel as you go.
In a shallow pot, add about 2 cups of water, or enough water to actively boil without touching the bottom of the steamer basket. Line the bamboo steam basket with steamer paper, parchment paper, or 8 cucumber slices or napa cabbage leaves and place it in the pot over the water.
Place 8 dumplings in the prepared bamboo steamer equally spaced apart. Stack additional sets of dumplings in bamboo baskets on top, if available. Otherwise, steam in batches.
Cover and steam on high heat for 8 minutes. The dumplings will be translucent and the filling will be cooked through. Replenish the water and bring it to a boil for additional steaming sessions, if needed.
Make the sauce:
In a small bowl, add the Chinese black vinegar, sugar, and thinly sliced ginger. Whisk to combine.
Serve the dumplings hot with the sauce on the side for dipping.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 27g||35%|
|Saturated Fat 9g||45%|
|Total Carbohydrate 38g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 8mg||38%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|