We’ve all been there: It’s a Tuesday night—you’re home from work late, fresh out of inspiration, and tired of takeout. Before you reach for that frosty bag of store-bought frozen dumplings, think about how much better they’d taste if you’d made them yourself.
That’s where Anita Lo comes in. As a restaurant industry vet and cookbook author, Lo values the convenience of a shortcut but believes in making every bite of food count. “Food is defining for me; if I’m not eating well, I’m not taking care of myself,” says the 2001 Food & Wine Best New Chef, whose restaurant Annisa earned a Michelin star. And though she’s adept at making dumpling dough from scratch, she’s not above using store-bought wrappers to speed up the process.
Lo prefers white over yellow (“the yellow is just food dye,” she says) and as fresh as you can find. “Look at them through the package; if they’re dry and cracked at the edges, they’ll be less pliable.”
Next up: filling for the pan-fried dumplings. Lo’s recipe is a quick stir-together mix of pork, shrimp, napa cabbage, ginger, garlic, and Chinese pantry staples such as soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and oyster sauce.
When it comes to watery ingredients like the cabbage, Lo has a tip: “After chopping it, place the cabbage in a kitchen towel and wring out the extra moisture. That will prevent air pockets in the dumplings.” Lo’s next trick is the most crucial: Cook a spoonful of the filling and taste it before assembling the dumplings. “Once they’re all wrapped up, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Lo. “There’s nothing more frustrating than eating food that’s not seasoned properly.”?
Pleating dumplings can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but Lo has solutions for every skill level: a basic scrunch, an intermediate “half Buddha belly” pleat, and an advanced “full Buddha belly” pleat. Then, the dumplings get a quick pan-fry and a finishing steam before being served, crispy side up, with a spicy-savoury sauce. (Psst: Shortcut alert! You can also use Lo’s method to cook store-bought frozen dumplings, if you like.)
To ensure pan-frying success, Lo has one last piece of advice: Use a nonstick skillet. “They don’t call them pot stickers for nothing.”
1. Make Filling For The Pan-Fried Dumplings
Place drained cabbage, ground pork, chopped shrimp, and remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl; stir until combined.
2. Assemble Dumplings
Place 1 tablespoon filling in centre of the wrapper; gently press filling into an oval shape. Lightly moisten the perimetre of wrapper with water.
3. Fold to Encase Filling
Holding a filled dumpling in one hand, bring wrapper sides up around the filling to create a taco shape. Pinch corners together on one side.
4. Crimp Dumplings
Starting at the pinched corner, use your thumb and index finger to create small, even pleats in the front side of the wrapper.
5. Press and Seal
Continue pleating the front side of the wrapper, pressing each pleat into the backside of wrapper to create a crescent-shaped dumpling.
6. Cook Dumplings
Add dumplings to an oiled skillet, pleated side up. Pour 1/2 cup water into the pan; cover and cook until bottoms are crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Your pan-fried dumplings are ready.
Half Buddha Belly
Pinch corners to seal. Using the index finger and thumb of your free hand, pinch and fold one bottom corner of the dumpling in towards the centre to create a pleat, pressing to seal. Repeat with opposite corner.
Full Buddha Belly
Pinch corners together on one side. Starting at one end, use the index finger and thumb of your free hand to create small, even pleats, pressing each pleat into the flat edge of wrapper to create a crescent-shaped dumpling.
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com.
(Main and Feature Image Credit: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell)
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