How to make dumplings from scratch
It’s the day before Chinese New Year and traditionally, New Year’s Eve is when the core family comes together for a feast at big round table. It symbolises the completion of the year and even family members who cannot make it, get a seat and plate at the table.
So what would you eat for this feast? Well, there are lots of different traditional CNY dishes, but there is one staple of Chinese cuisine that cannot ever be missed in Chinese New Year’s dinners: Dumplings.
It’s a bit involved, so I recommend planning in advance and definitely ask your family or roommates for help. Making dumplings is supposed to be a fun group activity (which I know is difficult atm).
This is my personal recipe based on classic northern Chinese dumplings that I’ve learned from my parents and Youtube. Don’t @ me if you think this is not authentic enough. Instead, enjoy some delicious dumplings and have a Happy New Lunar Year.
Special shoutout to my partner, who helped with the dumplings (his are so much prettier) and edited the video 🤗
- 400g flour (I’m using a special flour for dumplings & noodles. It’s high in protein & gluten, which means the dough will be elastic & stretch easily. You can also use all-purpose flour if you add 1 or 2 room-temp eggs to up the proportion of protein. If you do this, you will need to reduce the amount of water, so your dough doesn’t get too sticky)
- 200g room-temp water
- ½ tsp salt
- 450g pork belly (actually you can also use other parts of the pig, as long as you end up with about ⅔ lean and ⅓ fat)
- 50g chinese chives
- 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp garlic & ginger puree (I’m using store-bought, you can obviously also make it fresh yourself. To avoid chunks and to make sure the aromatics are evenly distributed, don’t dice them, rather infuse a bit of hot water with sliced ginger & garlic)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil (if you’re not using meat, you’ll need to increase the amount of oil)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 egg
- Some vegetable oil
- Chilli garlic sauce
- Light soy sauce
- Fermented rice vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Kecap manis
Mix flour, water and salt. Stir until it just comes together, then knead until the surface is smooth (5-10 minutes)
Cover & let rest for 20 minutes. You’ll notice that the dough is now smoother and much softer and easier to work with than before.
Knead again for ~5 minutes. This will give the gluten a chance to develop
Cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying out then rest for at least 30 mins or overnight. I let it rest for about 2h.
In the meantime, we can prepare the filling
The traditional northern Chinese filling is made up of pork, some veggies and aromatics.
When using pork, I recommend mincing it yourself, so you can control the texture of the meat. Additionally, I separate the fat from the lean. The ratio by weight should be about ⅔ lean, ⅓ fat.
I’m using pork belly, which I separated myself and an Asian style vegetable cleaver to mince & pound the meat. I will leave the fat a bit coarser than the lean, this way we’ll get super delicious fat pockets when eating later. You can get pre-ground meat, but because the meat will go through the grinder multiple times, it will have a mushy consistency that’s not ideal for dumplings. If you go to a butcher, you can ask them to only run the pork through the grinder once. But even with store-bought preground meat it’s still gonna work fine, maybe not taste as good, so don’t worry about it too much.
I want to keep things simple, so my filling will only contain meat and Chinese chives for flavour. In general, the ratio by weight should be about 9/10 meat, 1/10 vegetables, but if you change the ratios a bit, it won’t be much of a problem.
You can also make your filling completely vegetarian, by using shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, soybean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, grated carrots etc. But I would recommend shortly frying your veggies first, so they give up most of their liquid before going into the filling. Otherwise, you will end up with very soggy dumplings.
Add the filling ingredients in a bowl and use chopsticks to constantly stir the mixture in one direction until it turns into one sticky mass.
Now we can move on to assembly
Flatten out the dough, then poke a hole in the middle and squeeze it into a ring. Cut the ring into individual sausages, then try to cut it into even pieces.
I’m trying to get 50 dumplings out of this, so each individual wrapper should be 12g per piece.
Place the pieces cut side up & cover with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Take one piece, flatten it out by hand to start with a round dough.
With your left hand, hold the dough piece, with your right hand use your rolling pin to roll out the wrapper. Roll the pin from the outside to the center, with little to no pressure. Then roll the pin back towards you, while increasing the pressure. Use your left hand to turn the wrapper by 45 - 90°. This way, the wrapper will be a little bit thicker in the middle, to hold the filling.
Try to get the wrapper as round as possible, dust it generously with flour, when you stack them on top of each other (you should not forget this, the wrappers get really sticky. I’ve learned the hard way)
Since we wanna end up with 50 dumplings, every dumpling should have 10g of filling.
Take one wrapper, put it on your left open palm. Put some filling in the center, then fold the wrapper along the middle.
There are multiple ways to fold your dumplings, some are prettier than others but also more difficult. My father, for example, simply presses the edges together with the lower part of his thumb and index finger, no pleats at all. This is all about personal preference, just make sure the edges are securely pressed together so nothing will fall out later. If needed, you can also wet the edges with some water to get them to stick together.
I recommend to place & sprinkle your dumpling in some flour to prevent it sticking to the plate.
Get a second person to help you, so one can assemble the dumplings while the other makes the wrappers. This is also how big families usually prepare dumplings for Chinese New Year: as a group activity.
If you’re left with wrappers, you can just make empty dumplings, believe me, they’re surprisingly good. If you have fillings leftover, flour your hands and work surface, then roll it into little meatballs and fry them as an additional snack.
There are multiple ways to cook dumplings. They can be steamed in a steamer or boiled in some clear broth.
Our favourite is to fry them in a pan, for which you will need to prepare some cornstarch slurry out of cornstarch, water and rice vinegar.
Heat some oil in a frying pan, then place the dumplings fat side down into the pan in a circle. Once they get a bit of colour, add the slurry and quickly put a lid on. The slurry will set into place rather quickly, make sure at least the inside of the circle is completely covered.
Now, the dumplings will steam until done (about 7-8 minutes). The slurry should have turned into a nice skirt holding all the dumplings together. Opening the lid now will allow any remaining water to evaporate for a nice crunchiness.
Once you are happy with the texture, put an upside-down plate on top and flip both pan and plate (you might have to wiggle a little if it does not pop out right away). Serving “upside-down” is the way to go with this dish.
Caution: cover your lower arm with e.g. a towel for the last step, as any potentially remaining hot liquid (water/oil) will drip out on the side of the pan! If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, slide or lift the batch out of the pan with your tool of choice.
The classic one, which my parents taught me, is simply a mix of light soy sauce, fermented rice vinegar and a bit of sesame oil. I also like to add some store-bought chilli garlic sauce.
My personal favourite is a sweet variation, which includes kecap manis, a sweetened Indonesian soy sauce, and ponzu sauce, which is Japanese soy sauce infused with yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit. Again, I like to add some chilli garlic sauce to give it a little kick.
I don’t have any measurements here, you’ll just have to taste it and decide for yourself There are no rules, you can make whatever you like or don’t use any dipping sauce. Everything is allowed.