Thai Foods Ep.3


Pork Dumplings (Gyoza)

by Thomas M. Tillman

Ingredients

Here are all ingredients you'll need for these to-die-for pork dumplings:
  • White peppercorns (black is okay too)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Napa cabbage
  • Salt
  • Ground pork (preferably not lean)
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Dashi powder (optional but highly recommended; if not using add 1 tsp more soy sauce)
  • Sugar
  • Tapioca starch or cornstarch
  • Garlic chives or green onions
  • Dumpling wrappers, store bought

DIPPING SAUCE

  • Rice vinegar
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar (optional, but Thai people like to add this to lessen the sharpness of the vinegar)
  • A little drizzle of rayu (Japanese chili garlic oil, optional but highly recommend!) You can also use another chili oil of your choice.

How to Make Pork Dumplings

Here's a bird's eye view of how to make these tasty dumplings, but be sure the watch the video tutorial, and also read the following section about tips for making these dumplings extra good!
Process shots for making pork dumplings steps 1-4
  1. Pound the garlic, white peppercorns, and ginger into a paste.
  2. Separate the stems from the leaves of napa cabbage.
  3. Finely dice the stems.
  4. Chop the leaves into ribbons.
Process shots for making pork dumplings steps 5-8
  1. Saute the herb paste until aromatic, then add the napa cabbage stems.
  2. Cook until the stems are soft and looks like a thick paste.
  3. Add the napa cabbage leaves and cook until the leaves are wilted and the mixture is mostly dry.
Process shots for making pork dumplings steps 9-12
  1. Combine all of the seasonings, starch and the pork.
  2. Knead well until the mixture looks like a fine paste.
  3. Add the cooled cabbage mixture and the garlic chives.
  4. Mix gently until well combined.
Process shots for making pork dumplings steps 13-16
  1. Wet the edges of the dumpling wrapper and fill with about a tablespoon of filling.
  2. Pleat the dumplings if you wish, or keep them unpleated. (See video tutorial for how to pleat dumplings.) You can freeze them at this point.
  3. Pan fry the dumplings in oil in a skillet until the bottoms are golden brown.
  4. Add some water to the pan to create steam.
  1. Close the lid and steam the dumplings for 3-5 minutes. Then open the lid and allow excess moisture to evaporate.
  2. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Folding the Dumplings

A tray of dumplings with 8 pleats, 6 pleats, and no pleats.
Dumplings with 8 pleats, 6 pleats, and no pleats.
In the video I show you how to make dumplings with no pleats and lots of pleats. Pleats look nicer, clearly, but if you're not concerned about looks, here are some things to consider: Pros of not pleating:
  • Way less work, obviously.
  • Without pleats, you can put more filling in and make dumplings with higher meat-to-wrapper ratio. Bigger dumplings = fewer dumplings = even less work.
  • With no folded parts, the wrapper remains thin all throughout the dumpling. This makes a difference if your dumpling wrapper is on the thicker or chewier side.
Cons of not pleating:
  • They won't naturally form the crescent shape, so you have to make sure to manually bend them (see video for how to do this). Without the crescent shape they won't be able to sit up and you won't get those nice browned, seared bottoms.

Pork Dumpling Recipe Secrets & Tips

As I was testing out this recipe, I discovered many tricks and tips that have made a big difference. You'll want to give it a try!

Secret #1: Key to Juicy Dumpling Filling

The most important factor for a juicy filling is the fat content of the ground pork. There is little you can do if you're starting out with pork that is too lean. Many Western stores only carry lean ground pork, so check out Asian grocery stores which often have "regular" ground pork that is fattier. If you have access to ground pork with different fat content percentages, shoot for 25-30% fat. For comparison, lean ground pork in Canada has a maximum of 17% fat, and regular ground pork is max 30%.

Secret #2: How to Keep ALL the Flavour In

Many recipes will ask that you salt the cabbage to draw out moisture, or boil and squeeze the daylight out of them to get rid of excess liquid. That's fine, but you lose a lot of that sweet napa cabbage flavour and not to mention nutrients! I came across a technique from Lisa Lin of Healthy Nibbles, where she sautés the cabbage so that in the process of removing the liquid, the flavour gets concentrated rather than removed. Brilliant!

Secret #3: How to Keep the Meat Juices In

Starch! When meat cooks, muscle fibers tighten and the juice gets squeezed out. We all know this by experience of cooking burger patties. The little bit of added cornstarch or tapioca starch helps absorb and retain this juice inside.

Secret #4: How to Add Extra Umami

Dashi powder! Also called "hon dashi," it's a Japanese fish stock powder that adds umami and those iconic Japanese flavours. This is my secret weapon, which I've also used in my garlic fried rice recipe.

Secret #5: Getting the Right Texture

You don't want to just mix the meat, you want to knead it for a period of time. This develops the protein and make the filling smoother and "bouncier", as opposed to having that coarse burger patty texture.

Secret #6: Serve it With This

Honestly, these are so flavourful you do not need to serve them with any condiment, though I do think that they benefit from the simple soy-vinegar dipping sauce to balance the richness. But for MAX flavour, try adding "rayu" or "layu", which is Japanese chili oil with crispy garlic, sesame oil, and other delicious seasonings. If you've never had this, try it and you'll want to put it on everything!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use chicken or beef for dumpling filling?

Yes, but again the important part is keeping the fat content high. If you want to do chicken or turkey, use dark meat, not white meat. You can also use ground beef but it will have a strong and quite different flavour.

Is it better to use store-bought dumpling wrappers or homemade?

You can take the time to make the wrapper, but I personally don't think there's much benefit apart from the joy of making things from scratch. I don't think homemade ones are necessarily "better", and if anything it might not be as good if you're not experienced in making them. What I would recommend instead is to try a few brands of wrapper to find the one you like best, because they are all a little different - some chewier than others, some thicker, some thinner.

Can I wrap dumplings in advance?

Yes and no. You CAN wrap them in advance but then you have to freeze them. If you wrap them and put them in the fridge, eventually the moisture from the filling will turn the wrapper soggy! Remember the wrapper is still raw, and so it will eventually "dissolve" if exposed to moisture long enough.

How do I freeze uncooked dumplings?

Freeze uncooked dumplings on a baking sheet without touching each other so they don't stick together. Line the tray with parchment paper otherwise they will stick to the tray. If you forget and they DO stick, you can use a flat spatula to pry them apart. Once frozen, you can consolidate them into a freezer bag or container.

How do you cook frozen dumplings?

Do NOT thaw them. You can cook frozen dumplings using the exact same method as non-frozen ones, they just take a bit longer, about 5-6 minutes after adding the water.

What are some other ways to cook dumplings?

In this recipe the dumplings are first pan fried for a crispy bottom, and then steamed. But simply boiled or steamed dumplings are also delicious and are much faster. After steaming or boiling, toss them in some chili oil and/or garlic oil for extra flavour, and it'll prevent them from sticking to each other.