Pork and Leek Dumplings

It’s been a while since I’ve waxed poetic (at least here) about how much I love dumplings. When I really get going, I have been known to declare that dumplings are the snacks of the gods, are so awesome that nearly every culture has developed some version of them and quite possibly, the food item that will eventually bring about world peace. But I will spare you.

Finding that suddenly I have much more free time than I have in the past months, I decided it was time to stock up the freezer with a menagerie of dumplings again. This time, I restricted myself to only two varieties: a trusty pork and ginger filling from Ming Tsai and a new-to-me pork and leek filling from a recent cookbook acquisition, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s gorgeous Beyond the Great Wall. I ended up modifying their dumpling recipe slightly by adding an egg to the filling to help it bind better and by scaling up, since I always make dumplings in big batches for freezing.

Now that I own two of their books, I can officially say that I love this couple of cookbook authors. Their books are more like travel diaries interspersed with recipes and with plenty of beautiful photography, which happen to be three things I love…well, in addition to dumplings, of course.

Adapted from Beyond the Great Wall. I think this recipe would probably work quite well if you use ground lamb as well.

Gyozas:
2 leeks
1/2 lb ground pork
1 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
2 packages of round dumpling wrappers (I prefer the ones marked ‘gyoza’ and not ‘potsticker’ because I find the potsticker wrappers to be too thick)

Dipping Sauce:
soy sauce
sesame oil
chili oil (optional)

Clean the leeks by trimming off the root and the tough green leaves, then slice in half and wash thoroughly to remove all dirt. Chop finely.

Combine the leeks, ground pork, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg to make the filling. Then go ahead and wrap the dumplings (see video here for a dumpling-wrapping refresher course).

To freeze the gyozas: simply line them up on a baking sheet or tray, making sure they’re well-separated (or you’ll end up with a giant mass of dumplings). Freeze the whole tray until the dumplings are totally hard (e.g. overnight) and then transfer to plastic freezer bags for storage. You can cook the dumplings directly out of the freezer, without thawing.

To cook the gyozas (frozen or not): The key to perfect crispy bottoms is to be patient and not poke at them while they’re cooking! Coat a non-stick pan with vegetable oil and arrange the dumplings on the pan (you can do this before or while the oil is heating up – no need to risk being splattered by hot oil). Once you hear the oil starting to sizzle, add in enough water to cover the bottom halves of the dumplings. Immediately cover pan and let the dumplings boil and steam in the pan (no poking!).

After about 5 min, peek at the pan every so often. Once most of the water has pretty much boiled off, uncover the pan and let the rest of the water evaporate. Once all the water is gone, the bottoms of the dumplings will start to brown and start to look like they’re sticking to the pan (but thanks to your non-stick pan, you’re not worried). Turn off the heat and carefully remove the dumplings with a spatula.

While the gyozas are cooking, prepare the dipping sauce. Pour a couple spoons of soy sauce into a small dish, add in a dash of sesame oil and a few drops of chili oil (optional).

Serve the gyozas with dipping sauce.

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