Tina's Chinese New Year Dumplings by Anna Francese Gass

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Episode 49: Anna Francese Gass

Wheat is a staple crop in the northern region of China, so the cuisine of the north is known for dumplings and noodle dishes. In Tina’s village, the

women would sit for hours making these dumplings in preparation for the new year, eating and gossiping as they worked. Tina makes her thin dumpling skins with just two ingredients: flour and water. Then she stuffs each skin with a savory pork filling that she mixes up with chopsticks, and she seals each one with perfect, identical pleats in the blink of an eye. Tina’s secret for super-moist dumplings is her addition of soft tofu. She feels pork here in the United States is too lean, so she adds the tofu to soften the filling and give it a juicier bite.

This recipe takes a bit of elbow grease, but if you are simply serving it as an appetizer, you’ll be left with plenty of extra that you can pop in the freezer. They are so delicious and versatile—try them steamed, fried, or even boiled in your favorite soup!

SERVES 8-10 (Makes 80 dumplings)

PREP: 35 minutes
TOTAL: 1 hour and 20 minutes

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 4 cups (500 g) all- purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1 cup (240 ml) warm water

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 head Napa cabbage

  • 1 pound (455 g) ground pork

  • ¼ cup (60 g) minced soft tofu

  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons white wine

FOR SERVING

  • Soy sauce

  • Hot chili oil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the dough. Place the flour in a large bowl and create a well in the center. Pour the water into the well, then, with your hands, incorporate the flour with the water and knead until a ball forms. Continue kneading for 20 minutes, until the dough is perfectly smooth and round. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for 30 minutes.

  2. Make the filling. Slice the cabbage thinly. Combine the cabbage with cold water to cover in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the cabbage is soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.

  3. Combine the cabbage with the pork, tofu, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and white wine in a large bowl.

  4. Assemble the dumplings. Flour your work space and two sheet pans. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Keep 3 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the fourth. Use your hands to roll one piece into a log about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and 20 inches (50 cm) long. Pinch off 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces and flatten each with the palm of your hand. You should have 20 pieces.

  5. Use a rolling pin (a short, thin rolling pin is best) to roll out the edges of the dough to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center and fold in half, encasing the filling, then pinch the edges together until fully sealed—practice makes perfect! Place the dumplings on the prepared baking sheets.

  6. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling to make approximately 80 dumplings.

  7. Boil a large pot of water and drop in 10 to 15 dumplings at a time. Cook until they rise to the top, 5 to 7 minutes.

  8. Serve with soy sauce and hot chili oil to taste.

© Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from the Tables of Immigrant Women by Anna Francese Gass.

Brian Stewartrecipe