Tender, chewy, crisp, juicy, and delicious.
Cabbage has a lot of liquid in it which can make your filling watery. I use one teaspoon of salt per half pound of chopped napa cabbage, and let it drain for at least 30 minutes before giving it a firm squeeze to remove all the excess moisture and break down its structure.
Fatty ground pork
Dumplings ain't diet food. You want full-fat ground pork here, made from the shoulder—or better yet—the belly.
Combine the pork, along with aromatics and seasonings (for a basic filling I use scallions, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar) in a food processor, then fold in the cabbage. The processor breaks down and emulsifies the pork, giving your filling a better finished texture.
Taste for seasoning
You can't taste the filling mixture raw, so the easiest way to taste for seasoning is to microwave a half teaspoon-sized ball of it in a small bowl for about 10 seconds. Taste it, and add more salt/soy/sugar to taste to the raw filling. Microwave and taste again, and repeat until you've got it just the way you like it.
A frying pan will also do if you're microwave-averse.
Dumpling dough is made by combining two parts flour with one part boiling water (by volume, that is). It's a hot water dough that stretches and rolls quite easily. For maximum efficiency, I do the whole process in steps. Start by forming balls about one tablespoon in size each.
Use a well-flour board and a rolling pin (I prefer the lightweight, tapered French-style pins to the heavy, ball-bearing handled American style). Each wrapper should be rolled into a circle roughly four inches in diameter. Stack the dough rounds up as you work, keeping them until a slightly moistened kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of a round of dough. Do not attempt to add more. You'll regret it!
You can be fancy and do this all in the palm of your hand, but it's much easier to work on a board. Use a brush or your fingertip to slightly moisture the edge of the wrapper, then start the fold by pinching together the bottom right corner.
Continue by using your thumb and fingers to form a pleat that slightly overlaps the first pinch. Only the front edge of the wrapper gets pleated—the back remains flat.
Keep working along the front edge of the dumpling, layering pleats until you get the the last corner. The dumpling should naturally form a crescent shape.
...a few dozen more to go.
I love looking at rows and rows of finished dumplings. Keep the 'plings on a lightly floured surface (parchment paper or wood works best to prevent sticking). At this stage, they can be frozen (freeze them on a large plate or tray slightly separated from each other, and when fully frozen, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag).
Frozen dumplings can be steamed or boiled straight from frozen. Don't defrost them first, or they'll become soggy and sticky!
The easiest way to cook dumplings is to boil them. If you want to then give them a nice golden brown crust, fish them out, let them drain for a minute, then transfer them to...
A hot wok
...a hot wok with a good amount of oil in it. Swirl the dumplings around as they fry for even browning. The key is moderate heat and a slow browning process to build up a substantial crust.
I love dumplings.
If you keep your old take-out containers (I collect and reuse'em), they make a cute serving tray. The dipping sauce is a mixture of soy, Chinkiang vinegar (regular rice vinegar will do fine), sugar, sliced scallion, and grated ginger.