【CONFINEMENT】The 章 Zhangs’ Secret Dumpling Recipe

The long-awaited secret recipe of generations past, in writing, out in the universe, for the first time.

Handle with care.

The 章 Zhangs’ Secret Dumpling Recipe

[to be made to the syrupy vibrato of Teresa Teng’s 月亮代表我的心 The Moon Is My Heart]

This recipe will make about 40 dumplings depending on how much filling you fit into each skin.

If you’re looking for some dumpling-wrapping artistic/technical support, I’m going live over on my Instagram (I know – the Moon is indeed blue) this Friday, April 24, 2020 at 1PM PST // 4PM EST // 9PM BST // 6AM AEST (which will be Saturday, April 25 breakfast dumplings for our AUS/NZ/Asia timezone friends). 

 

Original Filling
225g/8oz ground pork (minimum of 20% fat – the higher the fat content, the juicier/soupier the dumpling)
200g/7oz (this is usually a half block) of firm or medium-firm tofu (chopped, drained using paper towels)
2 cups Chinese cabbage (shredded – a regular green cabbage is fine, but may not take flavour quite as well)
1 cup bok choy (chopped – spinach is fine if you can’t get bok choy)
1 cup shiitake mushrooms (finely chopped – you can substitute with cremini or oyster mushrooms, but shiitakes’ earthy flavour is best)
1 cup carrots (finely chopped)
½ cup bamboo shoots (finely chopped – either whole poached shoot, or sliced ones jarred – preferably without other flavouring)
½ cup scallions or green onion (finely chopped)
½ cup ginger (roughly chopped – and I mean chunky)
½ cup coriander/cilantro (roughly chopped)
½ cup of pure sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce (sub with tamari if gluten-free)
1 tbsp Lao Gan Ma 老干妈
1 tbsp Chiang Kiang Vinegar 镇江香醋
2 raw eggs (if you’re using a much higher fat content pork mince – let’s say 40% – just use one egg to start with to assess filling texture)

If it’s your first time wrapping dumplings, we’d recommend that you buy pre-packaged skins from your local Chinese/Asian market. For a thicker, heartier dumpling, get Northern style or Shanghai style skins. For slightly thinner skins, get Wonton skins or even Japanese gyoza skins. If you can’t get to the store or can’t order them, it’s legit just flour and water. I believe in you. Let’s go:

Traditional Dumpling Wrappers
210g/7.4oz all-purpose flour (have a little extra on-hand for dusting)
½ cup water (this is a traditional technicality, so don’t worry about it too much, but generally speaking: use cold water if you plan on making boiled dumplings, and boiling water if you plan on making steamed or pan-fried dumplings)
A pinch of mineral salt (optional – this is down to taste preference)
  1. Pour your flour into a large mixing bowl (mix in the pinch of salt if you’re using it). Make a well in the centre of the bowl, and start adding your water slowly, while simultaneously mixing with chopsticks. Eventually, there should be no loose flour remaining. If it’s still a little dry, add more water one tablespoon at a time (noting this ratio can vary a little depending on the brand of flour you’re using).
  2. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes in the bowl.
  3. Cover your bowl with a moist tea towel and leave it to rest for 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Knead again for 2 minutes, after which you’ll have a smooth dough.
  5. Cover and let the dough rest for another 40-60 minutes (make your filling while you wait). When you check it, it should be soft with some elasticity (kind of similar in resistance to your earlobe, no joke).
  6. Poke a hole in the centre of the ball of dough and pull it open, running it through your hands until you get a loop. Break it into four pieces, set three aside back inside the bowl, covered with the moist tea towel to avoid them drying out.
  7. Roll your remaining piece out into a long log (around 3cm/1-1.5in thick) and divide into 10 even pieces. Dust each piece with a bit of flour so they don’t stick to each other.
  8. Dust your rolling pin and a flat surface with flour.
  9. Take one piece and flatten it into a disc between your hands, then flour both sides.
  10. On your floured surface, rotate the disc as you move your rolling pin back and forth (direction is away from your body, then back towards your body). This will evenly roll the dough out into a circle that is slightly thicker in the centre than it is around the edges. This makes sure that your dumplings keep their structural integrity when you cook them. Keep rolling until your disc is around 6 – 7.5cm/2.5 – 3in diameter.
  11. Repeat until you’ve used up all of your dough.
Filling

There is no science here – literally just mix all of your ingredients together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. For all three versions of the filling, just make sure to give your tofu a solid squeeze to expel any remaining fluid before crumbling into the bowl with your hands.
For the eggplant in the Vegan filling, you can either scoop out the flesh of the roasted eggplant straight into your bowl, or (and I like to do this) you can stick the whole thing in a blender so the skin breaks up, before adding to your filling.
I know I said it above, but when I say roughly chopped ginger, I mean roughly chopped ginger – the Zhang recipe signature gives you crunchy gingery eye-water all the way through. Trust me.

Wrapping

This is a tricky one to put in writing, so you’re just going to have to tune into my Live on Friday to watch the Zhang wrapping method. If you’re using store-bought dumpling wrappers, have a small dish of water on hand to seal the edges of your dumplings. If you’re using fresh wrappers made as above, you don’t need water to seal the edges because they’re not as dry.

  1. Hold out your non-dominant hand, palm up, and place a dumpling wrapper on it.
  2. Spoon some filling into the centre. If you are a beginner, start with one teaspoon until you get the hang of pleating around the filling. If you’re well-seasoned, you can stuff it up to one heaped tablespoon.
  3. If you’re using store-bought wrappers, take some water on your dominant hand’s index finger, and run it around the edge of your wrapper. If you’re using fresh wrappers, no need.
  4. Take the bottom edge of your wrapper that is closest to your body, and fold it up and over so you have a semi-circle. Pinch the two edges together and bring it towards you to stand, like a taco.
  5. Take the semi-circle in both hands, using your dominant hand’s pinky finger to support underneath.
  6. Pick up a section of the edge furthest away from you (beside the part where you’ve already pinched the two edges together) with your thumb and forefinger (doesn’t matter which side) and pull it toward the already-pinched section. Pinch to seal. This is a pleat. Continue this on one side – pulling the back edge up to meet previous pleat and pinching to seal – until that half of the dumpling is sealed completely. Repeat on the other side, and you have yourself a Zhang dumpling.

 

Cooking
  • To steam, line a bamboo steamer basket with cabbage leaves (poke holes in the leaves) and bring a wok or saucepan of water to a boil. You can also use a rice cooker with a steam tray (make sure you oil the tray). It usually takes 15-20 minutes to steam dumplings, depending on the apparatus used. Just touch the surface of one of the dumplings at the 15-minute mark to check if it’s a little gummy/tacky (which means it’s done).
  • If you’re confident in the sturdiness of your wrapping skills (and we’d also only really recommend this for the traditional pork dumplings with traditional wrappers as they hold themselves together on the inside), you can boil them for 3-4 minutes in a pot of water. Don’t pack the pot with too many dumplings – keep it to about 8 at a time.
  • Our favourite is pan-frying: heat up a wok/non-stick pan with your choice of oil (refined olive oil, canola oil or peanut oil are usually the easiest to cook with – but sesame oil is the tastiest). Place the dumplings in a circle and let them sit until the bottoms are browned to your liking. Add a splash of water and cover the pan to let them steam. Same thing as before – check if the surface of the dumpling is a little gummy.

For the traditional dumplings, always crack one dumpling open to make sure your pork is cooked all the way through.

The eating experience is really each to their own as long as it lives within the bounds of: soy sauce, Chiang Kiang VinegarLao Gan Ma and sesame oil. Experiment with permutations. Develop a dumpling consumption signature. I, for one, love dumplings with a half a teaspoon of vinegar poured into it after I’ve taken my first bite. Papa Zhang does the same, but with soy sauce. My brother loves to have a small dish of soy sauce and a small dish of vinegar in front of him, dipping back and forth until he finds his pH7. My boyfriend makes a concoction of soy sauce and sesame oil with fresh red chilis which sits in the fridge while dumplings are under construction, and is then poured over his bowl of dumplings as soon as they’re off the heat. My cousins heap on Lao Gan Ma by the spoonful. Mama Zhang is categorically offended by any additional seasonings distracting from the dumpling formulation itself.

 

Regardless, always have the first dumpling completely free of sauces and seasonings, just to taste the success.

Shop the post

  • jhdongle

    Omg Teresa Teng’s iconic song is my mom’s fave! Looking forward to trying this recipe out! Reminds me of my family’s dumpling nights as well. Thank you for sharing!

  • KC

    After seeing your Instagram post yesterday I literally dreamt about dumplings last night ! I will be tuning into the live Wrapping lesson and will most definitely give it a crack. Favourite Lao Gan Ma dipping sauce – Crispy Chilli Oil. Heaven.

  • Diane

    Dumplings has always been in my how-to-do list!! Can’t wait!! 🥟🥟🥟🥟🥟

  • Elaine H

    Hi Margaret, dumplings for breakfast it is.
    I absolutely love dumplings, making and eating them. I feel like it’s the time where I bond most with mum. I’m excited to watch your wrapping technique as I get it wrong sometimes. Also look forward how you make the skins, mine can get little thick and u know 吃起来没那么爽快。It’s gonna be 4am here during your IG Live but I’ll wake up woohoooo!

About

Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese filmmaker, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Zhang has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Zhang’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NOWNESS, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for four consecutive years. CNN has identified Zhang as a leading fashion photographer in Asia and ELLE named her the region’s most influential digital voice. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim. In 2018, co-curated the first annual FOREFRONT Summit focused on inter-industry problem-solving at all scales of business. From this king summit, Zhang developed FOREFRONT+ – a round table series of candid conversations covering subject matters of universal concern. In 2019, THE FACE Magazine engaged Zhang as Creative-Director-at-Large for Asia for its relaunch. Zhang is currently working on her first feature film.

 

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General enquiries bookings@margaretzhang.com.au