There’s something about the delicious flavour and greasiness of Chinese food that is ever so tempting. I don’t have many vices, but Chinese dishes and fried foods definitely make the list of my top indulgences. Chinese food often gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, but that doesn’t stop legions of people from heading to Chinese restaurants each day, to indulge in delicious Chinese fare. It’s no wonder that, apparently, a third of the world’s population eat Chinese food daily (a statistic that seems somewhat suspect to me, but, hey, I’ll accept it).
My inlaws were headed over this weekend to visit, and I decided to satisfy my yen for a delish fried appetizer and make enough to satisfy the appetites of my very hungry husband and brother-in-laws, so I whipped up these little fried bad boys. Dumplings are often steamed, pan fried with a little bit of oil and some water, or just shallow-fried in some oil. I prefer steamed dumplings in my soups but when eaten as an appetizer, frying the dumplings is the method of choice to produce dumplings that are crisp on the outside with a tender and delicious filling. When I make steamed dumplings, I use a filling that is uncooked and allow the water and steam to cook the meat through. When I’m frying dumplings, I tend to us meat that is pre-cooked as the dumplings only need about a minute per side to brown, which is not long enough to cook raw meat.
These dumplings are great to make on a weekend because, although the filling is easy to whip up, forming the dumplings takes a bit of time. They can be frozen for use later on on a weekday when you’re in a pinch and need to fry up some delicious home-made dumplings as an appetizer. I often make these for dinner parties because it makes so many dumplings and who doesn’t love a little fried bite of chicken in a flaky crust with a sweet and sour dipping sauce?
Be sure to use a green cabbage (often confused with a Savoy cabbage as it is similar in colour). The green cabbage, unlike the Savoy cabbage, has leaves that are quite thick and can withstand the heat of being fried without wilting beyond recognition. Green cabbage has a lovely and hearty crunch to it.
I opted to grill the chicken because, well, I dig foods that are grilled and have a smoky quality, but you can just as easily pan-fry these chicken cutlets. Grilling the chicken is largely unorthodox for a Chinese dumpling recipe but I just love the flavour those beautiful char marks impart.
For convenience, this recipe calls for store-bought dumpling wrappers. The dough for home made dumplings wrappers can be made with two ingredients and just a few seconds, but hand pressing and forming each dumpling to ensure it is the right size and uniform thickness takes a considerable amount of time, so I chose to use these convenient store-bought wrappers which are equally delicious. The wrappers can be found in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store or Asian supermarket.
I crimped the edges of the dumplings for decorative effect by folding the wrapper edge over on itself at 1/2 inch intervals and creating a pleat, but, if you choose to, you can simply fold the wrapper over and seal it without the decorative pleat.
Chinese Fried Dumplings
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons (30 ml) soya sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
1/2 teaspoon crushed chili flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
1 lb green cabbage
3 scallions or green onions
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
60 round dumpling wrappers (store-bought)
1/2 cup canola oil, for frying
Cut the chicken into manageable pieces (about 3 inch x 3 inch pieces). In a bowl, add the chicken, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, soya sauce, honey, chili flakes (if using) and Sriracha (if using). Mix with a spoon until well combined. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Julienne the cabbage into about 1 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Slice the scallions and add them to the bowl. Add the brown sugar, corn starch, sesame oil, salt and black pepper and combine. Set aside.
Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and grill the chicken until cooked through. Remove from the grill and allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes. Shred the chicken into little pieces and add it to the bowl with the cabbage.
Put a dumpling wrapper onto your work surface. Be sure to keep the dumpling wrappers covered with a damp towel so they don’t dry out while you are working. Place 1 heaping teaspoonful of the chicken and cabbage mixture in the centre of the wrapper. Using a brush or your fingers, coat the edges of the wrapper with a little water. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon, pressing out any air bubbles. Crimp or pleat the edges if desired. Set aside the completed dumplings while you make the rest.
When you are ready to cook the dumplings, place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, place the dumplings in a single layer in the pan; they should be close together but not touching. Cook the dumplings off in batches until they are all golden brown and crispy. Remove from the pan and allow to drain on a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Serve hot with sweet and sour dipping sauce or any sauce of your choice.
[Note: These are freezer-friendly. Place any extra dumplings, which have not been fried, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or wax paper and flash freeze them for an hour. Remove the frozen dumplings from the baking sheet and place them in an airtight freezer bag and freeze for up to 4 weeks.]