Part of me thinks that the title of this blog says it all – how much explaining do you need when you read “homemade pork dumplings in miso soup?” But hear me out here – anyone can buy store-bought frozen wonton/potstickers/dumplings from your Asian grocery store and heat it up in miso soup. But do you really want to eat frozen items that’s been in someone else’s freezer for months before it end up in your freezer? (Ok, I’m not shaming anyone here; I used to buy bags upon bags of wontons and potstickers for my DAILY emergency.
All jokes aside, I always keep some minced meat in my fridge because you can use it in so many ways – you can make sausage patty, single serving meatballs, sausage bits for pizza, fried rice. The usage is so diverse that I’ll just keep some around. If you freeze it, it will be good for 2-3 weeks. But for today, we are using the minced meat to make some delicious dumplings.
There are two key tricks to making one of the best dumplings and miso soup – 1.) Add a little bit of water to the meat mixture – it will help keep the meat filling juicy when you bite into the dumpling 2.) When choosing your miso, either go for your favorite brand, or purchase one that’s in the medium or more expensive price range.
Here are some antidotes to my suggestions:
Why should you add water to the meat filling?
Several years ago, I visited my family in Macau and decided to make them dumplings from scratch (except the wrapper; in places like Hong Kong and Macau, there’s zero reason for making your own dumpling wrappers, as the wrappers are made fresh every day at the store.) My parents ate some and they couldn’t be happier that I actually cooked for them. One of my aunts who came over to play mahjong said she wanted to try them too. So, I offered her some. What did she say to me afterwards really changed the way I made my dumplings. She said, “Helen, the flavor is there, but the meat filling is really tough. You didn’t add any cold water, did you?” First, I didn’t even know that minced pork meat could be “tough.” What? Your tongue is made of tofu? Minced meat is too tough for your tender tongue? I obviously didn’t appreciate her unsolicited advice at the time but I did take her advice to heart and up-leveled my dumpling cooking game.
Importance of using good miso. By good I mean from a brand you know has high quality and/or one you really trust:
As some of you might have known, I recently moved to a city called Sacramento from San Francisco. But I still commute to San Francisco about twice a week. I could have waited and bought a $10 miso from a brand that I’ve used many times, one that is made by someone I’d personally met at a Farmers Market, from someone I had an elaborate conversations with on how to make miso at home and how their miso varieties are made. Or opt to buy one that’s $4.99 at a grocery store near me. What did I choose to do? Yep, you guessed it, I went for the cheaper one. I’m like “how different can it be?” Oh boy was I wrong. Not only was it inferior, it was bland and just plain salty. It’s still sitting in my fridge and I kind of dread using it. Lesson learned here? Waste 5 dollars buying one that I might not be able to tolerate and then spend another 10 dollars on one that I know it’s good, or skip the whole wasting 5 dollars and go straight to investing 10 dollars in one that I know I’ll enjoy.
Ok, I’m done with my rant. This is how you make the said Homemade Dumplings in Miso Soup.
125 grams of minced pork/ground pork (80/20 or 70/30 ratio in lean meat vs. fat)
3 sprigs of chives
1 tsp Soy sauce (light)
1/2 tsp of Oyster sauce
2 tsp of Shao Shing wine
A pinch of salt
1 to 2 dashes of white pepper
1/2 tsp of cornstarch
2 cloves of chopped garlic
3 tsp of cold water
1 tsp of neutral oil
Green onions – separate the white from green and thinly sliced both
Vegetable of your choice (I prefer heartier vegetables like cabbage – by heartier vegetable I mean ones that won’t easily boiled down to nothing like spinach or even bak choy)
About 1 tbs of miso paste
4 cups of filtered water or low sodium/no sodium chicken stock
Toasted sesame seed oil
Optional: chicken fat
Let’s marinade the minced pork and make the filling:
Combine the minced pork with chopped garlic and chives
Then add seasoning to the minced pork. Use your hands to make sure all the seasoning (salt, white pepper, cornstarch and Shao Shing wine) is well incorporated
Add cold water; use your chopsticks to swirl around aggressively the meat mixture
Let it sit and marinade for at least 10 minutes; if you have time, let it marinade overnight
While we’re marinating the minced pork:
Heat up about 1 tbs of neutral oil in a medium size pot
Add the white part of the green onion in the hot oil and turn down to medium heat
Let the green onion cook for just about a minute (literally just about one minute to release the aroma)
Add the thinly sliced cabbage into the pot now and cook it down a little bit; it will be 3 minutes
Pour 4 cups of filtered water/chicken stock into the pot; turn the heat up on high until the broth begins to boil
Turn the heat down to medium low and let the broth cook for about 15 minutes
While the broth is cooking, prepare your dumplings
Scoop about 3/4 of a tbs of meat filling and place it in the middle of the dumpling wrapper
Wet the outer area of a the wrapper with water
Fold the wrapper with filling in half and pinch the edge of the wrapper with your index finger and thumb to finish off the dumplings
Repeat until you finish all of your fillings
Note: If it takes you longer than 15 minutes to finish making the dumplings, turn off the heat for the soup
Now, back to the soup. Set aside half a cup of the soup and put it in the freezer
Slowly add the dumplings into the cooking soup; turn the heat back up to medium
At first, the dumplings should sink; you need to be diligent (not aggressive) in stirring the soup while cooking the sunken dumplings, as the skin can easily get stuck to the bottom and break the wrapper
When you dumplings begin to cook, it will float to the surface
Some people will think the dumplings are cooked at that point, but you are dealing with raw meat here, so err on the side of caution and add several tbs of the cold soup from the freezer to the broth
Add several tbs each time when it begins to bubble up until you finish off the remainder of the soup
You can serve the soup with dumplings now. If you are using chicken fat, add a little less than 1 tsp of chicken fat to the top and sprinkle the green part of the green onion before serving. If you are not using chicken fat, you can add the same amount of toasted sesame seed oil to the soup.