Dumplings may look complicated, but believe me they are not. Buying wonton wrappers at the supermarket makes the life of the dumpling chef so simple: just make the filling, fold the dumplings, then sear and steam. Make your first dumpling and you will soon be unstoppable in envisioning and trying out new flavor combinations. As you can see in the pictures, I’ve tried different mixtures myself — sometimes adding in spinach or whatever catches my interest. I hope my little date dumplings will be the springboard for dumplings of your very own.
Serve them as appetizers or as part of a first course, as a perfect bite to serve at a party or for anytime you need something a little impressive for entertaining. I love them with sake or a cold Sauvignon blanc. I serve them with dipping sauce, which you can find pre-made at the store, or make at home. I’ve listed my own recipe for a mirin and tamari dipping sauce below.
makes 30–35 dumplings
one package wonton wrappers
3.5 ounces water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 ounces dates, finely chopped
2 ounces chestnuts, roasted and finely chopped
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 springs onions, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons peanut oil
sea salt to taste
For the sauce
1/3 cup mirin (cooking rice wine)
3 tablespoons tamari (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, ground
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
In a wok or a sauté pan at medium low sauté the the shallot and garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil until they are translucent. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for a few seconds. Add the dates, chestnuts, water chestnuts, celery, and spring onion. Mix well and cook for just a few seconds more. Remove from heat and combine with the balsamic vinegar and salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Place a teaspoon of the filling mixture on each wrapper. Dip your finger in water and run it along the edge of the wonton wrapper, then fold in half. I used a dumpling press to seal my dumplings with a crimped edge, but you can do it by hand too simply by wetting the edges of the wrapper, folding and firmly pressing the edges together and either pinching the corners or making small pleats along the side.
When your dumplings are filled and folded, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, add the dumplings to the pan and sear them. Flip with a spatula when they begin to brown. Reduce heat to low, slightly cover them with water (about 4 or 5 tablespoons should be about right) and cover tightly with a lid. Steam your dumplings for about 5 minutes or until the water has almost all evaporated.
Top with black sesame seeds and serve with the dipping sauce — it’s fragrant and tasty.