Since my DumplingSkin sister has never made dumpling filling before, and I wanted to try making our Mom’s Stuffed Jalapenos, I decided to make my own first batch of dumpling filling! I kind of bought too much meat because the enthusiastic butcher at the Asian Market lopped on an extra pound and I figured making a little more than I needed wouldn’t hurt. I ended up freezing half of my batch for later, and I’m already excited about using them for actual dumplings! I called our mom who is currently in Taiwan, and she told me what she usually did for her dumpling filling. Unfortunately, she didn’t have exact measurements– so I don’t have exact measurements either. Here’s what I did:
- 2 lbs ground pork – give or take! Make sure it has some fat in it. If it’s too lean, your dumplings might be kind of dry.
- Napa cabbage – one small one, if you can find them that small. Mine was about 2 lbs.
- Dried Chinese Mushrooms
- Ginger Root/Ginger Powder
- 1-2 Eggs
- Sesame Oil
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Cooking Wine
- Five Spice Power
- Salt & Pepper (very much optional, as there is already salt in soy sauce)
NOTE: For many of these ingredients, I just eyeballed it. Every family/person has their own version of this, and so you can adjust the ingredients based on whatever you prefer. Don’t like chives? Don’t include them. I originally didn’t want to buy a Napa cabbage because I don’t use Napa often in my cooking, and they are often very large. However, only 1 person out of the 5 people I asked said that it was NOT important…and it supposedly improves the texture of the meat. I am assuming that because of it’s high water content, it might make the meat more tender? Anyone know?
- Place maybe two handfuls of the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them in water. They will float at first, but as they absorb the water and become reconstituted, they will sink down and become moist. (This is optional, but I love mushrooms in my dumplings). Set aside.
- Finely chop the chives/onions/scallions. I prefer chives. In the end, I used maybe 2-3 cups worth of chives.
- Finely chop napa cabbage. I first sliced the cabbage from the leafy end, just a few millimeters thick, in rounds. Then I spread it out and chopped it all over, as if I was mincing garlic.
- If you are using ginger root, peel your ginger root using a spoon. The edge of a spoon is less dangerous than a peeler, which also takes off more than you need– and is actually very effective at peeling ginger root. Slice off about a 1/4 inch thick, inch-round slice. You don’t need much. Finely chop maybe a teaspoons worth.
- If the mushrooms are already reconstituted, cut the hard stems away and also finely mince them.
- Put ground pork on a sturdy cutting board, take a heavy knife (I used the standard large Chinese cleaver) and start chopping at the meat all over. In a way, you’re tenderizing it. This step may not be necessary, but my mother recommends it because sometimes the pork is not finely ground enough at the market. This helps to make it more sticky in texture and hold on to the other ingredients better. It’s like you are trying to mince it. Just keep chopping and then folding the meat over itself and repeating until you think it is fine enough. I did this for less than 10 minutes before I got tired. Then I was like, CLOSE ENOUGH. My boyfriend helped for about 10 seconds, lazy. Some day you might be as badass as my mother, who I think could do this with knives in both hands.
- In a very large bowl, combine all of the ground pork, about 3-6 cups of napa cabbage, 2-3 cups chives, and all of the mushrooms.
- Sprinkle a large pinch of sugar into the bowl. Maybe a teaspoon’s worth.
- Drizzle soy sauce all over the ingredients. You don’t need a lot, but just eyeball it to however much you think is enough to flavor it.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.
- Add your chopped ginger root. If you are using powder like I did when I realized I had thrown out my last (moldy) bit of ginger, I only used about a 1/4 teaspoon of it. This helps to get rid of the pork stink, as my mom said.
- Add a tiny bit of five spice power. Maybe half a teaspoon if even. I haven’t experimented with this ingredient much, but my mom said to use it lightly since it is very strong.
- Drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of cooking wine.
- Using your hands, start mixing all of the ingredients together in the bowl. You almost have to work it like a dough, to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
- Keep kneading, you want the consistency to be kind of sticky and for all the vegetables to be held in the meat securely.
- Add in an extra egg if you want. Maybe salt and pepper if you want. I recommend white pepper, if you use any. Egg helps to hold the filling together, and I added a bit too many vegetables so after I added one more egg, everything held together beautifully!
- Knead a little bit more. The more you knead with your hands, the stronger the filling will hold on to the ingredients.
DONE! Use for stuffed jalapenos, dumplings, or anything. I am thinking about baking them as meat balls/pan searing the balls and stir frying them with more vegetables. They might even taste good as filling for stuffed cabbage.