If you're in the mood for dumplings, you could spend an hour waiting for the xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, drive to Hacienda Heights for the potstickers at Earthen, or brave the numb-taste dumplings at Chengdu Taste. Or you could make your own dumplings tonight.
This pork dumpling recipe, from Ruth Reichl's "My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life," is easy to make and requires ingredients you can find at your neighborhood Asian grocery store (just look for a 99 Ranch Market). And the recipe makes 40 to 50 dumplings, so you can decide to throw an impromptu dinner party, or freeze the rest for later.
Total time: 50 minutes plus freezing time | Makes 40 to 50 dumplings
1 bunch green onions
2/3 pound ground pork
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
Dried shiitake mushrooms
Fresh water chestnuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 package round dumpling wrappers
1. Chop the green onions (both white and green parts) and mix them with the ground pork. Grate in a generous bit of ginger. If you found dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstitute a couple, chop them, and add them too; they add a very appealing flavor note. A couple of chopped water chestnuts are also a lovely addition, giving terrific crunch — but only if you can find fresh ones; the canned kind have a nasty metallic taste and a slightly mealy texture.
2. In another bowl mix the soy sauce with the rice wine and the sesame oil. Add the sugar, a good grind of black pepper, and the white of an egg. Stir this gently into the pork mixture until it's completely incorporated, and allow it to rest for at least half an hour (or overnight in the refrigerator).
3. When you're ready to assemble your dumplings, mix the cornstarch into a half cup of water in a small bowl. Set it next to a pile of dumpling wrappers. I find the commercial wrappers rather thick, so I like to roll each one out a bit with a rolling pin to make it thinner (this also allows you to make fatter dumplings).