Best Lamb Dumplings January 26, 2017 21:48

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! As part of a traditional New Year’s celebration, we cook and eat dumplings on New Year’s Eve. This is a northern Chinese custom and family has been practicing it for generations. This year, we’re cooking lamb dumplings to celebrate the year of the rooster!

A few things to note:
Choose a tender cut of lamb with 20-30% fat. This will keep the filling tender and moist.
Sichuan peppercorn is a must. It brings out the greatness of the lamb.
Cook the carrot beforehand, so it will be tender and release a sweet flavor.
Do NOT squeeze the water out of the zucchini. We will utilize its moisture to create a soupy filling.
Blend in the zucchini at the end. The zucchini will start to lose water and make the filling watery if mixed in too early.
Wrap and cook (or freeze) dumplings as soon as possible. The moisture will start to seep into the dough, which will cause the dumplings to fall apart during cooking. If you are cooking a big batch of dumplings, you can wrap the dumplings in small batches and freeze them immediately after wrapping. You can cook them whenever you want, before serving the meal.
Take extra care to seal the dumplings tightly if you’re planning on boiling the dumplings. Refer to this post to get more information on how to deal with boiled dumplings.

500 grams (1 pound) ground lamb leg
4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
10 grams (about 1 tablespoon) minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder
(Optional) 1/4 teaspoon salt (*see footnote 1)
1 small (80 grams) zucchini
1 small (200 grams) carrot
80 grams (1 cup) chopped green onion
80 pieces homemade dumplings wrappers


To prepare the lamb filling

  1. Combine ground lamb meat, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix well until the mixture becomes a sticky paste. Add ginger. Sprinkle evenly with Sichuan peppercorn powder and salt (if you’re using it). Mix thoroughly. Add peanut oil and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside (or in the fridge if you’re not planning to make dumplings within an hour).


  2. (option) If you are making your own dumpling wrappers, mix the ground lamb with the seasonings first, and set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour (or in the fridge for up to a day). Do not add any vegetables to the meat at this point, because the veggies will be dehydrated by the salt, and the filling will become watery.

  3. Right before you wrap the dumplings, prepare the vegetables. To mince the carrot and zucchini, you can use a mandoline to slice them into strips first, then chop them into small bits. You can also use a food processor to mince them.



  4. Cook carrot. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok (or a nonstick skillet) over medium high heat until warm. Add carrot, stir, and saute until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.


  5. When you’re ready to start wrapping dumplings, add green onion, zucchini, and carrot into the ground lamb. Mix well.


To wrap dumplings

  1. {If you are using fresh homemade wrappers} Scoop about 1 tablespoon (or slightly less) of the dumpling filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Hold the dumpling with one hand and start sealing the edges with the other hand 


  2. {If you are using pre-made wrappers from the store}Scoop about 2 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon, depending on the size of the wrapper) of the lamb filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Gently press the mixture into a round shape, so it will be easier to wrap. Wet your finger or a pair of chopsticks with water and gently brush water onto the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper into a half moon shape.


  3. If you have trouble sealing the dumplings, reduce the amount of filling until you can seal it easily.

  4. Place the dumplings on the working surface, one finger’s width apart. Work with the rest of the wrappers in the same manner.

  5. You should wrap the dumplings in small batches, 20 to 25 at a time. After the dumplings are wrapped, cook or freeze them within 30 minutes. Otherwise, the dumplings will start to lose moisture. For more information on cooking frozen dumplings.

To boil dumplings

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  2. Carefully add dumplings into the water, one at a time. Use a big ladle to stir the water gently and continuously, until the water starts to boil again, so the dumplings won’t stick to the bottom, for about 1 minute. Adjust the heat so the water is at boiling point, but isn’t bubbling too fiercely.

  3. When the dumplings float to the surface, continue boiling until the dumplings are filled with air and swollen, and the dough starts to become transparent, about 1 minutes. Immediately transfer all the dumplings to a plate.


  4. Be careful, the dumplings cook quickly and you should always stand beside the pot throughout the boiling process. When the dumplings are cooked, they will start to fall apart within seconds, so transfer them as soon as possible.

To cook potstickers

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, place potstickers in the skillet, pleat side up.

  2. Swirl 2 tablespoons water in the skillet, cover immediately, and turn the heat to medium. Cook covered until the water is evaporated and potstickers are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

  3. Remove the cover and flip one pot sticker to see whether the bottom side is charred. If not, turn to medium high heat and cook until the bottom side turns golden brown.


  4. Transfer the pot stickers to a plate.

To freeze dumplings

  1. If you plan to store dumplings or won't serve them immediately, always freeze them uncooked. It won’t affect the texture or flavor of the dumplings.

  2. Dust the bottom of a big airtight box with a thin layer of flour. Place the dumplings, one finger’s width apart. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.