The Best Hunan Dumplings?

EpicureanPiranha | February 26th, 2011 - 12:33

… Well, I think so, even if I do say so myself LOL!!!  But why not try making them and judging for yourself?

For many centuries, dumplings were mearly a very simple peasant food prepared without a filling, or occasionally stuffed with a small bit of meat or vegetables. They were  mostly meant as a means of extending meagre fare when times were lean.  Alan Davidson, a respected historian who is the author of the 900-page, The Oxford Companion to Food (representing 20 years of his work), begins his description of the humble dumpling like so:

“Dumpling. A term of uncertain origin which first appeared in print at the beginning of the 17th century, although the object it denotes–a small and usually globular mass of boiled or steamed dough–no doubt existed long before that.”

How times change!   Steamed, boiled, steamed & fried (as in pot stickers), baked (as in elegant pomme en cage), or fried;  served simply with butter, with a flavourful sauce,  or simmered in a fragrant stew;  aromatic, spicy, herby, filled with cheese, meat, seafood, or vegetables;  Asian, Italian, Polish, or any other specialty ~ there now seems to be an almost infinite variety of dumpling, some of which can be quite elaborate!

Hunan Dumplings

Hunan Dumplings are delicate little wontons stuffed with a fragrant pork mixture which are then boiled, and served with a chili peanut butter sauce. Delicious!

I’ve always loved dumplings, ever since I was a little girl.  Since it was the Chinese New Year on February 3rd (2011), I thought it would be the perfect occasion to make one of my favourite dumpling recipes, commonly known as Hunan dumplings here in Montréal (Québec). In fact, these have been a favourite of mine since I first tasted them at a restaurant called the Le Piment Rouge about 30 years ago, when it was still tiny (a well-known and much loved Montreal Sichuan restaurant, it’s long since moved to much larger premises and has been a Montreal favourite ever since it opened!)

Hunan dumplings are wontons filled with a fragrant pork mixture. They are gently simmered, then served with a peanut butter chilli sauce and sprinkled with sliced green onions before serving. They’re so tasty that I can eat a few dozen in one go!  Well almost ~ they’re also quite filling!  In fact, they’re usually served as a starter. A perfect main course to follow this hearty first course would be a spicy Sichuan fish or seafood course. Of course, if you like them as much as I do, you could just have a large plateful as your main meal ♥

Hunan Dumplings

Some of the ingredients that go into the preparation of delicious Hunan Dumplings.

To be honest, I have no idea if they eat dumplings served this way in the Hunan province of China (China’s Hunan province is located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting ~ hence the name Hunan, meaning “south of the lake”).  Authentic or not, they really are delicious and you can make them as mild or as spicy as you wish.  And making them at home is easy, if a little time-consuming!  But the advantages are that you can:

  • fill them to your taste (I use about a teaspoonful of meat mixture per dumpling),
  • use the best quality ingredients (I like to use pork loin trimmed of fat that I chop in my food processor along with the remaining fresh ingredients),
  • and freeze what you don’t need.

Then you simply boil them in water for 3 – 4 minutes if they’re fresh, and 4 – 5 minutes if they’re frozen.

As for the peanut butter chilli sauce, it takes minutes to prepare, and again, you can vary the proportions of ingredients to achieve different flavours and consistencies, based on what you prefer.  The sauce recipe I give below is excellent and not too sweet ~ I suggest trying it as it so you can taste the result, then you can add a little more of this or that, adjusting to your taste as you wish.

Hunan Dumplings II

Filling the wonton skins is simple – just use small teaspoons, or a mellon-baller to scoop the meat mixture and a teaspoon to help.

Meat stuffing:

If you don’t have a food processor: Not a problem! Just mince ginger, garlic, and pork finely by hand (or purchase extra lean ground pork), and blend well.

Metric Ingredient Prep.
3.5 cm Fresh ginger Chop into small cubes.
1 – 2 Cloves garlic Either 2 small or 1 large.
4 Spring onions Cut into 2 cm lengths, white and green parts.
5 ml Sichuan peppercorns (optional) Grind using a mortar & pestle.
370 g Pork loin Trim any connective tissue and most of the fat, leaving at most a few mm of fat on one side of the meat; cut into cubes (you should have 350g or more of lean meat).
15 ml Kikkoman soy sauce
5 ml Sesame oil
15 ml Pale dry Jerez
5 ml Sugar
2 ml Corn starch
1.5 ml Sea salt
1 Egg white
  • Turn on your food processor and drop first 4 ingredients through the feed tube.
  • With processor running, add pork cubes through feed tube, processing as little as possible.
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a measuring cup and blend well. Add to meat mixture in processor, and pulse several times until blended. Do not over-process or the meat will become too compact once cooked. You want it to be light!
  • Empty the meat mixture into a small stainless steel or glass bowl.

Make the dumplings (wontons):

1 x 400 g Package of wonton skins You will need 70 – 80 wonton skins*; wrap any leftover skins well and freeze.
  • Prepare a work surface by placing either a large pastry mat or sheets of parchment paper on a large flat surface. Half fill a small ramekin with water.
  • Place several wonton skins side by side on the work surface (make sure there is only one layer of wonton paste ~ it’s very thin and they can easily stick together!).
  • Using two teaspoons or a small mellon-baller and a small teaspoon, scoop up small teaspoons of meat mixture and place on centre of wonton skins.
  • Now using your finger, dip it in the water and wet 2 edges of the wonton skin; fold over the wonton skin to enclose the meat, and press along the edges to seal. Now fold over the points to overlap and wet lightly where they meet to seal. Place on the work surface and continue until all the meat has been used up.
Hunan Dumplings III

The filled wonton skins.

For sauce:

60 ml Kikkoman soy sauce
10 ml Sesame oil
45 ml Peanut oil
45 ml Sugar
45 – 60 ml Peanut butter
1 – 2 Cloves garlic Pressed or finely minced.
5 – 15 ml Sambal Oeleck§

Blend all the ingredients and warm gently to dissolve sugar. You can use the microwave oven: place ingredients in a deep microwave proof container and heat 30 sec. Stir well until dissolved. Serve the sauce warm.

To serve:

4 Spring onions Slice thinly, using both white and green parts.
  • Warm deep plates or shallow bowls in the oven.
  • Heat a large pot of salted water or light chicken stock until boiling, then add about 20 dumplings. Bring back to the boil, lower heat to a high simmer, and cook 3 to 4 minutes until they float on the water and they are cooked through. Scoop out of the water using a slotted spoon and place in a large colander.
  • Place 5 to 6 dumplings on each warm plate (for a starter portion ~ more for a main course), spoon a few tablespoonfuls of warm chilli peanut butter sauce over the dumplings, and scatter generously with sliced spring onions.

Notes :

  • * I used Wings Hong Kong style wonton skins in this recipe, available in Asian food shops, but any variety can be used.
  • § Indonesian style (pure) red chilli paste, sold in small jars. Available in most large grocery stores.
  • If you want to eat these as a main course, serve them with lightly steamed baby bok choy or Chinese broccoli.

2 Responses to “The Best Hunan Dumplings?”

  1. SolangeLancup says:

    Où suis-je, quand tu fais tout ça ???
    Magnifique !!!

    • LOL ~

      Ça me fait plaisir de savoir que tu trouve ça appétissant ♥ C’est super délicieux, et facile a faire, mais il faut avoir le temps ! Une journée de weekend pluvieuse est idéale ~ c’est-à-dire, quand on est pas en train de magasiner :-}

      Gros bissous xxx

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