What''s in the Wonton? Asian Dumplings for the Novice

30th May 2007


My only real dumpling experience has been at the Rickshaw Dumpling Bar , a tasty, if tad expensive little shop in Flatiron.  There you could get fried or steamed dumplings with whatever filling you wanted for around $6.  A box full of those, a warm, sun-drenched day in Madison Square Park, and all is right with the world.  I know Chinatown has some great deals, some where 5 or more can be secured for $1.  But mine were tasty, well made, and I only had to walk two blocks from work to get them.

But I haven't had them in ages.  Since I don't work in the area anymore, I can't quickly stop over.  But when I was picking up a big batch of kimchi on my excursion to the Korean grocery store, I noticed some wonton wrappers resting less than a foot away.  They were a dollar.  I seriously questioned whether I'd be able to make them.  But since these were a dollar, the risk of failure was low.


Turns out, they are incredibly easy.  This recipe came from the Cooks Illustrated , and the whole thing was one of the cheaper recipes I've made in ages.  Ground pork is criminally cheap, and with only 1/2 pound of shrimp needed, I think I got all of the filling for less than 6 bucks, half of which will be available for the next time I make these guys.  And since steaming cooks all the ingredients, there was no prep cooking or multiple stages.  Combine everything in a bowl, plop into some wontons, and steam.  The most difficult part is the construction, which can be mastered in less than 5 minutes.  After the fifth dumpling or so, the process becomes automatic.

Making dumplings can often times feel like origami, and since I'm a beginner, I focused on two really easy kinds.  I made pyramid shaped ones, and then the traditional ruffled potstickers.  Both were terribly easy, but the latter was a little more so.  And for some reason they also tasted better.

Shrimp and Pork Asian Dumplings


  • 1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 oz of ground pork
  • 6 water chestnuts, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry vermouth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons Oyster Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • salt and pepper

Adapted from the Cooks Illustrated .

Fill a large pot with water so that it comes within an inch of the top.  Get that sucker boiling.


It felt rather weird chopping up uncooked shrimp.  I'm not sure why; It just does.


Combine all the ingredients, except for the wonton wrappers, in a bowl.


Mix until you get a nice and colorful glob.  The hardest part I found was trying to break up the ground pork so it would be evenly distributed.


Now it's time to break out those wontons.  For the pyramid dumplings, simply take one of the squares and lightly wet the edges.   Fill it with roughly 1-2 teaspoons of the filling.  Use less than you think you'll need at first, and then test your luck as you get more confident.


I should have a better diagram than this, but it's pretty easy.  Just pull up two opposite sides and pinch together the top.  Repeat on the other side.


Then you will be able to pinch together each side until it looks much like this.


For the regular pot-stickers, you'll need a round wonton.  Cooks illustrated suggested using a cookie cutter to get that nice cutout.  A glass works fine, too.


Once you have the circle, wet the edges like before.  Then put a teaspoon of filling in and fold in half.  Pinch the edges.


Once the edges are secured, press down on the filling lightly to make a flat bottom so that the dumpling will stand up.


Then simply toss your dumpling in a steamer over top the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes.


It really couldn't be much easier.


Oh, and a nice dipping sauce will enhance everything.

Mix 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 a scallion chopped, 2 teaspoons of grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.


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