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What is wrong with my Chinese Dumplings?

Yesterday it was a hot one. We've had a pretty fiery week with temperatures well about the 100 indicatior each day. Let me tell you it really throws a damper on my creativity and drains me.

It was really hot so I tinkered with the thought of cold soup.. nope. I had a craving. And it was for dumplings. I have a wok, and I have a steamer, so I started to work at 4pm. Dumb.
Hottest time of the day here.

I decided on pork and shrimp dumplings and shrimp with a cocktail sauce. (Okay I took the easy route with the shrimp) and I WAS going to make lumpia or egg rolls. I confess I never made them, I was really pooped.

Here's my problem. The pork I've been buying has been strange. It comes prepackaged, and the grind is huge. Like catipillar grind (sorry) but that's what it looks like. I chop it up with a pastry tool until it's pretty fine. But even so, the dumplings are lacking something. I don't like the texture, and they are really lacking something. Is it dried mushroom & it's broth?

The recipe I use cornstarch and 1 egg white, fresh garlic (a lot) ginger root ( a lot), white pepper, green onion (quite a bit) ground pork, sesame oil, soy sauce, sherry, And usually I do add a few raw shrimp. I didn't last night all I had was precooked and it just seemed wrong to add those. (I've used the Frugal Gourmet's recipe as a guide for 20 years).

I've always felt that I made pretty tasty siu mai, and lately the taste is not coming out all that great. After steaming the dumplings I use the usual dipping and sriacha sauce, soy sauce etc. I used to use a chili paste that had more garlic in it than switched to the sriracha sauce and I'm switching back to my old favorite, Heavenly Chef red chili paste.
Sriacha has a sweetness to it I don't care for. But that is another problem and not what I have with the dumpling itself.

My problem is a couple things. The texture of the steamed dumpling (too meaty and dense), and a lack of flavor. I am so bummed, I have to get these right, these are not my usual dumplings and I am really perplexed as to what happened.
If it is the shrimp, what is the ratio? And if it's the cornstarch please let me know...
Should I use ground chicken instead?

I'd sure appreciate some help with this, I love these things, I want to be able to make them the way I used to!!!

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  1. Chef,

    Without seeing your pork, it's hard to say. Sounds like it is too lean.

    My recipe for pork dumpling fillings usually include the entire egg (not just the whites).

    Also, I usually mix in some type of vegetable, either chives or Chinese cabbage (both finely chopped, or diced). I don't see that in your version. Without a veggie, you're essentially making a meatball, which is NOT what you want for a dumpling filling.

    As to mixing, sounds like you are OVER mixing. I usually just mix the ground pork, ginger, garlic, egg, cabbage (or chives), soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch (optional), salt & pepper with chopsticks. Don't need to go all out, just mix to the point where all the ingredients are incorporated.

    Also, I would forgo adding the shrimp. I've never used shrimp as a flavor enhancer (sometimes I will use shrimp along with pork and fish to make a "3 taste" dumpling, but never just as a enhancer). If you do want to add shrimp, add rehydrated dried shrimp, finely chopped -- some people do this to add that certain umami without using MSG.

    As to cornstarch, depending on how wet my filling is, I sometimes skip it and just rely on the sesame oil, but your results may vary. I don't consider the cornstarch to be critical.

    Hope this helps and good luck. Stay cool!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks ipsedixit, I will not add shrimp.
      i get what you say about the cornstarch. I alwasy wondered why the addition of an egg white and the cornstarch. I will try the cabbage, that makes sense.

      For some reason they've always worked. Maybe I was off with my tastes then, I make these fairly often and for about the last three times. I have had an issue with the pork, and and then been unhappy with the meat texture. I forgot tod say, I do add water chestnuts if this makes any difference. I don't add chives, but scallion. I love the taste so there is quite a bit in there. This has to be fixed. I am having a house warming party for my son, and he has requested most of the apps he grew up on. He has a palate like mine, and can notice if things are off or different.

    2. strangely, I made dumplings a few weeks ago too and my filling was not juicy enough ... a bit hard. I did pretty much what you did. Exact same ingreds (except the white pepper). I was just winging it b/c I couldn't remember what I used to do. I finally went to a Nina Simonds [sp?] book; she put in chopped Napa cabbage. I'm wondering if the extra veg makes a moisture filling? And I vaguely remember putting in more veg in the past.

      Also, I suspect our pork wasn't fatty enough. Fat not only tenderizes but gives extra porky deliciousness. I was making potstickers, and I think I oversteamed them, b/c the dough seemed a little more "gelatinized" (if that's a word), than usual. All in all, not successful potstickers.

      1. As others have said, grocery store pork is too lean. You could add some unsmoked bacon or pork fat from another cut if you like.

        Also try adding water chesnuts - Gives a bit of a bite to them.

        1. Would you consider adding some finely chopped and sauteed cabbage? It's a nice trick that can be used with meatballs to keep them juicy and tender (read this on another thread on CH, I think).....

          1. I'm not sure if this is helpful, but last time I made dumplings I discovered I was out of cornstarch at the last minute. I used a similar amount of potato flour, and I thought it added some extra creamy richness to the filling. I know it's not at all traditional but I found it to be a happy discovery.

            1 Reply
            1. re: corneygirl

              You know I'm open to most anything. I have never used potato flour, so that's my only concern for an asian meat mix, how it will respond. I'm really looking for a juicy tender, flavorful dumpling that you can't stop eating. That's the way mine have always been until now.