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help me with my chinese dumpling filling

made a whole lotta hand-rolled chinese pork dumplings. however, upon cooking, i felt that the filling felt 'dry' - i see that some recipes use some cornstarch in the filling - mine is below. i used ground pork butt - so lots of fatty pork. what am i doing wrong??

* 1/2 pound napa cabbage (about 1/2 a small head), roughly chopped (squeezed out)
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 scallions, roughly chooped
* 1/2 pound fatty ground pork
* 2 teaspoons soy sauce
* 1 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
* 2 teaspoons sugar

what will make the filling retain a nice meaty but moist taste?


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  1. I like to add soft/silken tofu to the mix....and mince any vegetables into fine chopped. Cornstarch would only tighten the mixture further without the addition of liquids

    also, a finer ground pork will hold together better than a coarse ground meat.

    1. If you're trying to replicate restaurant dumplings, the problem may actually be the pork. Have you ever seen the "fatty" ground pork at a Chinese butcher? It's a specific product, so to speak, and seriously fat-laden. I don't know if there's an official percentage, but to my eye, it looks like 50-50 lean and fat. (There's also "lean" ground pork which is like what you see in American supermarkets and is "lean" only in comparison to the fatty.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: MikeG

        mike g: ideas about how to get closer to that or how to add a feel of moisture to the meat? i cannot use tofu...i use soy sauce am not allowed to eat tofu/soy bean products.

        1. re: redgirl

          I'm by no means an experienced dumpling maker (professional ones are too easy to come by here), so off the top of my head, the only thing I can really think of is adding more fat?

          Did you grind your own pork? If so, you could just add some extra fat along with the butt, either store-bought if it's available, like unsalted fatback, or maybe you could save up some scrap fat in the freezer for your next batch...

      2. How are you cooking your dumplings? Steaming? Boiling? Sauteeing/frying afterwards?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bacardi1

          I make Chinese dumplings/potstickers all the time, using cooked fillings of either ground chicken/turkey or shrimp. Steam them in a bamboo steamer. Even though the fillings are completely pre-cooked, have never had any dumplings turn out "dry".

          Thus I'm not sure adding more fat is the issue here.

        2. You can add some ground pork fat or lard to the mix to make it fattier. An egg can also help bind it if the filling falls apart after cooking.

          1. I would try adding gelatin (bloom it in chicken stock or pork stock) - it will hold onto liquid and give you some unctuous mouthfeel.

            2 Replies
            1. re: biondanonima

              +1. The technique I was taught is to use congealed (gelatinized) meat stock, chopped up and mixed into the filling. Boxed stock with gelatin added to congeal it would be an acceptable substitute.
              FWIW, I was also taught to salt, drain and then press out most of the liquid from the cabbage.

            2. Another post asking the same question http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/871167
              I usually add some gelled chicken or pork stock when I make my fillings.
              Also I am not sure on the quantity of Nappa. I use 2 cups for each half pound of Pork

              4 Replies
              1. re: chefj

                thanks. always adjusting ...i'll try your amount of nappa.
                i like the idea of a little gelled chicken stock put in. unctuous is what i'm going for.
                the link was fabulous. i saw this and thought: aha! i need the pork ground much finer: <<This is one of the few times where I would mix the pork until you almost have a paste. The opposite of a meat loaf where you don't want to make a dense meat mixture. If you undermix the filling, the resulting cooked filling texture will be pebbly.>>
                lastly, i pan fry them, then add water, clamp down the top to let them steam for about 6 minutes and then take the top off and let them crisp up a bit.

                1. re: redgirl

                  Some people use an egg white and Corn or Potato Starch to help achieve the "paste" consistency. Also only stir in one direction ( I am not sure why, but it was what I was taught)

                2. re: chefj

                  ALSO chefj: 2 cups of nappa cabbage per 1/2 pound of pork - before the cabbage is salted?

                3. The biggest mistake is not enough napa cabbage. Try 1:1. Also add an egg.

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: chefj

                      I do by volume. Post squeezing, drained, and minced. Doesn't hurt if you have more napa.

                  1. I've never squeezed the cabbage when making dumplings.... I think you need that moisture

                    1 Reply
                    1. More nappa cabbage.

                      Also a drizzle of sesame oil helps as well -- not so much for the "dryness" issue but as a way to coalesce all the ingredients.

                      1. I sometimes dice up a few mushrooms........maybe the water they carry helps keep things moist

                        1. Here are some tips to maximize the taste, texture overall.

                          Try for fresh pork tenderloin / pork upper back leg meat. Have the butcher mix in some fatty pork and have it ground to order (rather than buying pre-ground pork). Or try hand chopping it with a meat cleaver in each hand like you're doing some serious drumming.

                          Pre-marinate and pre-season the meat mixture for a few hours in the refrigerator. A little sesame oil definitely goes a long way. Get a very good quality kind. I also add some Chinese white pepper in the mixture. Garlic salt can also work. You can also add some slivers of finely thinly diced ginger in.

                          With regards to the napa, chop it as fine as you can, then find a way to press/squeeze it to get as much moisture out.

                          I've tried the raw egg method before and to me it makes no significant difference, other that potentially making the meat mixture too soggy.

                          The most important part is to apply sufficient constant force in stirring the mixture (I use a pair of chopsticks), always do it one direction (clockwise for example if in a mixing bowl) and the more you do it the better. Dumpling restaurants use a professional heavy duty mixer (almost like mixing dough).

                          As far as boiling them, I've been told that once the dumplings are brought to a boil on the stove, add a little cold water, let the water boil on the surface again, then repeat a few times.

                          Last but not least, the wrapping technique. Generally the more folds you make, the better the texture overall.

                          There was a pretty wicked beef noodle shop I ate in Taipei where they serve their boiled napa and pork dumplings in a dark rich beef bone broth. The receipe for the dumplings included some fensi/bean thread vermicelli noodle (finely chopped) and Chinese celery mixed in.

                          1. ok - UPDATE: my daughter and i did some investigating...it was a hard job but we felt compelled to go to 3 different chinese restaurants and order pan-fried pork dumplings. (what i do for research, huh?!) so...this is what we figured out:
                            1. YES...the meat 'ball' inside is exceptionally finely ground - almost to a paste - and we liked it that way. so yes to taking my ground pork and sending it through the food processor this time. and i might add a little chicken gel; will def. add much more minced, drained napa and this go round am not going to add any pork tenderloin but all pork butt. (am i wrong here?)
                            2. we both mostly liked the thicker skinned boiled dumplings (boiled then pan fried) over the more 'gyoza/pot-sticker' dumplings i made this past time - thinner skins.) SO.... i have read the the boiled dumplings need cold-water dough vs. the hot water dough for the pot-stickers...yes? and do i just take a bigger piece of dough and roll it out so it's thicker?
                            3. i know the 'boil 3 times' approach but our stove is so powerful it will keep at a boil - can someone tell me how many minutes to boil/simmer them once it comes up to a boil with the dumplings in?
                            excited about the new batch - who knew there was so much to learn about a nice pork dumpling?!

                            thanks so much everyone. i've really loved this thread and have learned so much from it.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: redgirl

                              3. i know the 'boil 3 times' approach but our stove is so powerful it will keep at a boil - can someone tell me how many minutes to boil/simmer them once it comes up to a boil with the dumplings in?

                              Once they dumplings float to the top, they are done.

                              And if your stove is "so powerful" that a cup of water won't stop the boil, drop in a couple of ice cubes. Or, heck, just turn down the stove.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                22k btu on the burner...good for keeping a fast boil!
                                thanks for your post.

                              2. re: redgirl

                                Agree with the "paste" deal. While I only make poultry or seafood potstickers/dumplings/whatever, I always put the raw seafood/poultry in the food processor & make a paste out of it. I do pre-cook my poultry (chicken or turkey) fillings before stuffing the skins, but put the shrimp/fish fillings into the skins raw because they cook oh-so-quickly in the steamer. Plus, in my opinion, eating just slightly underdone seafood isn't the same health risk as eating underdone poultry.

                                1. With the utmost respect to the Chinese......in some cases awe let me say they add the cheapest items they can to their dishes. What makes them so excellent is the taste. The pork filling they use is pretty well 50% pork fat. You can't get a much cheaper ingredient than that. It's like someone selling 'air' in whipped butter.