Unlike other parts of China, Beijing dumplings are typified by an astounding variety of fillings beyond the standard shrimp-pork-cabbage mixture. Most restaurants that specialize in dumplings will have dozens of fillings available, including tomato-and-egg, the Muslim-influenced lamb-and-cilantro, eggplant-and-egg, zucchini-and-egg, preserved vegetable-and-green beans, peanut-bacon-and-green pepper (another favorite), and so forth.
This recipe is a recreation of the house specialty dumpling from one of the best dumpling restaurants in Beijing. The dumpling wrappers at this place are chewy, not flabby, and dyed shocking orange, green, and purple using vegetable extracts, but the real reason this restaurant stands out is due to their exceptionally creative fillings.
Guoba, or crispy crunchy rice, is the slightly burned rice crusted to the bottom of a pot after cooking rice. It's prized for its toasty flavors and crackly texture; Koreans and Japanese have also found ways to make and utilize this cooking 'mistake.' This rice is the secret to this recipe - it combines the crispy rice with brightly colored red cabbage, with a toss of bean sprouts to lighten the filling and ground pork to add a burst of flavor. At the restaurant, the skins are dyed purple to match the red cabbage, creating visual harmony. We use plain wrappers here, but the combination of guoba cabbage and pork makes this recreation so addictive that we can confidently call it the 'crack' dumpling.
A couple notes: the recipe is scalable, and the cooking method is important for chewy, pliant skins. Pleating will give the dumpling more textural variation. This dumpling is perfect dipped in a tiny bit of vinegar. And many thanks to a friend, who named and introduced us to the crack dumpling. - beijinghaochi —christine ho
Test Kitchen Notes
In this innovative recipe, Beijinghaochi makes use of meat as a seasoning rather than a main component -- a great way to add a richer, more robust flavor without overpowering vegetables (and save some money). The unique filling is made by first deep-frying the rice and mixing with crunchy cabbage and bean sprouts. Once the dumplings are cooked, the rice loses some of its crunch, but they are still very toasty and crisp inside. - biffbourgeois —Stephanie Bourgeois
- Makes at least 30
ground fatty pork
Chinese cooking wine, such as Shaoxing
finely chopped red cabbage
1 large pinches
finely chopped bean sprouts
cooked short-grain rice, preferably leftover
frying oil, such as grapeseed
- Dumpling cooking!
packages of round dumpling wrappers, preferably the thick northern kind
- Mix the pork, cooking wine, soy sauce, salt, and garlic together. Let sit while frying the rice.
- Sprinkle the red cabbage with two healthy pinches of salt. If making a vegetarian version of this dumpling, you may need to add soy sauce as well. Mix well.
- To create the crispy rice, it needs to be deep-fried. Heat the oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. The oil is ready when you touch a wooden chopstick to the bottom of the pan and a steady, neither too slow nor too fast, stream of bubbles emerges from the bottom of the chopstick.
- Break up the rice into individual grains as much as possible and add it to the frying pan in a single layer. Here is a *great* time to use your splatter screen, as the rice will pop and oil will splatter around, so be careful. Gently move the rice around so it cooks evenly. When the bottom layer is a light yellow brown (about 1 minute), flip the rice and fry until golden brown (about 30 more seconds). Remove and drain on a paper towel. If using a small pan, you may have to do this in two batches.
- When the rice is cool enough to handle, crumble the rice again into individual grains (again, as much as possible).
- Mix with the cabbage, sprouts, and pork . This filling will be quite loose (unlike most meat-heavy dumpling fillings). Mix very well to make sure the meat is dispersed evenly throughout the filling.
- Dumpling cooking!
- To wrap dumplings, first moisten the edges of one side of the wrapper by dipping your finger in water and running it around the edge. Put in about a generous amount of filling (approximately a heaping teaspoon, but it will depend on your wrapper). Leave about 1/4 inch around the rim, so you can squeeze the wrapper tightly closed. Pleat the wrapper to make more attractive dumplings by by folding a little of wrapper back on itself and pinching together. Make sure the whole dumpling is sealed, if it is not sealing, moisten with more water or press harder.
- At this point, you can flash freeze the dumplings and keep them until you are ready to cook. To cook: add water to a deep pot, to about halfway. Bring the water in a deep saucepan to a boil. Add dumplings. When the water boils again, add a cup of water (this amount will vary depending on how many dumplings you are cooking and the amount of water in the pan. If making just a few dumplings, a teacup is sufficient; if making more, then you may need to use a coffee mug's worth of water). Let the water come to a boil again, and then add another cup of water. The dumplings are done when the water comes to a boil for the second time.