Fig Leaf Dumplings

October 20, 2022
2 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 9 minutes
  • makes 10-20 dumplings
Author Notes

The trick to incredible jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, is not in the floury wrappers, with their pleated tops or their crispy bottoms. The secret—as imparted to me by my mother, the San Diego-artist Li Huai—is to load the inside pork farce with a generous flurry of chopped herbs and grated vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms. The resulting dumpling is light, verdant, and super savory (as a hungry teen I could easily throw back a few dozen dumplings, doused in tangy black vinegar).

Here in Brooklyn, I riff on my mom’s genius dumpling ratios all the time. And now that I have a backyard with a charcoal grill, I’ve added a few twists of my own. When the dumpling craving strikes, I snip a few young leaves off of my fig tree in my backyard. Even though the squirrels get to the fresh figs before I do, I’m still able to enjoy the surplus of paddle-shaped leaves, which emit an irresistible coconutty and sunny scent when toasted or grilled. I tuck the dumpling sausages into these leaves, which impart their fragrance to the mixture inside as their grill over hot charcoals. It’s so fun for a party, or just for myself—and even if you don’t have access to fig leaves, you can easily replicate this technique with steamed cabbage leaves or Swiss chard fronds. —Natasha Pickowicz

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Fig Leaf Dumplings
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 garlic cloves (about 2 tablespoons), peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 small green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 bunch (½ cup) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch (¼ cup) fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 5), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Dipping Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon), peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili crisp
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions (about 2), white bottom separated, and green part finely chopped
  • Assembly
  • Shaped pork sausage ‘meatballs’
  • 10-20 small, tender fig leaves
  • Baker’s string
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, minced garlic, minced ginger, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, parsley, and scallions. Add the salt and pepper. Mix everything together with a big spoon.
  2. To test the seasoning of the mixture, pinch off 1 tablespoon of the farce and fry in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  3. Divide the farce into ¼ cup-sized meatballs, shaping them with clean hands or an ice cream scoop. Keep chilled until ready to grill.
  4. Make the dipping sauce: Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chili crisp in a small bowl. Sprinkle the cilantro and scallions on top and set aside.
  5. When ready to grill, assemble the fig-leaf wrapped “dumplings." Place each meatball into the center of a fig leaf. Fold the edges of the leaf over, forming a small parcel. Tie it closed with a 6-inch long piece of baker’s string. Repeat until all of the sausages are wrapped.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat your gas or charcoal grill on medium-high heat until hot. Once hot, add the parcels to the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. The outer leaves will blacken, but the sausages will steam and stay tender on the inside. Remove from the grill and transfer to a serving dish.
  7. Eat immediately; snip the baker’s string and peel back the leaf. Spoon the black vinegar sauce generously over the sausage. Serve with steamed white rice or flaky scallion pancakes, if you’d like. Kept refrigerated in an airtight container, the leftovers are good for 1 to 2 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tahini2022
  • Lynn D.
    Lynn D.

2 Reviews

Tahini2022 October 27, 2022
What an amazing recipe. We have 2 fig trees growing in our yard and I never thought to use the leaves in cooking. They are heavenly! This recipe is easy and packed with flavor. One of the best I've cooked in a long time and I cook a lot of recipes!
Lynn D. October 22, 2022
so glad to see a recipe using fig leaves. A few years ago I walked by a fig tree that was being pruned and discovered the wonderful coconut scent of the twigs and leaves.