Dumplings must be perfect foods, because just about every culture lovingly invented ’em. When I took a book arts class in college, my final project was an international dumpling collection, with pop-up illustrations. Lifting the flap of each dumpling revealed stamps I carved to illustrate commonalities in ingredients (flour, onion, potato, egg, etc.). I included recipes for tortellini, bao, empanadas, pierogies, halušky, samosas, papas rellenas… And of course, the dumplings of my own heritage: gyoza, aka potstickers.
A dumpling is a tiny, perfect package. They’re so visually appealing. And, they’re a vehicle for limitless creativity – you can put pretty much anything inside!
I made these for a birthday dinner. I like to think each dumpling was its own little gift to the guest of honor: a bit of something wonderful in a shiny, festive wrapper!
Braised Short-Rib Gyoza
For the braising liquid:
1/2 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
1 generous inch ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. gochugaru (Korean chili pepper)*
2-3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
For the dumplings:
1 package dumpling skins*
1 bag of spinach (or about 9 oz.)
3 large leaves of napa cabbage
In a pot large enough to fit the beef, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Wedge in the ribs and turn to coat. The liquid should rise about a third to halfway up the sides of the meat, so add water, rice wine, or broth as needed. Bring to a boil, then simmer, turning the meat once or twice so each side gets time in the braising liquid.**
Once the meat shreds easily from the bone (2-3 hours), remove from the liquid. Let cool enough to handle, then shred into a bowl. Wilt the spinach (microwaving with 1 tsp. water), then chop and add to the meat. Dice the napa cabbage very small and add to the bowl. Stir until meat and greens are well combined.
To fill the dumplings, take one skin and place 1 tsp. of filling in the middle. Dip your finger in water and run it in a semicircle around the filling, then fold the wrapper over. You can press and pinch firmly to seal, or you can fold in pleats, pinching all the while. I am no folding expert – just make sure they’re sealed and they will taste great!
Steam dumplings until the skins turn translucent. Use a steamer, or place dumplings in a hot skillet, add a good splash of water, and cover. I found that about 5-7 minutes worked well, but it depends on the wrappers you use. Since the filling is pre-cooked, don’t stress – just eat!
*Find gochugaru and dumpling skins at an Asian grocery. You can substitute cayenne, chili pepper flakes, or another chili for the gochugaru, but decrease the quantity as most chilies are hotter.
**You could also braise the short ribs in a slow cooker – definitely add more liquid if this is the case.