As we prepare to celebrate the Year of the Horse, I have been craving Chinese food. Of course, I always love Chinese food, so that’s just an excuse.
It would be easy to order take-out, but there’s something fun about setting aside a few hours just to cook—especially if you aren’t cooking alone. My sister Treasa generously agreed to spend the afternoon with me making Chinese dumplings, Mongolian beef, and a shrimp stir fry.
If Treasa hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have dozens of photos of scallions.
How did our dinner turn out? We’re very modest, of course, but I will tell you that Daniel said, “Mama, this is the best dinner ever.”
You must be wearing your lucky red shirt today because I am going to share the recipes with you. Now you, too, can have the best dinner ever.
We made this recipe last year and loved it. This year we tweaked it slightly, cooking the meat before stuffing the dumplings, and switching from the Chinese chives, which are harder to find if you don’t have an Asian market nearby.
1 pound ground pork
1 cup of chopped scallions/spring onions
3 teaspoons rice wine
A few dashes of white pepper powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive/canola oil for sautéing
For the wrappers:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup water
Saute the pork with the white pepper. When it is cooked through, add the scallions and sauces.
Chill in fridge for 30 minutes or more—at least as long as it takes you to work on the dough.
Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Mix the flour and water. Knead it for about 25 minutes. (This is when it’s especially helpful to have someone there to help.)
Separate the dough into four equal parts, and roll them into cylinders about 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cover them with a wet towel so the dough stays moist while you’re assembling the dumplings.
Tear off pieces of dough into about 1-inch segments. The original instructions said to use a rolling pin, but we found it worked best just to hold the piece of dough in your fingers and work it, spreading it and stretching it until it became a circle or oval about 3 inches in diameter.
Place some filling in the center—don’t overfill it—and pinch it tightly closed.
You don’t have to do anything fancy, but make sure they are closed so the filling doesn’t leak out during boiling.
Drop the dumplings into the boiling water. When they start to float, scoop them out.
Serve them hot—and have some dipping sauce ready. I mixed some soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to make ours, but you can also buy bottled gyoza sauce in the store.
This is the one photo we took of the platter of cooked dumplings.
Apparently we were too busy eating to take photos.
Next time we make them, we may use ground chicken and more vegetables inside. You could stuff them with almost anything. And yes, I know you can buy wrappers at the store, but part of the fun is making our own—when we have the time.
We must have made 40 or 50 dumplings, and there were only six of us eating—including two hungry boys. At the end of the meal, the platter was looking rather empty.
Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef
Because I knew we would be focused on our dumpling assembly, I quickly threw a crockpot meal together before we moved into dumpling mode. The beef cooked in four hours, which was much longer than it took to make the dumplings, but just about right for us to sneak in watching part of Ever After and pick up both my sons from their schools.
This recipe turned out well, and everyone commented on how tender the beef was.
I couldn’t find any large green onions so we used yellow onions and no one complained. I used a little too much brown sugar, which our sons loved—and they are not usually beef eaters—but next time maybe I’ll do a better job measuring.
Treasa is laughing as she reads this because she watched me and Daniel “measuring.” Daniel is more careful than his mother is.
Sizzling Shrimp Stir Fry
2 tablespoons canola/olive oil
2 yellow onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
You can use assorted vegetables, fresh or frozen, but we used:
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 bag fresh baby corn
1 bag yu choy (apparently a cousin of bok choy)
¾ cup of sugar snap peas
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup of sweet ginger chili sauce (we used this brand)
On medium-high heat saute onion in oil until translucent.
Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Add vegetables and cook, stirring frequently. When the vegetables have softened, add the shrimp.
Heat until the shrimp is pink/orange and cooked through.
Add sweet-ginger chili sauce, heat for 2-3 minutes, and serve with noodles or rice.
If that all sounds too complicated, there’s always take-out from your favorite local Chinese restaurant. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite Chinese recipe you’re willing to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments or at email@example.com.