I have long wanted to develop a recipe for Chinese chicken dumplings, but it took several more attempts than expected. It would have been easier if minced dark meat chicken were easily available, because it’s more similar to minced pork. Unfortunately, in most supermarkets, all you will find is minced chicken breast – not thigh or leg meat. Minced breast can have a cottony or pasty texture (the latter comes from being frozen and too finely minced), both of which are unpleasant.
To get around that, I added a lot of other ingredients to the minced chicken breast filling: ginger, fresh water chestnuts, spring onions and fresh coriander. They all add flavour, but just as importantly, they give the filling texture, especially the ginger and water chestnuts, which have a delicate crunch.
This amount of filling makes about 60 to 80 dumplings. You don’t need to boil all of them at once, because they freeze well. Put the uncooked dumplings on a tray, then into the freezer. When the dumplings are frozen solid, transfer them to a sealable plastic container or put them in a zip-lock bag and store in the freezer. Boil the dumplings from their frozen state.
Put the chicken breast in a mixing bowl and add the soy sauce, rice wine or sake, sugar, salt, pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch. Mix thoroughly, then refrigerate while preparing the other ingredients.
Use a paring knife to remove the tough skin from the water chestnuts. Rinse the chestnuts thoroughly, then thinly slice them before mincing.
Thinly slice the ginger, then julienne it before finely mincing it.
Thinly slice the spring onions. Roughly chop the fresh coriander leaves and finely mince the stalks.
Put the water chestnuts, ginger, spring onion and coriander into the bowl holding the chicken breast and mix thoroughly.
Pour some water into a small bowl. Line a tray with foil.
Put one dumpling wrapper in the palm of your left hand (if you’re right-handed). Dip a finger in the bowl of water and use it to moisten the far edge of half the dumpling wrapper. Put a heaped spoonful of filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper. Use enough of the meat mixture so the dumpling is well filled, but not stuffed so much that it will squeeze out when you fold it.
Fold the near end of the wrapper over the filling to meet the far end and firmly pinch the two sides together, gently squeezing out any air from the dumpling. Make sure the entire edge is tightly sealed.
Lightly dampen one corner of the wrapper and bring the other corner under and around to overlap it slightly; firmly press the two corners together so they adhere. Lay the finished dumpling on the tray and proceed with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the dumplings. Cook them in batches; do not crowd the pan, and give them room to “swim”. The dumplings will sink to the bottom of the pot, then float to the surface of the water. When they do, start the timer and boil them for 90 seconds to two minutes, or until the filling is fully cooked.
Use a flat slotted skimmer to scoop the dumplings out of the pot. Shake off the excess water, then put the dumplings into individual serving bowls.
If cooking another batch of dumplings, skim off the flour from the surface of the water before boiling more, and add more hot water to the pot whenever necessary.
Serve the dumplings with the sauce ingredients in small, separate bowls. Let the diners mix the ingredients as they like to make their own dipping sauce.