Today, I’m going back to my roots and making dumplings. Okay, so not completely to my roots since I am Korean and these mapo tofu dumplings are Chinese but close enough. I rarely make dumplings because I’m not the best dumpling wrapper but I had a genius idea to combine the famous Szechuan dish, mapo tofu, and stuff it into a gyoza wrapper. These definitely did not disappoint and may have convinced me to make dumplings more often.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Dumplings always seemed so daunting to me but after making these mapo tofu dumplings, I’m not sure why I was so afraid! Once you nail down the seasoning on the filling, you just have to fill some wrappers and pan-fry them when you’re ready to eat.
The most important tip I can give you when making the filling is to make sure all the liquid is drained from the tofu. To do this, wrap the tofu in paper towels and place a weight on top. Let it sit 15 minutes, allowing the paper towels to soak up all the excess liquid. You can also place the wrapped tofu with the weight on top in a colander to let any excess water drip down. Crumble the tofu into small chunks with your hands and mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
The last time I tried making kimchi dumplings, I didn’t drain all the kimchi juice before mixing it with the rest of the filling. Since I wasn’t going to eat them right away, I had placed them on a sheet tray in the fridge. When it was time to make dinner, I opened the fridge and saw that all of the dumplings turned into mush. The wrappers got soaked from the liquid and they all got soggy. So please, please, learn from my mistake and drain all the liquid from the tofu. Suffice to say, I didn’t attempt to make dumplings until these mapo tofu ones, about 8 years later.
Once the filling is all mixed up, give it a taste. Take a small piece and pan-fry it on the stove. I always make sure to taste the filling before assembling the dumplings to make any seasoning adjustments.
Now comes the fun part: making the dumplings! The easiest way is to create standard half-moon shapes. Put about 1 tbsp filling in the center of the wrapper. You may have to adjust how much depending on the size of your wrappers. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold it in half to create a half-moon. Crimp the edges to create a fancy design or just leave as is.
Another option is to make these hat-shaped dumplings. This method uses double the number of wrappers but you can fill each one with more filling. Get about 2 tbsp of the filling and roll it into a ball. Place the ball in the center of the wrapper. Brush the edges with water and place another wrapper directly on top. Pinch the edges to seal. Now carefully push the edges upward to form a “hat”. Crimp the four edges and repeat with the remaining dumplings.
These mapo tofu dumplings can be made ahead of time and frozen until ready to cook. You can cook them straight from the freezer, no need to defrost. It’ll just take longer for them to cook on the stovetop.
Heat oil in a non-stick saute pan and place the dumplings in the pan. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pot and cook until the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and check to see if they ready. The skins should be almost translucent and will slightly puff up. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped chives.
Don’t forget the dipping sauce! The soy sauce and chili oil really complete the mapo tofu dumplings, because what would mapo tofu be without chili oil? These are, without a doubt, the most flavorful dumpling I have made. The little spice with a whole lot of savory really makes these star worthy. Now, which dumplings to make next?
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