Pork and apple, like peanut butter and jelly, are the perfect pair. At Black Twig Cider House in Durham, North Carolina, Executive Chef John Eisensmith shares his secrets in this match made in culinary heaven with his Asian Apple Pork Dumpling.
Eisensmith states that apples and pork are a classic flavor combo, but not often seen in Asian dishes — that’s what makes this apple-and pork-stuffed dumpling unique. “The pork has a natural sweetness to it that I wanted a balance to that rather than a complement,” the chef details. “I look at food combinations for the roles different ingredients play in a dish. Cider is acidic, lightly sweet and some have a little funk to it. These qualities make it the perfect thing to sub in place of some Mirin [rice cooking wine] and goes beautifully with the citrus and soy.”
At Black Twig, a joint operation by bar and cider expert Mattie Beason and Eisensmith, you can choose from over 80 ciders from around the world. While the dumpling’s ponzu dipping sauce features a dry cider, Eisensmith recommends pairing this dish with a cider from Stem Cider in Denver, Colorado, such as L’acier or possibly the Village Tart from Noble Cider in Asheville, North Carolina.
A closing tip from the chef: “Squeeze the ginger hard to get all that flavor,” he adds. “Mix the pork well and keep it cold, and definitely make sure you get a good seal when making the dumplings.”
Asian Pork Apple Dumplings with Cider Ponzu
By Chef John Eisensmith, Black Twig Cider House
Makes about 4 dozen
Ingredients for the dumpling filling:
1 pound well-ground, fatty pork
1 pound Napa cabbage
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 pound Granny Smith apples
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry cider
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon fine salt
Pinch white pepper
1 package frozen dumpling wrappers, thawed
2 tablespoons water
Ingredients for the cider ponzu:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, more to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, more to taste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 cup good-quality soy sauce
1/2 cup semi-dry cider, or 1/2 cup dry cider and 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 3-inch piece kelp (konbu)
1/2 cup (about 1/4 ounce) dried bonito flakes
For the apple cider ponzu:
Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and let sit for 2 hours or overnight. Strain when ready to serve.
To make the pork filling:
If the pork is not finely ground, mince well with a knife. Place the pork in a large bowl and cover.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the cabbage and blanch until just wilted. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cabbage to strainer set over a large bowl. Press down on the cabbage to squeeze out all liquid. Transfer to cutting board; roughly dice.
Meanwhile, place the grated ginger in a small bowl; cover with water and let steep for a few minutes.
Slice the scallions lengthwise, then thinly slice. You should have a good mixture of white, light green, and dark green pieces. Add to the bowl with the pork.
Place a strainer over the pork bowl; strain the ginger so that the juices are added to the bowl. Press down on ginger to squeeze out all juices. Discard ginger left in strainer.
Peel and finely dice the apples then add them to the meat mixture, along with the soy sauce, cider, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Stir in chopped cabbage until completely incorporated.
To wrap the dumplings:
Using a spoon, place one heaping tablespoon of dumpling filling in the center of the dumpling wrapper.
Using your fingertip, wet the outer edge of the dumpling wrapper with water. Fold up the sides of the dumpling into a half-moon shape.
While holding the dumpling lengthwise, curved side up, use your index finger and thumb to pinch the edges of the dough on one side of the dumpling into “pleats,” pressing each pleat against the flat side of the dough to seal the dumpling as you go. Start at one corner of the dumpling and work your way to the center, making three to four pleats. Then work from the other corner to the center creating another three to four pleats.
Firmly press the pleated side of the wrapper against the flat side to be sure the dumpling is completely sealed. If there is too much filling and the dumpling cannot be sealed, remove the extra filling to prevent leakage during cooking.
Line up the finished dumplings on a foil-lined cookie sheet to prevent them from sticking. You can freeze dumplings this way for up to 1 month.
To cook the dumplings:
To cook the dumplings, gently lower each into a medium pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. They are done when the dumpling skins are translucent and the dumplings have been floating for about 3 minutes. Remove from pot carefully with a slotted spoon.
Serve hot with apple cider ponzu on the side for dipping.