This is the un-dumpling—a meat-stuffed dough wrapper that on account of its flat, disk-like shape is called in Chinese a “pie” (bing), as opposed to a “dumpling” (jyao). It has all the appeal of a pot sticker, but requires less fuss to cook. Here, you brown both sides of the tiny pies, flipping them over like pancakes.
Rinse the preserved vegetable thoroughly, rubbing well with your fingers to remove the coating, then pat dry.
Mince the preserved vegetable in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, scraping down as necessary until fine, then add the remaining ingredients, distributing the beef evenly around the blade. Combine with on-off turns just until mixed. Do not overprocess.
Alternatively, mince the preserved vegetable finely, then combine with the remaining ingredients, stirring briskly in one direction until well blended, then throw the mixture lightly against the inside of the bowl 5 or 6 times to compact it.
For best flavor, seal the filling airtight with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface, and set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
Roll the dough into an evenly thick log 10 inches long on a lightly floured surface using lightly floured hands. Cut the log into 20 even pieces ½ inch thick. After each disk is cut, lay it cut-side down on a more generously floured corner of the board, then cover with a dry towel.
Divide the filling into 20 portions, each about 2½ teaspoons.
Flour the board lightly, press the first disk flat with your fingers, and roll it into a 3–3½-inch round. (A 10-inch secton cut from a broom handle or a 1–1¼-inch thick dowel is the perfect tool for this job.) Dust the board and the top of the wrapper lightly with flour if needed to prevent sticking, but do not use more than is necessary or the wrapper will not adhere to itself when pleated. Put a portion of the filling in the center, then pleat the wrapper shut and give it a final twist to seal. Turn the dumpling sealed side down on the floured board, press lightly to flatten, then put the finished “pie” on a baking sheet lined with silicon (no-stick) parchment or sprinkled evenly with flour. Cover with a dry towel, and proceed to shape the remaining pies. Check midway to see if the pies are sticking to the paper or the sheet, and dust with additional flour if required.
Once shaped, the pies may be refrigerated for several hours before frying, sealed airtight. Or, you may flash-freeze them on the tray until firm, bag airtight, and freeze for several weeks. Refrigerated pies are best fried straight from the refrigerator. Frozen pies should be partially thawed on a floured tray, then cooked while the dough is still firm over a somewhat lower heat.
About 15–20 minutes before serving, divide the ginger among as many small dip dishes as you have eaters or between 2 small sauce bowls. Mix the vinegar and sesame oil, then pour over the ginger. (The ginger will permeate the dip while you cook.) Put a serving platter of a color to contrast with the pies in a low oven to warm.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add enough oil to coat the bottom with a scant ¼ inch oil, swirl the skillet to glaze it an inch up the sides, then adjust the skillet on the burner so the oil is evenly deep. Reduce the heat to medium.
When the oil is hot enough to foam a pinch of dry flour, add as many pies as will fit in quick succession, working from the outside of the pan to the center, and leaving at least ⅛ inch between the pies to prevent them from sticking together. Adjust the heat so the oil sizzles merrily, not furiously, then cook, uncovered, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3–4 minutes, checking frequently with a spatula to monitor the browning. Then, flip the pies over, beginning with the brownest ones first. Dribble in a bit more oil from the side of the pan if the pies are sticking and swirl the pan to distribute it under the pies. Brown the second side in the same manner, adjusting the heat to maintain a steady sizzle, so the dough browns in about 3–4 minutes and the filling has time to cook through.
Remove the pies to the hot platter, where they can rest for several minutes before being cool enough to eat. In the meantime, wipe the pan clean with paper towels and proceed to fry the next batch, knowing that if your guests finish the first pies before you are free, you can tuck away several of the next batch for yourself.
Leftover meat pies are beyond reviving. With that in mind, I always convince myself to eat more than I should.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.