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I'm always down for a good soup but this one is something special. These little venison dumplings are packed with flavor and are fun to make! Each bite is a little flavor bomb with the ginger and shiitake filling. Served in a warm ramen-esque broth, it's the perfect comfort food.
What are dumplings?
There are a lot of names for these cozy little pockets of goodness - dumplings, wontons, potstickers, gyoza, I could keep going... Each Asian culture has its own version with specific elements (filling ingredients, size, preparation method, etc.) but they essentially all consist of a delicious filling (usually with meat) wrapped in a thin wrapper. I chose to call mine dumplings because they don't necessarily fall into a specific category. But that doesn't really matter. All that matters is they are delicious and you definitely want to make them!
How to make venison dumpling filling:
Making dumplings is a fairly simple process but it can be time consuming. But don't stop there! It's so worth your time and you'll be glad you made them! I like to use a shortcut by buying premade wonton wrappers. They're super easy to work with and have a great texture and flavor when cooked. There are a few basic rules I like to follow for making the filling for dumplings:
- Make sure your filling has a fat source. You can either use a fatty meat like pork or if you use wild game, you can add in sesame oil. This helps keep the filling from drying out and getting tough.
- Use raw meat in the filling. It takes a very small amount of filling to make a dumpling so it cooks fairly quickly. This is important because it makes the filling stick together better which is easier for wrapping and it helps the filling stay moist.
- Use a few different aromatic ingredients to flavor the filling. Ginger and green onions are a great choice. Garlic is great as well. Chopped mushrooms add another layer of flavor and help the filling retain moisture.
How to wrap dumplings:
Dumplings can be made into many different shapes but I find that the easiest method is to make the round dumplings that look like a little bag that's been tied at the top. Here are some step by step photos for how to wrap dumplings:
How to cook dumplings:
There are as many ways to cook dumplings as there are to make them. You can steam them, pan fry them, deep fry them, boil them, or a combination of a few methods. When using dumplings for soup, I like to pan fry them in a bit of oil until the bottoms are browned. Then, add in a few cups of broth, cover and steam for a few minutes. Remove the lid and let the broth reduce a bit. This method gives the dumplings a nice caramelized flavor while also giving them that chewy steamed dumpling texture. Bonus: you don't need any special equipment. But, I do like to use an electric skillet for larger batches so they can be cooked all at the same time.
Putting it all together:
Ok you have your dumplings, but how do you turn them into a soup? That part is pretty simple. I often have some ramen broth in the freezer leftover from previous meals like my Venison Ramen or Pork Belly Ramen but there are a few other options as well. You can buy store-bought ramen broth or concentrate. You can boil low sodium broth/stock with green onions, garlic, ginger, mushroom stems, bonito flakes, soy sauce, fish sauce, etc. for 20-30 minutes to add some extra flavor to the broth. Strain the broth before using it and it will still be full of flavor!
For dumpling soup, you can leave at that: dumplings and broth. But I like to add some extra veggies to the broth for another layer of flavor and textures. For this soup, I sautéed some ginger with thinly sliced shallots and shredded savoy cabbage. The shredded cabbage adds almost a noodle-like element to the soup and is really delicious simmered in the broth. Once you have your broth with veggies, add the dumplings to each bowl and top with a few sliced green onions and red pepper flakes for a filling meal that's sure to impress!
Venison Dumpling Soup
- kitchen shears
- electric skillet (or large skillet)
- 1 lb ground venison (or any lean ground meat)
- 1 cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried then rehydrated)
- ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 package wonton wrappers (usually 51 per package)
- 2 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 6 cups shredded savoy cabbage
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 10 cups ramen broth (see notes below)
- 6 tablespoon sliced green onions
- red pepper flakes (optional, for serving)
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Combine meat, mushrooms, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix well using your hands until all ingredients are well-combined.
- Fill a small bowl with cold water. Working with 1 dumpling at a time, dip every side of the wrapper in the water, about ½" into the wrapper.
- Add 1 ½ teaspoon of filling to middle of wrapper. Fold opposite corners of the wrapper together, then fold the smaller edges together towards the middle until the filling is completely enclosed.
- Snip off the top pieces of the dumpling and discard. This step is optional but if you don't remove the loose corners, they can get tough during cooking.
- Place finished dumplings on parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before cooking.
- Heat 2 tablespoon canola oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add in shallots and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant and starting to soften, stirring frequently.
- Add in shredded cabbage. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until cabbage is starting to soften. Add in soy sauce, stir to coat, and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Add in broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat 2 tablespoon oil in electric skillet on medium-high heat or in large skillet. If using a skillet, you may need to work in batches.
- Swirl pan to completely coat with oil. Place dumplings in a single layer into electric skillet, bottom side down. You can dip the dumplings in the oil and move them around to make sure the all the bottoms have oil on them.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes or until bottoms of dumplings are golden brown. Add in 2-3 cups of hot broth (or enough broth to go about halfway up the dumplings in the pan). Cover and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Remove lid and cook until broth is mostly evaporated.
- Arrange dumplings in bowls (about 8 per serving) and divide broth/vegetables among bowls. Top each bowl with 1 tablespoon green onions and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional).
- There are a few options for broth for this recipe:
- You can buy store-bought ramen broth or concentrate.
- You can boil low sodium broth/stock with green onions, garlic, ginger, mushroom stems, bonito flakes, soy sauce, fish sauce, etc. for 20-30 minutes to add some extra flavor to the broth. Strain and follow the recipe as normal.