Monday, February 15, 2010

Molly D's Kitchen in Seattle: Pork Hash

When I was a kid, after school we used to take our pocket change to the manapua man who parked his truck outside the school. I love a good manapua, but for me the real draw was the pork hash, because they cost only a quarter each. They were an especially large version of the juicy, open-ended pork dumplings, and one or two made a cheap and filling snack much more satisfying than anything from the convenience store down the street.

Pork hash is available all around the islands, and like many local dishes, it’s a bigger, heavier, and more strongly flavored version of a daintier Asian dish. In this case it’s a lot like a Chinese siu mai, and while it might be argued that siu mai are just as flavorful, pork hash are generally bigger and a solid mass of pork rather than pork combined with lighter shrimp. They’re also pretty easy to make, involving few specialty ingredients and no real dumpling-wrapping skills. The following recipe results in a mild savory flavor, and at the very end I include ideas for additional ingredients to mix in or condiments to serve alongside the pork hash.

This recipe (based on one from is easy and very forgiving, but it uses two techniques, dumpling wrapping and steaming, that some readers may not have tried before. For those who have not, after the instructions there is a longer description of how to wrap the pork hash and set up the steamer. This is a good recipe for novices because neither the wrapping nor the steaming needs to be precise: There’s no expert crimping or sealing to do and even if they don’t look pretty they’ll taste good, and they won’t suffer terribly if you leave them in a little long. (Just make sure the raw meat is cooked through!)

Pork Hash

1 lb. ground pork
2 eggs, beaten
3 stalks green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can water chestnuts, drained and minced
3 T oyster sauce
1 package won ton/dumpling wrappers*
oil to coat wrappers

*Mine are round dumpling wrappers maybe 4 inches in diameter, but square is fine and you can’t really go wrong as long as they’re mostly wheat flour and water. I find them in the frozen section of an Asian supermarket.
  1. Combine all ingredients except wrappers and oil.
  2. Add about 2 tsp of meat mixture into dumpling wrappers (give or take, depending on size of wrappers) and bring sides up to surround.
  3. Coat wraps lightly with oil to prevent sticking.
  4. Place in steamer and steam for 15-30 minutes depending on size of pork hash. (Not sure when it’s done? Take one out and cut it open.)
  • This particular batch I made with half ground chicken and half ground pork and it turned out very well, probably because the mild chicken didn't compete with the pork. Beef might work, but it might not quite match up with the oyster sauce, especially if that cut or cow is at all “livery” or gamey tasting. You can also substitute minced shrimp (a great dim sum pairing with pork) for some of the meat. Larger pieces of shrimp tend to not stick to the meat mixture, so if you want to include some, don’t go overboard or it might not hold together.
  • Other ingredients for the meat mixture could include diced lap cheong (I’ve had great results with that one), char siu, or minced cilantro. Anything that would work well in pork-based dim sum is fair game.
  • These have a nice flavor on their own, but it’s mild. If you want a dip, try Chinese hot mustard or a vinegar-based hot sauce.
  • For those who (like me) aren’t eating much gluten, try steaming the filling in a heat-safe bowl inside the steamer, and remember it’ll take much longer to cook. The resulting “meatloaf” is not nearly as fun to eat, but it’s very tasty and you can chop it up to put on top of rice or noodles, maybe with some sesame oil. If you want no gluten at all, leave out the oyster sauce and perhaps use wheat-free tamari, sesame paste, minced dried shrimp, or a flavorful Chinese condiment you like.
Technique: Stuffing Dumpling Wrappers
  • After defrosting wrappers I leave them in the fridge until I start cooking so they don’t have a chance to get gummy and hard to work with.
  • I keep some water in a bowl under my hands and wet the “wrapper” hand before I pick up each wrapper so that I don’t have dry edges breaking as they pleat around the filling
  • To stuff, either cup one in the palm of your hand, add filling, then squeeze around sides to get folds of wrapper to stick to filling; or make a “c” shape with your hand and push center of wrapper into the hole, so your hand is already squeezing the sides. 
  • You’re not trying to seal this (it ends up open at the top, like a little cup), so you don’t have to have perfect technique. They’re a bit easier to work with, though, if you err on the side of too little filling rather than too much.
Technique: Steaming
  • I have a bamboo steamer, but metal is fine too and you can probably even use a little fold-up steaming insert, you just might have to steam in more batches.
  • Set up a wok or large pot that your steamer will fit inside. If it’s a dedicated steamer it will have its own lid so the pot doesn’t have to completely encase the steamer, it just needs to be wide enough that you can set the steamer into it over the water.
  • I want to keep food out of the crevices of the bamboo, so in each tray I lay down a big leaf of lettuce, heat-safe plate, or piece of foil; if I’m using a plate or foil I make there is a bit of space on the sides for the steam. Your steamer might not require this step.
  • When you’re ready to steam add a couple inches of water to the pot, as much as you can without having the boiling water touch the bottom of the food. (If you’re using a steamer basket and want to get it higher off the bottom of the pot, you can coil up a wad of foil or use some other heat-safe metal item to raise it up further.)
  • Turn the heat to high, and check the water level every so often (this may require lifting up the steamer) so it doesn’t boil dry.
Placing Pork Hash in the Steamer
Left to their own devices the wrappers will stick to the steamer and to each other, so you have to oil anything that will come into contact with the wrappers. I’ve tried two approaches:
  1. Brush oil around each wrapper when you finish stuffing it. Advantages: You can nestle the pork hash right up against each other, which allows you to steam more at once, and they hold each other up and come out in nice cylinders. Disadvantages: It takes longer to set up and is messier.
  2. Just oil the lettuce/plate/foil and then space the pork hash out so they don’t touch (and stick to) each other. Advantages: Setup is faster and neater. Disadvantages: You have to steam them in more batches, they spread out more, and if they bubble up over the edges of the wrapper they get sloppy, so they don’t look as nice. I don’t mind the spreading on its own but I don’t like it when they bubble over, so again I err on the side of under-stuffing. 
You can always try a batch, or even just a few, then adjust your technique for the next batch. Aside from keeping some water in the pot, you can go as fast or as slow as you like.

Technique: Pan-Frying Pork Hash

The photo that accompanies this post was taken the day after I made the pork hash, when I pan-fried them as I would potstickers. If you want to do the same:
  1. Heat a pan with one or two tablespoons of oil on medium heat. When pan is hot, set pork hash on their flat bases, with a little space between them so they don’t stick to each other.
  2. Fry pork hash without moving them until you can pick one up without any sticking and see that it is crisp and golden.
  3. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan and cover, allowing just a bit of steam to escape.
  4. When water is evaporated and edges of wrappers are pliable (because if you’re using leftovers, they’ll have dried out a bit in the fridge), uncover and allow to cook for a couple more minutes until bottoms are crisp again.
To read about Eric's Chinese-style pork dumplings, too, click here.



  1. These look amazing - I don't eat pork, but may have to try a variation sometime soon with ground lamb or possibly chicken.

  2. the secret is using sausage meat (half fatback and half lean pork) and ginger flavored rice wine.


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