Brisket Dumplings for Hanukkah

Steam up some brisket-filled dumplings to give a nod to the seasonal relationship between Jewish families and Chinese restaurateurs.
Steam up some brisket-filled dumplings to give a nod to the seasonal relationship between Jewish families and Chinese restaurateurs.

Hanukkah is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate the holiday than by mashing it up with the cuisine that has faithfully served the Jewish community this time of year when no one else has – Chinese food!  I wanted to honor that relationship by using the popular Hanukkah dish brisket as a filling for a Chinese-style dumpling.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, usually doesn’t conflict with Christmas, but why not give a nod to the Chinese restaurants that have stayed open during the holidays just to work hard and feed the chosen ones? Or you know, serve as a backup in case your Christmas turkey was eaten by the neighbors’ pack of dogs (See the movie A Christmas Story).

Brisket became part of holiday cuisine among many impoverished Eastern European Jews because it was a cheaper and tougher cut of meat. It’s also, however, more flavorful than its more tender counterparts. Cooked the right way, brisket can fall apart with a fork.  Because this cut is not typically known as particular juicy, we need to add some fatty goodness to the mix for these dumplings. We recommend braising your own brisket with the recipe below so that once the brisket is cooled, you can spoon the chilled solidified broth into the dumpling filling. Once the dumplings steam, you’ll have a more flavorful, moist brisket to sink your teeth into.   

Brisket Dumplings (Yield: many)


Braised Brisket

1 4-lb. untrimmed point cut brisket (it’s fattier than flat cut, so it will fall apart nicely when tender)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
6T vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
4 medium carrots
1T tomato paste
6 crushed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1T grated fresh ginger
2 cups of beef stock
½ bottle dry red wine
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes

Brisket Dumplings:

4 pounds of brisket, shredded
Chilled braising liquid
¼ cup soy sauce
2T grated ginger
1 cup finely shredded napa cabbage
About 150 dumpling wrapper skins (I recommend Gyoza No Kawa or Dynasty Gyoza/Potsticker Wrappers for their thin texture. Obviously you can make less and use the rest of the brisket to make sandwiches or eat as is!)


Braised Brisket

  1.    Drizzle 3T of olive oil over the brisket and season liberally with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on all sides.
  2.    Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat with 3T of olive oil. When oil starts to shimmer, place brisket in the pot and sear each side until brown (about 5 minutes on each side). Set brisket aside.
  3.    In the same pot with the fat and brown bits still in it, add the onion, celery, and carrots. Brown the vegetables over medium-high heat for several minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and stir until vegetables are coated. Then add the tomatoes plus liquid, red wine, beef stock, bay leaf, and ginger.
  4.    Add the brisket back to the pot and nestle it amongst the vegetables.
  5.    Cover the pot and place in the oven for about 3 hours or until the brisket is tender enough to shred.
  6.    When the brisket is done, leave it to cool in the braising liquid. If the braising liquid is too thin to be a sauce remove the brisket and bring the pot to a boil and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season as necessary. Place in the fridge overnight or when the sauce has chilled and has a more gelatinous texture. Shred the brisket.

Brisket Dumplings

  1.    Mix the shredded brisket with the soy sauce, ginger, and napa cabbage.
  2.    Cover with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out as you work.  Take 1 wrapper, place a ½ tsp of the brisket mixture in the center along with ¼ tsp of the braising liquid (the braising liquid should be solidified enough so it doesn’t run all over the place.
  3.    Moisten the edge of half the circle, fold over, and pinch the center sides together. Pleat one side, pressing and sealing it against the other. Make sure it’s sealed tight so the liquid doesn’t leak out. Repeat.
  4.    Lay napa cabbage leaves down in steamer to prevent sticking.  Steam dumplings on high heat for about 10 minutes or until the wrapper is no longer doughy.  Alternatively, boil the dumplings over high heat for about 2-3 minutes or until the wrapper is no longer doughy.
  5.    Warm the braising liquid. Add soy sauce and fresh grated ginger to taste. Serve with the dumplings.
  6. Any leftover dumplings that have not been steamed can be frozen and saved to cook later.



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