Scallop and ginger dumplings with Sichuan chilli dressing

Steamed dumplings are not as calorific as you may expect.
Steamed dumplings are not as calorific as you may expect.  Photo: William Meppem

This simplified version of Sichuan chilli dressing was inspired by my travels and provides a delicious combination of smoky, sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavours. This dressing is not only delectable when served with dumplings but also suitable for other seafood dishes and poultry. Of course, if you are sensitive to chilli, you can omit garnishing the dumplings with the darkened chilli flakes.


Sichuan chilli dressing

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp hot water

1 tbsp malt vinegar

2 tsp white sugar

pinch Sichuan pepper and salt (see at end of recipe)

Scallop dumplings

16 fresh scallops (180g), halved crossways

2 spring onions, finely sliced

5cm x 1cm knob (15g) ginger, finely diced.

1 tsp light soy sauce

1/2 tsp white sugar

1/2 tsp sesame oil

16 fresh wonton wrappers (about 8cm square)

Sichuan pepper and salt

1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns

3 tbsp sea salt


For Sichuan chilli dressing

1. Place chilli in a heat proof bowl.

2. Heat oil in a small heavy-based frying pan until the surface shimmers slightly.

3. Carefully pour hot oil over chilli in the bowl to release the heat and flavour.

4. Stir to combine and stand, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

5. Strain cooled oil mixture through a fine sieve and reserve the darkened chilli flakes.

6. Stir in remaining ingredients, except Sichuan pepper and salt, and set aside.

Meanwhile make the scallop dumplings

1. Combine all ingredients except wonton wrappers in a bowl.

2. Next, fill and shape the dumplings (see below).

3. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

4. Drop dumplings into the water and boil for 2 1/2 minutes or until cooked and wrappers are translucent.

5. To test if the dumplings are ready you will need to remove one and cut into it with a sharp knife to check that the filling is hot. When ready, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate.

6. Arrange dumplings on a platter. Stir chilli dressing well to combine before spooning over the dumplings. Serve immediately sprinkled with the reserved darkened chilli flakes and Sichuan pepper and salt.

Filling and shaping dumplings

1. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the centre of a wonton wrapper.

2. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edges of the wrapper.

3. Gently lift one corner of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling, creating a triangle.

4. Lightly press around filling and along edges to seal. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

For Sichuan pepper and salt

1. Dry-roast peppercorns and salt in a heavy-based pan. When peppercorns begin to "pop" and become aromatic, take off the heat.

2. Allow to cool, the grind to a powder in mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Store leftovers in an airtight container

Author note: 

I can still smell the distinctive and intense, heavenly aroma of Sichuan peppercorns from my first trip to the stunning spice markets in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. When infused with chilli oil, the haunting woody fragrance of these peppercorns becomes amplified, and when combined with the heat of chillies, the effect is simultaneously numbing and spicy.

More tips:

I love the versatility of the Sichuan chilli dressing and find it goes perfectly with: white cooked chicken, steamed or grilled fish, steamed or grilled prawns or grilled calamari.

  • It's also delicious as a sauce for noodles – add some freshly julienned cucumber, beansprouts and coriander to garnish.

  • The dumpling filling can be made from prawns instead of scallops.

  • Wonton wrappers are available from supermarkets and your local Chinatown.

  • Omit the chilli flake garnish if sensitive to heat

  • You can buy chilli oil already made if time poor

  • Make the dumpling filling the day before if you have to, but best to fill and roll on the day of use, to avoid soggy dumplings.