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For the Dumpling Filling: Line a fine mesh strainer with a clean dish towel. In a large mixing bowl, combine cabbage and 1 teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Transfer cabbage to the towel-lined strainer, set it over the bowl, and let stand at room temperature until the cabbage has started giving up its moisture and is wilting, about 15 minutes. Let kids massage the cabbage if they’d like (it’ll help speed the process along). Now is also a good time to start picking which aromatics you’ll want to use in the meat mixture, and to chop up the garlic, ginger, scallions, and herbs (if using). My daughter, Alicia, likes to peel ginger using the edge of a teaspoon, and smashing garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle is a very kid-friendly task.
Gather up the edges of the dish towel and twist them to squeeze the cabbage. Kids can help wring out as much excess moisture as possible. I like to measure how much liquid came out to show Alicia how much water is inside a cabbage. Discard the liquid, then return the cabbage to the bowl.
Add the pork, shrimp, sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and any aromatics you choose to the bowl and, using clean hands, knead and mix until the filling is homogenous and starting to feel tacky/sticky. Transfer a teaspoon-sized amount to a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power until cooked through, about 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. This is a good time to let kids taste the mixture and offer input. ("Do you think this needs more salt? Maybe more ginger?," etc.) Make sure kids wash their hands after handling the raw pork and shrimp mixture and before eating.
Set up a work station with a small bowl of water, a clean dish towel for wiping fingers, a bowl with the dumpling filling, a couple spoons for putting the filling into wrappers, a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet for the finished dumplings, and a stack of dumpling wrappers covered in plastic wrap.
For the Dumplings: To form dumplings, hold one wrapper on top of a flat hand, or lay it flat on a cutting board (make sure the remaining stack of wrappers stays under plastic—they dry out quickly). Using a spoon, smear a 2 teaspoon- to 1 tablespoon-sized amount of filling in the center of the wrapper. Use the tip of a finger to very gently moisten the edge of the wrapper with water (try not to use too much water, though with toddlers it’s almost inevitable—if the work surface is visibly wet, transfer the wrapper you’re working on to a separate small board or plate to finish, then have a sponge handy to dry off the main board before starting on the next). Wipe your fingertips dry on a kitchen towel.
Working from one side, carefully seal the filling inside the wrapper by folding it into a crescent shape while pushing out as much air as possible. As you get better, you can start to add pleats to the shape to form small purses (see here for detailed folding illustrations). Transfer finished dumplings to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Your kids’ dumplings (or yours) may end up misshapen, or the filling might be squeezing out one end, or there may be a hole in the wrapper. This is all okay; I promise they will still taste great.
At this point the dumplings may be frozen by placing the baking sheet in the freezer. Freeze dumplings for at least 30 minutes then transfer to a zipper-lock freezer bag for long-term storage. Dumplings can be frozen for up to 2 months and cooked directly from the freezer.
To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add dumplings, and boil until they are cooked through, about 2 minutes if fresh and 3 minutes if frozen. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon or metal spider. Alternatively, dumplings can be steamed in a bamboo steamer lined with cabbage leaves or parchment, set on top of a wok with an inch of simmering water. Steam for 4 minutes if fresh and 6 minutes is frozen. If you like your dumplings crispy, transfer them to a non-stick skillet preheated with a little vegetable oil over medium heat, spread them into a single layer, and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until they are golden brown and crisp. Serve the dumplings with dipping sauce.
For the Dipping Sauce: Combine sugar, hot water, soy sauce, vinegar, and any aromatics. Stir well to combine.