Visit Alexandra's food blog: www.urbanfeast.com
Sometimes you assume things will be easy. Like when you sign up for a gym membership and assume within a few weeks you’ll look like Miranda Kerr. Or when you have a sixteen-page research paper due in your history class and assume you can write the whole thing the night before it’s due. Or when you want to do cat-eye makeup on your eyelids to look like Lana del Rey and you assume your overly expensive Chanel eyeliner will make it easy. Or when you want to make dumplings for your friend’s housewarming and you assume it will be a cinch.
But turns out, sometimes you assume wrong. Thinking that you will one day look like Miranda Kerr just because you have long legs and big anime eyes is a crazy, irrational, waste-of-time dream. Thinking you can pull off making 100 dumplings and a chocolate dessert in two hours is also a crazy, irrational waste-of-time dream. Would you like to know how long it really takes? It takes five hours, the help of a very understanding boyfriend, two bottles of red wine, and about four episodes of MasterChef the Professionals playing in the background.
Why did I decide to make 100 dumplings?
Because it’s Chinese New Year at the moment and I keep seeing the plethora of amazing food this holiday brings: roast Peking duck wrapped in delicate pancakes with crisp spring onions, soft, tangly hand-cut noodles covered in delicate beef and spices and of course, plump little dumplings with every kind of filling, waiting to be slurped, bitten and devoured as soon as possible.
After seeing all this food in person plus on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and everything else, I decided I really wanted some for myself. Which is why I decided to make dumplings for my friend’s housewarming. I thought I had everything under control.
Back when I lived in the States a few of my friends worked at this little shop on St. Marks in New York City called the Dumpling Man. It was the cutest little place that only served a couple types of dumplings, plus some sides like edamame and quinoa corn soup. The dumplings were cheap, the lunch specials were great, and I had friends that were very generous so all in all it was a perfect situation.
The shop was set up so that there was a glass wall through the middle. On one side was a little bar where you could sit and eat and on the other side were a few Chinese women who made the dumplings right before your eyes. We affectionately called them “The Ladies” and while they were incredibly sweet, they were also very misleading. I remember sitting on that little bar so many times mesmerised by their quick hands creating little pork, chicken, shrimp and veggie dumplings. Since then I always had this misconception that making dumplings is easy. Turns out, for someone untrained and totally unexperienced in the art of dumpling making, it is very hard. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t exactly have the right dumpling wrappers, since I had chosen not to make them from scratch, plus I didn’t exactly have the patience to pinch each one into a delicate pattern but either way, they didn’t come out as pristine as I had hoped.
Despite their somewhat sad shapes and my mild frustration (okay, maybe not mild) the dumplings ended up tasting delicious. If you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands and you really want to try making dumplings for yourself I highly recommend it. But if you want to take the easy route and simply order some soupy dumplings and enjoy the dream that you could totally make them at home if you wanted, I understand, and until the urge to cook these again strikes, I will probably be joining you.
Makes 50 dumplings
4 cups napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup green onions minced, both green and white parts
250g ground pork
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
50 gyoza wrappers
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup water1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until the cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the alt. Let the cabbage sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, add the ginger, chives, pork, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil to the food processor. Pulse four times to mix the ingredients well. Set aside.
2. Use your hands to grab a handful of the cabbage and squeeze and discard the excess moisture out into the sink. Place the dry cabbage back into the large bowl and add the pork mixture. Fold the cabbage into the pork mixture.
3. Mix together the cornstarch with water in a small bowl. Take one dumpling wrapper, spoon a scant 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip one finger into the cornstarch slurry and run your finger along the edges of the wrapper. Bring up the bottom side of the wrapper, fold up and press to shape into a half-moon shape, encasing all of the filling. Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with the rest of the dumplings. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.
4. When all the dumplings are assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook heat a medium size skillet over medium high heat. Add a drop of oil in the bottom so the dumplings don’t stick. Once the skillet has heated add the dumplings and fry them until they are crispy on the outside. Then add 4 tablespoons water and cover the skillet with a lid of some aluminium foil to steam the dumplings. Remove after about 5 minutes or when the dumplings are cooked through.
1 garlic clove, chopped
1.3 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1.3 cm inch piece lemon grass, chopped
225g raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
20-24 round wonton wrappers1. Place garlic, ginger and lemongrass in a food processor and pulse 6 to 8 times or until finely ground and well combined. Scrape down sides of bowl.
2. Dice shrimp and place half into the food processor with the remaining ingredients. Process until a smooth paste just comes together. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in remaining shrimp.
3. Place 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture into the center of a wonton wrapper and wet the edges with a small amount of water.
4. Bring all the sides into the center and press to gently seal the bottom and sides (the tops should still be exposed with the shrimp mixture). Flatten the top and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling and wrappers have been used. Place shu-mai in the refrigerator or freezer for 1 hour before filling into a steamer and steaming for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Recipe from Spoon Fork BaconLast week's post: Valentine's Day dinner on a budget
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Visit Alexandra's food blog: www.urbanfeast.com