Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dumplings

From Taiwan - Day 8 & 9

*drool *

I've eaten so many frozen dumplings this past year that I've forgotten how good freshly made ones are. I can only eat 10-12 frozen dumplings in one sitting, but freshly made ones I can eat over 20 (and they're bigger too!). For the filling, I've been taught the following recipe but you can put whatever your heart's desire! Though I would argue shrimp & pork as the meat base is the best ;) The following recipe is for a big pot of dumpling filling since I usually wrap over 100 dumplings to store in the freezer.

I generally eye-ball the quantities, so I wouldn't stress over it.
  • Ground pork.
  • Minced shrimp, shelled & deveined. I use about 1 lb of shrimp & 2 lbs of ground pork (whatever the quantity is they sell it in at the grocery store). Use more shrimp if you like.
  • Minced nappa cabbage. 1 head of cabbage is enough, unless they're miniature, in which case get two. Chop it until it's about 1/8" cubed. Assuming you use a food processor for this, squeeze out as much water as you can from the chopped cabbage before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Minced ginger. My aunt recommends putting in grated ginger to get a more homogenous flavor of ginger throughout. You'll probably need a piece of ginger about 1"x1"x1.5".
  • Minced garlic. You'll probably need 2-3 bulbs, depending on how garlic-y you want it.(edit: my mom said the garlic would throw off the taste of everything else so leave it out)
  • Minced green onion. You'll probably need 5-7 stalks.
Season with soy sauce (use enough to color everything slightly), sesame oil (use about half of what you used for the soy sauce), 2tsp of salt, and ~1/2 tbsp of powdered white pepper.

Mix everything together by hand. I've never used a food processor for this so I don't know how the mixture behaves afterwards, but just don't let the stuff blend into one homogenous mixture. 1) It's weird & gross and 2) you lose the texture of the meat & cabbage, which I think is an important part of the fresh-dumpling experience.

Cover & put the mixture in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let everything marinade &  to make the mixture more sticky, which will help the dumpling wrapping. I would drain out the juices that have come out of the mixture overnight, but my aunt argues that it makes the dumpling more juicy to mix the juices back in before you wrap. The dumplings did taste very good, but I don't think keeping the juices makes that big of a difference, except more of a struggle with wrapping. As a first timer, I would recommend draining the juices. To wrap, buy dumpling wrappers where ever they sell them in your area and scoop as much as you think you can fit in there and still be able to close it up. It's a bit of trial & error here. The better you get, the more you can put in but I still have issues with this so don't force it! I personally don't like my dumplings filled too much. Dab some water on your finger and run it around the dumpling wrapper and then squeeze the two sides together to seal. When you get better, you can put in some folds to make it prettier.

My mom & aunt have always had more filling than dumpling wrappers leftover so the extra filling usually gets turned into meat balls.

Storage: If you want to freeze the dumplings, freeze them spaced out on a tray/plates that have been floured. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a bag for long-term storage. I think frozen dumplings are best steamed or pan fried because they don't hold up well in boiling water.

Cooking: To cook freshly made dumplings, bring a pot of water to boil and put the dumplings in. Once the water is boiling again, add a cup of cold water to the pot + turn the heat to medium + cover the pot. Wait for it to boil again and add another cup of cold water & cover. Repeat once more and then the dumplings should be done. I'm not sure what the purpose of the cold water is, but I'm sure there's a good reason for it 'cause that is the traditional way of cooking dumplings.