Friday, June 23, 2006

Asian Dinner Part I: Dumplings

I usually shy away from Asian recipes because they usually require ingredients that are hard to find or that I would use infrequently. But I was having a hankering for steamed dumplings and I found a pretty easy looking beef broccoli recipe. So I decided it would be my big experimental dinner for the week.

Got off to a sour start when shopping for the dumpling ingredients: I could find neither sesame oil nor ground pork in the grocery store. I'm new to the area so I wasn't really sure where else to go and it was getting late in the day. I finally found a large bottle of sesame oil for the ridiculous price of $11. I picked up ground chicken to replace the pork. But I wasted a good twenty minutes checking and re-checking their tiny Asian section, their organic section, AND their oils section. Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated when I got home and actually got down to the prep work.

A neat short cut I discovered was when it came to the cabbage. I'm only cooking for two so I certainly didn't want to make the full amount of dumplings that the recipe purported it could make (80-90!?!?). So I certainly didn't need a full head of cabbage or bok choy. Instead, in the bagged salad section I discovered a coleslaw blend of white cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots. The perfect easy combo to go in my dumplings. In the recipe it called for "blanching" the cabbage, which I thought might be a step I could pass up, using the pre-chopped variety. Not true. Once I took the coleslaw out of the bag, I could tell it would be too stiff and raw to deal with. Dropping it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds softened it right up.

A couple notes going into this: Give yourself plenty of time to make the dumplings (actually forming them is the time consuming part... they cook up really fast). Also, use as much flour as you need to make the dumpling dough the right consistency. In attempting to halve the recipe, I found myself using the full amount of flour and only half the water and it was still kind of stick to deal with and I wound up with extra filling. I was afraid the flour might affect the flavor or consistency of the dumpling dough but they came out perfect (if a little funny looking). I also just used a regular pot (I don't own a wok) and for poaching the dumplings, it worked just fine. I was actually able to do all the dumplings at once without a problem.

from Wok and Stir Fry ed. Linda Doeser (with modifications)
Makes about 25

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup water

1/2 bag of raw coleslaw blend
1/2 lb ground pork or chicken
1/2 TBS chopped scallions
1/2 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS dry sherry (or rice wine)
1 tsp sesame oil

Dipping Sauce
1 TBS of red chili oil or 1 tsp red pepper
1 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 TBS chopped scallions

1) Mix flour and water until it forms a firm dough. Knead until smooth on a floured surface, then cover with a damp towel and set aside for 25-30 minutes.
2) Blanch the coleslaw blend until soft. Drain and mix with chicken, scallions, ginger, salt, sugar, soy sauce, sherry, and sesame oil.
3) Flour a work surface. Kneed and roll dough into a long sausage about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into 20-30 slices, and flatten each slice with the palm of your hand.
4) Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a thin pancake about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
5) Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each pancake and fold into a half-moon pouch. Pinch the edges firmly until tightly sealed.
6) Bring about 2 quarts of water to boil. Add dumplings and poach for two minutes. Remove from heat and leave the dumplings in the water for another 15 minutes.
7) Whisk together ingredients for dipping sauce. Serve in a small dish along side the dumplings.

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