Friday, July 23, 2010

Chinese dumplings

Right after college, we moved to San Francisco. It was a we're-moving-to-a-big-liberal-city-so-take-that-Florida-we-don't-need-you moment of carefree fancy and naivete. I worked for Greenpeace and on a Master's in activism and social change (I know, I know ... a degree in protesting), Nick studied creative writing and worked at a downtown suit-type lunch bar. We were poor, I was vegan, and our apartment had mold. But we lived by the beach, rode public transportation with a giddy sense of newness, and explored the misty wonderfulness of it all with reckless abandon — shows at the Fillmore, people watching at Hippie Hill in the park, hiking the coastal trail, baby-sized burritos in the Mission, sushi in the Sunset, picking through records at Amoeba, dodging the homeless in the Haight.

And then reality crashed our party. We both left our graduate programs, realized we really missed our East Coast family and friends, and made plans to make the move back home. But first, we gave ourselves a few months to really live it up, go for broke (drop that metaphor). I left my low-paying (albeit world-enhancing) gig at Greenpeace to return to my serving roots at the fabulous Marina restaurant Dragon Well. And with the peer pressure gone, I ditched veganism. I mean, I love food too much to cut out so much yummy stuff. Long meat-story short: there were dumplings. And there was a woman (Mrs. Lo?) whose sole job was to make dumplings. And their pork-goodness was unparalleled. I ate at least one a day until we moved back east. The end.

The Right Coast is good to us — we live by the beach, but there is no fog (or mold). Nick has his dream job, editor of Eastern Surf Magazine. We just bought a house; I have decor-itus. Our two pups romp in the yard. Almost all of our dear, dear friends and family are close(ish). But there are no dumplings (or baby-sized burritos, but that's another post). So, after a sandy day on the beach, I made dumplings. And life was good.

There was grease all over my kitchen. I burned the first batch. I couldn't master the little pleats — who do you think I am, an engineer?? But oh man, were they good. Spicy. Fresh. Ginger. Fried. Steamed. And the sauce? Swoon. I poured extras over plain rice the next day — instant meal.

Chinese dumplings
an amalgamation from various recipes. A little bit of this, some of this, and a whole heap of this.

This recipe makes 45-50 dumplings — you can freeze raw dumplings on a baking sheet and then store in a freezer-safe bag.

1 lb. ground pork*
6 napa cabbage leaves, minced**
3 green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced
1/3 c. bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 c. ginger, minced
3 tbl. soy sauce
2 tbl. dark sesame oil
2 tbsp. corn starch
1 package of frozen dumpling skins (gyoza), defrosted overnight in the fridge or 40 minutes or so at room temperature
corn starch slurry — 1 tbl. corn starch and 1/4 c. water mixed in a little bowl

* If you don't do pork, you could substitute an equal portion of chopped, raw shrimp. If you're totally veggie, add more (and different types of) mushrooms and some carrots.

** Make sure you salt the cabbage, as it draws out the water. Your non-soggy dumplings will thank you. After you mince the cabbage, mix in about 2 tsp. of kosher salt. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Put the cabbage in a cheesecloth (or thin kitchen towel) and squeeze all the water out.

Combine the pork, cabbage, green onions, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and corn starch in a bowl. Mix well (I used my hands).

Scoop 1 tsp. pork mixture into the center of one dumpling skin. Use your finger to trace some of the corn starch slurry around the edge of the dough. Starting in the middle, fold it up, making sure you press the edge together well. Press to create a flat bottom. Keep on moving.

When you are all done making your dumplings, heat a large nonstick pan with 1 tbl. of cooking oil over medium to medium-high heat (how high you go will depend on your stove and pan — my first batch burned on med-high, so medium worked better for me). When the oil is hot, add the dumplings, flat side down, not touching, to the pan. Let fry for 1 minute until the bottoms are light golden brown. Pour 1/4 c. of water into the pan and cover with a tight fitting lid (you will get some flying grease — beware). Turn heat to medium and let the dumplings steam for 3 minutes. Remove the lid and let the remaining liquid cook off, about 1 minute. Remove to plate, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with dipping sauce.

dipping sauce

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. chili sauce with garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 green onions, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar. Stir, shimmy or shake. Relish in all that is good.


kbrams said...

Wow. These look so good. Can't wait to try them! Great blog post to boot.

Shannon Mac said...

thanks! Have you broken in the new kitchen yet with all your farmer's market goodies?