Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Success, Thy Name Is Dumpling
I love dumplings. What kinds of dumplings? All of them. From around the world. I've had them boiled, broiled, steamed, fried, deep fried, baked, pickled, sautéed and yes, even microwaved. It's been my good fortune to have been raised in a culturally diverse town where I was able to sample many a dumpling as a child.
It's no surprise then, that when it came time to go to college, I wanted to be far, far away from the typical homogenized American campus (where there would definitely be a lack of dumpling variety). So, I applied to a handful of schools with three things in common: an urban city campus, a culturally diverse student body, and...oh right, a good journalism program. Obviously an afterthought. Although I applied to schools in four different cities, I had no real intention of going anywhere but New York, much to the chagrin of my sweet, protective parents--have I mentioned that I'm an only child?
Everything worked out as planned, and by my second year in school I was living in Manhattan's Chinatown with five other girls, all first generation Americans like me. It was here that I forced--I mean, sweetly cajoled--them into showing me some of their families' culinary traditions. From my Ukrainian roommate, Jen, I learned of the silken pillows that are potato pierogi. To this day, the best care package I've ever received has been the one from Baba, Jen's grandmother, who didn't speak English, but had made hundreds of pierogi to help get us through midterm exams. My love of dumplings (not to mention Ukrainian people) had officially reached its peak.
When I was done extracting all I could from my roommates, I took to the streets of my neighborhood in search of great Chinese dumplings and wontons. It wasn't until years later that I would actually find them, but in the time in between I experimented with making my own, and found them to be quite the relaxing treat to make. I tried (unsuccessfully) to replicate those of my favorite noodle shop, and then the ones from my favorite take-out place, and then decided to scrap everything and try, as I often do, picturing in my mind and then creating, my dream dumpling. These were by far the worst.
So, this weekend I looked to Kylie Kwong, my favorite Aussie born, Chinese chef for help and inspiration. I watch every re-run of her show every time it's on and own all of her cookbooks, so I knew I'd find solace (or at the very least, decent dumplings) in her expertise. They were a success, juicy and soft, stuffed with moist shrimp and delicious, fragrant herbs. The dipping sauce, however, I wasn't crazy about. It was too sweet and had too much coriander for my liking, so I threw it out and combined my usual sauce with some of her ingredients. Much better. Here's how to make them yourself, with my very first attempt at a picture tutorial(!):
Shrimp Dumplings with Soy Dressing
9 raw medium sized shrimp (or 12-15 small shrimp)
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
1 Tbsp minced spring onions
1 1/2 tsp finely diced ginger
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine or sherry
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
16 fresh wonton wrappers (round or square)
2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp minced cilantro
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp kecap manis or sweet soy
2 Tbsp malt or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp siracha (or your favorite chili sauce)
1/2 tsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1.Peel, de-vein, and finely dice shrimp. In a bowl, combine the diced shrimp with the remaining dumpling ingredients except for the wonton skins. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.
3. Fill and shape the dumplings by laying out the 16 wonton skins and dropping a tsp of the filling onto the center of each.
4. Lightly moisten one side of the wonton wrapper with a wet finger and fold wrapper over so it encloses the filling. Press around the edges to seal.
5. Fold the now sealed edge over so it's crimped slightly upwards around the filling.
6. Bring corners together with a twisting motion and moisten the edges with wet fingers so they stick. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil while you fill the remaining skins.
7. Boil for 2 minutes or until cooked through. It may take 2 batches as it did for me, since you don't want to overcrowd them. Plate dumplings and drizzle with dressing. Enjoy!