Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vegetarian Crystal Dumplings and Chiu Chow Dumplings

When I first heard the news about this book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. In Asian Dumplings, Andrea Nguyen presents various kinds of dumplings from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. This is a very informative guide to dumpling making, and homemade wrappers are encouraged for all of them. I had been curious about making dough for wrappers for a long time, and I was a little afraid of it, but with these instructions the process was a breeze. There are also ‘lazy day tips’ throughout the book that explain how to use packaged wrappers for quicker versions of recipes, but there are advantages to making your own. For one thing, I gained a new appreciation for carefully made-from-scratch dumplings. Of course the fresh dough is delicious and chewy, and it’s also fun to shape. With homemade wrappers, you don’t have to moisten the edges to seal it, and it’s much more forgiving and stretchy when being filled. I learned so much from cooking from this book just once that I’m already looking forward to whatever I might learn next time. I noticed this morning that Heidi at 101 Cookbooks just posted a list of Andrea Nguyen’s favorite cookbooks, and it’s a great list.

So, for my first dumpling adventure, I chose the vegetarian crystal dumplings and chiu chow dumplings. Both are made with wheat starch dough, and this was a fun dough to make. Wheat starch was combined with tapioca starch because the tapioca gives it more elasticity. The two starches were combined in a mixing bowl with a little salt, and just boiled water. After stirring in the water, a little canola oil was added. I doubled the dough recipe, but before kneading it, I divided it in two equal parts. I thought kneading would be easier that way. The dough was kneaded for a couple of minutes on a flour-free surface, and it quickly became smooth and white. It’s noted that it should feel like Play-Doh, and it really does.

For these dumplings, each half (since I doubled the original quantity) was divided into three balls. The balls of dough were placed in a plastic bag and left to rest for five minutes. Then, one ball of dough was removed at a time. It was rolled into a log, and the log was cut into eight pieces. Each of those little pieces was then placed between pieces of plastic cut from a zip bag that had been lightly oiled. The dough was then pressed with the bottom of a glass measuring pitcher (or any heavy, flat, round-bottomed object) to form a three and a half inch round. A tortilla press would have been ideal for this. Each round of dough was then filled, the edges were sealed, and the goal was to crimp the edges for a pretty ruffled look. I did what I could. I’ll have to keep practicing for pretty edges, but the important thing is to be sure the dumpling is sealed.

To backtrack just a bit, it’s actually a very good idea to prepare the dumpling filling a day or two before assembling the dumplings. My first choice was the vegetarian filling including dried shitakes, dried wood war mushrooms, shallot, garlic, jicama, carrot, and scallions. The dried mushrooms were soaked and then drained and chopped, and the other ingredients were either minced or finely diced. The shallot and garlic were sauteed, and then the mushrooms, jicama, and carrot were added. A seasoning mixture of sugar, soy sauce, and reserved mushroom soaking liquid was added to the saute pan followed by the scallions and then a small amount of cornstarch dissolved in water. That cooked together just briefly, and then the mixture was left to cool. I decided to go all out and make a second filling as well because since I was doing this whole homemade dumpling thing, I thought why not. And, I thought two kinds of dumplings would be even more fun than one.

The second filling I made was for chiu chow dumplings. That filling is flavored with dried shrimp and includes some kind of meat, usually pork but I used ground chicken thighs, and it includes some vegetables which make it less dense. It’s made by sauteing garlic and chopped dried shrimp before the ground chicken was added. Once the meat was browned, chopped re-constituted dried shitakes were added, with finely diced jicama, and chopped peanuts. A seasoning mixture of sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, shaoxing rice wine, and water was then added to the saute pan. Once again, a cornstarch slurry was added along with scallions. Both fillings were refrigerated overnight before being made into dumplings.

It’s suggested that the dumplings be steamed right away once assembled and not refrigerated until after they’ve been steamed. So, as I assembled them, I placed them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and covered them with plastic wrap. When they were all assembled, I lined steaming trays with parchment so the dumplings wouldn’t stick, and let them steam for seven minutes. Then, I placed enough for dinner in the refrigerator, and the rest went into the freezer. To re-heat them, they went back into the steamer for just three minutes. To serve, soy sauce and/or chile garlic sauce are suggested as accompaniments. I made the homemade chile garlic sauce from the book which included red chiles, garlic, salt, sugar, and distilled white vinegar. If you cook the sauce, which I did, it can be kept refrigerated for about six months.

Does the whole process take some time? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely. I was thrilled with the dumpling dough and how easy it was to shape. I was also really thrilled that every step of the process turned out exactly as described in the book. The quantity of filling for each type of dumpling was exactly right. The texture of the dumpling wrappers was chewy and springy and delightful. The fillings were full of umami, and I really mean that. There are a lot of savory flavors at work in each, and I kept thinking that both were very good examples of umami. The freshly made chile garlic sauce was bright and hot but not painful in small doses. The whole experience from cooking and assembling and steaming to eating was a fun one, and there will be a lot more dumplings in my kitchen in the future.




37 comments:

  1. These are absolutely beautiful!!! You did a marvelous job - they look straight from the dim sum cart. I'm so coming over to your house for Sunday yumcha . . .

    I've been wanting this book badly; however, I've promised to buy it only as a reward for doing well in class (not being naturally studious, I need this kind of motivation). But after seeing these delicious dumplings - and a few other posts - I don't know how I can resist!

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  2. What a great job Lisa! I have heard about this book before and it's already on my amazon wishlist! I've made dumplings once for the daring bakers and while the end result was very good, I still think the extra amount of work in making your own wrappers is just a bit too much for me. So I'll go with the storebought variety, but still yours look gorgeous! I am so gonna buy this book too!

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  3. They look so perfect and scrumptious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. wow! love all the pictures! I love dumplings and its so difficult to get a good recipe. Ive been eyeing this book :)

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  5. meravigliosi!!Mi hai fatto venir voglia di fare i miei !!:DDD

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  6. Beautiful work, very precise post, thank you! I HAVE to prepare some, soon!

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  7. Awesome looking dumplings! I'd love to learn how to make my own dumpling wrappers. That's so cool. Not you've got me craving for some dimsum.

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  8. They look great. That must be a lot of work.

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  9. I don't really need another oookbook, but..... I might HAVE to get this one

    Wonderful job on the dumplings, they do look very professional!

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  10. I have been dying to get that book. I can't believe how amazing these are and a first time effort. bravo.

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  11. Yum! I always order some sort of crystal dumpling when I go to dim sum. You did a beautiful job, they look professionally made!

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  12. This is a great post! Full of detail and you had such excellent results! These are so delicious and yours look absolutely scrumptious!!

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  13. Wow, this is so authentic. You are amazing!!!! I have to check out the book you got. Hope i can find the flour in Basel. It's my last day in Hong Kong. I can still order this in Dim sum resto here, you make me crave for that.

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  14. Lisa, well done! They look just like the one I had in the restaurants.

    Angie's Recipes

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  15. You did a great job with those. they look fab. I'd love to try making those but to be honest, I'm a little intimidated, they look kinda difficult.

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  16. dumplings appear to be an arduous task, and your first run at them is quite impressive! lovely picture steps and descriptions, lisa. job well done.

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  17. I bet this dumpling goes well with that chili sauce just like restaurant dumplings...

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  18. I love dumplings- but have never made them. I am so very impressed with your success- they are delicous looking. I just might have to get that book....but in the meantime, am going to attempt to make your recipe. Great directions!

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  19. I have this cookbook as well and have not had the found the time to make any of the incredible dumplings that lie there in. It sits on my shelf taunting me (very nicely of course) Your pictures are an inspiration and if I do not find time soon, I'm going to make it. Andrea on her website has a place for people to post pictures of the dumplings they've made from her book - you should definitely put up these works of art.

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  20. These look incredible!! I'm so impressed you made your own dough. How delicious!

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  21. I've made dumplings more times than I can count, but never my own dough. Yours look great, and I will try making the dough too next time I make dumplings.

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  22. Lisa, the dumpling dough looks professionally done. If you hadn't talked about making it yourself, I would have thought it's store-bought. You've done an amazing job with this! I like your choice filling too.

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  23. These are so pretty! How brave you are making everything from scratch.

    I bought wrapper at the store today and I'm having a hard time deciding what to stuff them with.

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  24. I take my hat off to you because I have never made my own wrappers. You have inspired me to give it a whirl, though. Your dumplings look better than the ones at my fave dim sum restaurant!

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  25. Oh, this looks so delicious, they are beautiful! I have eaten them, made by a friend, but I've never attempted them myself...thanks for this recipe, I might just try it!
    Ronelle

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  26. I love dumplings and making them from scratch is something I will always associate with family time with my mom. It's interesting that these are meant to be steamed first, then stored, because we always make a ton and freeze the un-cooked ones in the freezer. I'm now so curious about this book and have to see it!

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  27. Oh! Thses dumplings look better than the ones that we get at dim sum...never made them at home...now you inspired me :-) By the way, great pictures!

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  28. kudos for making the dumpling skin from scratch. Your home made dumplings look nothing short of AMAZING.

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  29. Beautiful! You did a really good job. I love dumplings but have never made the wrappers from scratch.

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  30. I'm a big dumpling fan too and I'm so impressed you made your own from start to finish - they look SO good!

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  31. I am so very impressed by your talent, Lisa! The dumplings look fantastic despite it being your 1st time making it. You put me to shame since I have not tried making dumplings despite being an Asian. Haha. Thanks for recommending Andrea Nguyen's book, I look forward to checking it out.

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  32. Your pleating skill is so perfect and the dumpling filling looks so delicious! I am so impressed.

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  33. how beautifully you have done it! My daughter loves dumpling, but I never take the trouble to make it at home. The fillings sound fantastic.

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  34. oh my god, is there anything better than homemade dumplings?? I really don't think so. I need to make these.

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