Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dumplings

These are made with white dumpling skin with my grandfather's folding method

My grandfather was a large banquet chef, and his dumplings were very famous in his home town, so I have been eating and wrapping dumplings as long as I can remember.  He taught me the the ribbon fold you see in the picture above. This specific folding style is for dumplings eaten for celebration, such as new years and marriages.  By folding the dough this way, he added extra doughy texture to the dumpling and also prevented it from coming apart when he panfried them.  There are different other folding method for dumpling meant for boil or steam.  However, it really doesn't matter how you fold it, as long as it stays intact.

I simply pinched these shut, nothing fancy. These will stay perfectly intact in a boil or steam.

There are a lot of ways to make, cook, and eat dumplings. There are a lot of types of dumplings too.  It's pretty unscientific and everyone has their own recipe or secrets.  If you are new at making dumplings, don't bother rolling your own dough, large grocery store or specialty asian market carries pre made dumpling skins in plastic packs.  A pack of skins is good for about 2.5 pounds of meat.  Once you are familiar with making these, then try your hand at making the skin.  I prefer to make the dough skin myself, because Dennis and I don't eat white carbs anymore and we love thick doughy skin. yum. 

Traditionally, dumpling is made with ground pork, and some are made with shrimp or vegetables.  However, I have successfully made delicious dumplings with ground lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, tofu or mushroom.  It's like sandwich and wraps, sky is the limit.  Here are some basic "building blocks" of dumpling mixture:

(1) 90-99% ground meaty stuff: ground meat, minced vegetable (such as lettuce, asparagus, broccoli), mushroom, fish, or chopped shrimp.  Pork is great because it is tender (not chunky) and fatty. Sometimes restaurants would ground the pork with additional lard and pork belly to make it extra yummy. Ground chicken or turkey can be a little on the dry side, but you can ask your butcher to ground only from the thighs.  You can make great dumpling out of just meat + salt + pepper, or you can make it more interesting by adding other things. Keep reading for ways on how to retain moisture.
(2) 5-9% minced flavour basis: finely minced onion, green onion, or shallots would give the dumpling lovely aroma it needs. Add some minced garlic too!  To balance these strong pungent flavours and the meat, I like to add parsley or cilantro.  However, do not go overboard with these things, you want your  meat mixture to stay relatively intact inside the dumpling.
(3) 1% Salt, pepper and other seasoning: mix salt and white pepper with the ground meat.  You can also add other seasoning (such 5 spice) too! If I am making lamb dumpling, I would add basil, oregano, and/or thyme. Again, don't go overboard with seasoning either.  Dumpling itself is not suppose to be packed with intense flavours.  Ideally, hearty, subtle and well balanced flavours are the way to go.
(4) 2% Water + aromatic oil: this is the not-so-secret-anymore ingredient to good moist dumpling.  You need about 2 tablespoon of water for a pound ground meat.  Mix few drops of sesame oil, coconut oil, chili oil, or other aromatic oil into the water into the water before mixing it with the meat ensures the oil is distributed evenly.  This step is especially important when you are using chicken or turkey.

Here is a sample of my "recipe":

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium size shallot (minced)
  • ½ bulbs of garlic (minced)
  • 6-8 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 tbsp fleur del sal (salt)
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp water + few drizzle of sesame oil
  • A pack of dumpling skin or your handmade ones (see bottom)


Instruction:
1. With chopsticks or fork, mix everything together, well.
2. Put the skin in one hand
3. Put less than 1 tablespoon of meat mixture on the skin
4. Dap water around the outer edge of the skin.
5. Fold the skin in half and seal the dumpling; careful to make sure little air are trapped inside
6. Using your thumb and index finger, firmly pinch the dumpling shut.

Boiling: Boil a pot of salted water. Put your dumpling in. They should be ready within 5 minutes. When they float, they are good to eat.
Steaming: 20 minutes or less
Pan frying: Heat a non-stick pan at low heat, coat the pan with about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Lay the dumpling in on its side. Turn frequently.  These are ready when you start seeing brown spots.

Important Tips:
1. Resist the temptation to pack too much inside the dumpling.  It will cook unevenly and explode if it's too big. (The picture on the left has too much meat for store-bought skin).
2. Flatten the meat mixture a little when you fold the skin over so your dumpling is more like a pillow than a foot ball.  This will help it cook in a pan. If you are boiling it, it really doesn't matter.
3. Don't tab the circumference with too much water, it would get soggy. You just want to wet it a little so it can be adhesive.
4. Use cooking sheet and lay them out separately.  Raw dumpling like to stick to each other and the surface they sit on.
5. The trick to dumpling is the sauce. Make a good sauce to go with it. Use your imagination.

Homemade dumpling skin:
2 cups of flour
½ cup of water
1 pinch of salt
Optional: sugar

Instruction:
1. Mix everything together. Add more water or flour if necessary.
2. Kneed the dough until its ready.  (A.K.A. Flatten the dough with one hand and fold it over on itself, and flatten again.  Rinse repeat for at least 10 minutes. You want the texture is consistent, and when you poke it, it doesn't bounce back)
3. Use a knife and cut it into slices. Same thickness as a slice of bread.
4. Take a slice and roll it out into 5-6 inch tube, and cut into 6 pieces.
5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
6. Take one of the small piece and roll it between your hand to make a small ball
7. Flour a flat surface and flatten the ball with the palm of your hand.
8. Take your rolling pin and roll our the ball. Regularly turn it in circle so you don't end up with a square.
9. Lay them out separately on a cookie sheet. These skins like to stick to each other and the surface they sit on.
10. Cut and roll out the rest of the dough.

That is a French rolling pin and whole wheat dough. See the not-so-round dumpling skin on the left? That's what happens if you don't turn your skin often when you roll it.

Important Tip:
1. For those who rolls a lot of dough, resist flattening these with all your force. Dumpling skin should have a perfect balance of doughiness and tenderness.
2. Turn your skin often and on small radians to ensure your end product is circular. If it is not, that's okay too. Fold the dumpling diagonally on the two widest point.
3.  Ideally, you want the center to be thicker than the edges.  You would need a French rolling pin for that.  However this is optional, I have made plenty lovely dumplings with a regular rolling pin.


Feel free to roll one skin and make a dumpling immediately before rolling out all the dough.  This is my personal preference.  It is more space conscious and I think the dough is more tender this way.

What about those fancy foldings?
Use your creativity and imagination, there are no rules with these as long as they feel sturdy and there are no holes. Youtube has plenty of demonstration of various folding methods.

What if there are holes?
You can either pretend they are not there, or you can just pinch them shut with a little bit of water. 

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