Saturday, February 26, 2011

Try Try Again

Chinese Pork and Chive Dumplings

I'm just going to be frank here: blogging can be a clusterf*ck!ng pain in the ass. When I first started this I thought I would be able to crank out posts and upload pictures to tastespotting/foodgawker in about a half and hour. Boy was I wrong on both of those points, because 1) Every time I start a new post it's like writing an essay for school- I sit there for hours thinking of what to write, and 2) All of my food pictures have been rejected from tastespotting/foodgawker/photograzing (except for this). I'm suddenly left with a new found respect for the passion people have to devote time and tender loving care to their sites that I enjoy so much. My hat that I hardly ever wear is off to all of you.

This week at school I had the privilege to help with organizing career day for the lower class men and meet three outstanding individuals, who in the 2 hours I spent observing and talking to them have totally defined for me what it means to be successful. No, not money successful, but successful. As in the success of wanting to wake up to go to work. As in the success of feeling as if it is not work at all but more like getting to pursue your passion everyday. I know this sounds all sounds like a terrible cliche, but as of today I know that becoming yet another Asian doctor ain't gonna happen anytime in this lifetime because 1) I hate math and science and 2) I'd probably kill someone. Did I consider the medical profession for the money? Of course I did. I live in a place surrounded by multi-million dollar McMansions and people my age driving BMWs that haven't even gotten real license plates yet... I'm slightly envious.
However, as I learned this week, none of that is the worth the cost of my happiness. All three of the guest speakers admitted that, although they are financially successful, they would give it all up in a heartbeat if they didn't love what they do, and that money will follow those who follow their passions. So of course, when one of the students said he was passionate about food and wanted to open a restaurant, I couldn't help but smile to myself.

uniformly chopped chives: +1 knife skills. Uncut pieces at the bottom: -2 pts.

I became obsessed with making dumplings after seeing an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and watching basically every person rave about his challenger, Sohui Kim, and her dumplings. So of course when I found out that the recipe was available online, I immediately ran to the nearest Asian market and spent the entire day making what must now be one of my favorite comfort-food-instantly-makes-you-feel-better-in-a-cozy-way meals.

Sauteeing the veg.

However over time I have mixed in parts from Jen Yu's recipe from use real butter, who I also flove (friggin + love)

Slicing the shrimpies

Whenever I make dumplings, I always buy the two types of wrappers available: the yellow ones made with egg (as used by Sohui Kim), and the pre-made ones made with flour (the same time Jen makes herself). The egg based ones make for a more delicate and light dumpling, and the wrappers tend to be a little bit more flavorful. However, I do have a strong preference to the flour ones, which give a nice hefty chew to the dumpling and tend to brown and crisp a lot better. Just remember though that the egg wrappers need to be sealed with a beaten egg whereas the flour ones only need water around the edges.

Waiting for more ingredients

After frying what seemed like the 10th batch of dumplings, I started to become lazy and decided to steam some of the egg-wrapped dumplings, folding them into the shape of tortellini. However I think they would've have been better boiled and eaten as wonton soup, as the wrappers turn out dryish and unappealing.

GBD (golden brown & delicious) bottoms: +1 pt.

Dipping these suckers in soy sauce and calling it a day is perfectly fine, but one day I just decided to go through the pantry and dump everything I had into a bowl and ended up with an insanely delicious dipping sauce. It's thicker and a bit on the sweeter side, so adjust to your own preferences.

nasty brain-like looking skin: -2 pts.

Chinese Pork and Chive Dumplings
a bastardization of Sohui Kim and Jen Yu's dumplings


pork and shrimp filling
3 tablespoons of oil, plus more for frying
1 cup of diced onion
3 tablespoons of minced garlic
3 tablespoons of minced or grated ginger
1 cup of chopped chinese chives
3 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
1 small can of chopped water chestnuts
1 1/2 pounds of ground pork
1/2 pound of fresh shrimp, cleaned, deveined, and chopped
1/4 cup of hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons of sriracha
3 scallions, finely chopped
8 oz. of silken tofu
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten and reserved in a small bowl
2 16 oz. packs of dumpling wrappers (either egg or flour based ones)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, chinese chives, and cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the veggies are translucent and tender. Set aside to cool.
In a very, very large bowl combine the pork, shrimp, hoisin sauce, sriracha, water chestnuts, tofu, scallions, and cooled veg mixture. Stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Make a test patty and fry it in a pan to check for seasonings- add whatever you think it needs whether it be sriracha, hoisin, or maybe only salt and pepper.
I'm not very good with explaining things, so click on the links at the top of the recipes, because they explain how to fold dumplings better than i ever could. Just remember that if you're using egg wrappers, use beaten egg to seal the dumplings, and if you're using flour-based ones, use water. (*Note* At this point, the dumplings can be placed on a sheet tray, without touching, and chucked into a freezer. Once they're solid chuck them into a ziplock baggie and keep them in the freezer for those days when you need instant gratification.)
Heat some oil on medium high heat and pan fry the dumplings. Once their bottoms are moderately brown, add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Fresh or frozen, you'll know they're done when you can see the liquid inside the dumpling bubble/boil. Uncover and let any remaining water evaporate, and crisp up the bottoms into a deep golden hue. Serve hot.

dark soy dipping sauce
original recipe
1 part low sodium soy sauce
1/2 part hoisin sauce
a drizzle of honey
a good splash of rice wine vinegar
teaspoon of grated ginger
a few drops of dark sesame oil
a squeeze of sriracha, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
a couple pinches of sesame seeds
thinly sliced scallions

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Serve with dumplings. Eat. Make another batch of dumplings to use up the leftover sauce. Fall into a food coma. Sleep.