Okay, so it’s Thursday, not Wednesday. But Wednesday was wonderful, and you should know about it.
It all started on Monday (or sometime thereabout). Scott emailed one of his best friends from high school/college and said that he wished he knew how to make said friend’s mom’s Chinese dumplings. Just a random, friendly email. Emails were exchanged, Mom was consulted, and a cooking lesson date was set. It just so happened that the only day that would work for all three of us was the very next day. It was great.
Have you ever had an experience where you’re just so wholly welcomed into someone’s home with love and kindness that you’re kind of floored? I mean, Scott has been friends with this guy for about 14 years, but I didn’t know his mom until yesterday. She just let us in and started teaching us this family recipe right off the bat. It was like being instantly initiated into someone’s family. I liked it.
Then there was sampling of other traditional foods she had in the fridge. We tasted another kind of dumpling, a really nice roll, a persimmon, and my personal favorite (other than the dumplings we made)–lichen. What?
Did you know you can eat lichen? It’s even supposed to be good for your throat. You can buy it at the Chinese market in a huge bag, kind of like potato chips, and then you just rehydrate the dried lichen in some water and munch away. I think it’s usually used in some tofu dumpling fillings (which we tried), but I kind of like it all by itself.
But back to the recipe. It seems complicated when I read through the steps, but it isn’t. Believe me. It’s an ideal Saturday-at-home project. You just mix up some meat with some spices and extras, add some shredded veggies, and put that into homemade dumpling wraps. Easy, right?
Because I wasn’t quite sure how to describe the pinching-together-of-dumplings, I’m going to add a video at the end. Video lady knows what she’s doing. My dumplings were a bit more on the rustic side, but they were still delicious. I pinched together once in the middle, then tucked the “taco” corners in and pinched until all edges were sealed. It was faster and less difficult than the fancy one-sided tucks in the video. I did see fancy one-sided tucks in the dumplings we took home, so I know the real technique is alive and well. Oh, and I didn’t need to use any water to seal the dumplings together. Just press really well. It’s kind of heresy that I’m eating this wonderful food at my desk, but I forgot to take a picture of the process yesterday. So enjoy the leftovers with me, if you will:
Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
- 1 lb. ground pork
- ½ lb. shrimp
- ½ of one butternut squash, cut into very large chunks, seeds removed
- 1 large green onion (or 3-4 small green onions)
- 1 piece of fresh ginger (1 inch of ginger)
- Chinese pepper powder
- Bouillon cube
- Soy sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Sesame oil
- 5 cups of all-purpose flour
Put one cube of chicken bouillon in 1/6 cup of water and stir it around until it dissolves. That might require a fork or some smashing of the bouillon. Put the pork in a medium mixing bowl and add the bouillon/water mix, combine. Add about another 1/2 cup of water to the pork.
Put shrimp into a food processor or blender and process/blend, then add the shrimp to the pork mixture. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the meat mixture, followed by a dash of pepper powder (about 1/4 teaspoon), plus about 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir it all together.
Now work on the vegetables for a bit. Shred the ginger into the meat mixture with a shredding attachment on a Mandolin cutting tool or with the small part of a standard cheese grater.
Shred the butternut squash (peel and all) with the same size grater/shredder, making a nice large pile of butternut squash in a separate bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the squash pieces and mix that together.
You can use cucumber, cabbage, or red onion instead of butternut squash if you prefer. Different vegetables work better with different meat choices. I don’t know what I’ll try next, but I do know that butternut squash was delicious with the pork and shrimp combo. If you use cabbage, press the cabbage to get some of the water out of the cabbage before you add oil.
Thinly slice all of the green onion(s), then mince those slices until they are quite fine. Stir veggies into meat mix. You want to have about a ½ and ½ combination of squash and meat, and it’s okay if you have some leftover meat or squash. I’m sure cooking it up in a pan would make a tasty snack for some other time.
For the dumpling dough, use 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of warm water (1 small-ish mug is perfect). You don’t want the water to be too hot, just warm. Combine the water and flour in a large mixing bowl and mix on speed 1 for 10 minutes. If the dough isn’t forming a nice ball in the bowl, add a bit of water. If it looks too runny, add a bit of flour.
This is where it gets a bit harder to explain (don’t forget the video if you need some visual help).
Take off a hunk of the dough (about ¼ of the dough) and begin to roll it out with your hands. You want to end up with a cylindrical roll that’s about 1 inch thick. You can pull the roll a bit to make it thin out quickly, so you’ll pull and roll until you get the cylinder that you want.
When you have a cylinder of dough that’s about 1 inch thick, cut off slices that are about ¾ inch thick. Smush them on the counter so that they look like little dough coins, then roll those out until they’re roughly round pasta-like pieces (so pretty thin).
Fill the dough rounds with the meat and veggie mixture and squish the edges together. The fun thing about this is that you can make different shaped dumplings depending on how you pinch the edges together. Obviously, mine weren’t as pretty as Mana’s, but it was still really fun. And mine ate just fine.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of non-stick skillet on high heat, then place dumplings in the pan close to each other with the wide, filled side on the bottom (pinched side on top). It’s really okay if they’re crowded in the pan. Cover the pan with a lid. When the oil pops (2-3 minutes?), add about ½ a cup of water to the bottom of the pan and cover again, turning the heat down to medium low. After a few more minutes, flip dumplings over to cook on another side. After you’ve cooked two sides, the inside should be fully cooked, and the outside has nice areas of crunch. Perfect!
Now all you have to do is make a dipping sauce and dive in. Use as much soy sauce as you would like (low-sodium for me), add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, and dip.
I don’t think I can praise these dumplings enough. Scott had them once over ten years ago and never forgot them. Of course, it helps that our dumpling teacher was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.