Sometimes I think I’m a better cook than I actually am. Since I’m totally self-taught, I really only cook by recipes. I’m really good at following directions which make me a good executioner but I don’t have the vision that most chefs have, the instinctual playfulness of pairing ingredients together that creates a spectacular flavor spectrum. Baking and deserts completely intimidate me and making anything from scratch is just not in my repertoire. So I’ve never baked my own bread, I’ve never made my own pasta, never made desserts without the help of my good ol buddy Duncan Hines.
I know it’s all shameful. I call myself a food blogger but am lacking in some much-needed basic experience. But the blog has really motivated both Hilary and I to become better cooks. She took a bread making class and is now making her own tortillas even and me, well, it was time for me to step it up. With the Street food Ghetto-gether looming like a storm cloud in the near distance, I decide to sign up for my friend and professional chef Fong’s Asian Street Food workshop at http://cooking.dunyong.com/site/workshops/. But, alas, the class was all filled up and my hopes of impressing anyone at my own street food event by making dumplings was quickly shattered.
Until…Fong was nice enough to offer to do a private class for me! Wow! I can’t tell if it was just a sympathy offer or cause I think I’m a little mini celeb here with my blog (clearly misguided vision!) but obviously this had to be a class not just for me, so my amazing friend Katie Holder, the hostest with the mostest offered to hold it at her house and invited some of her and Fong’s friends for a very impromptu weeknight Dumpling making session complete with Katie’s delicious sesame noodles and a ton of wine.
Fong had brought all the goodies for the stuffing along with pre-made dumpling wrappers but also proposed making our own dumpling dough. Make our own dumpling dough?!? Jesus this is serious stuff. Well OK, I’m in to learn this since as previously stated I’ve avoided this kind of stuff like the plague before. So we divided up into choppers/ fillers, and wrapper makers. Turns out making dough was actually completely approachable for a newcomer like me and I got the hang of it rather quickly.
Everyone made their own filling ranging from Kimchi and Beef, to Tofu with kimchi, chives, scallion and ginger, to mushrooms with crispy radish, scallions, ginger, olives and tofu to half and half pork and beef with chili, radish, tofu and scallion.
Without having a recipe to follow I just started throwing different things in my bowl and mixing them up and tasting them, trying to identify a tasty mix, creating the kimchi tofu mix.
The “gezellig” (cozy) kitchen then turned into a serious dumpling making factory complete with cheap labor paid through glasses of wine. Joshua and Zoe were drinking wine out of straws and they hand manipulated the meat into little round balls of goodness that then I would pinch into a dumpling sack. We had pinchers and ballers, rollers and fillers, creating plate after plate of dumplings. Some balls were too heavy for the hand-made sacks, ending up as ugly dumplings, strewn to the side. But most, I gotta say were really pretty dumplings.
Fong showed us the variety of ways to make dumplings, by steaming them in the traditional bamboo dumpling steamer or pan frying or steaming in boiling water. I prefer the pan frying method (of course!) with their crispy skins and browned bottoms. We all tried to tell the difference between the fillings and most of us were convinced that we didn’t have any vege ones which stats would claim impossible. Maybe they were just as tasty as the meat ones.
Sliding back in my chair with my bloated dumpling belly set, thinking the party took an interesting turn, as Dita (who is opening an Italian Wine Bar here YAY!) and Joshua threw down an 8 mile Eminem rendition of a rap off. With lines from Dita like “I’m a Jew with no crew what can I do?” and Josh’s retort of “You can shut it before I cut it” I knew it was time to pack up the leftover dumpling ingredients take my stuffed self home.
Brimming with confidence from learning some of the inside outs of dumpling making from the talented Fong, I’m hoping I can pull it off again as I make them for the Street Food Ghetto-ghether and they don’t turn out to be The Ugly Dumpling!
CHINESE PAN FRIED DUMPLINGS:
2 Cups Flour
7/8 Cup Warm Water
Pinch of Salt
Mix Flour and Water with a little salt. Form the dough into a smooth ball. Check to see if it needs more flour. The ball should be pretty dry. If it’s not dry enough add more flour. Knead dough for 5 minutes Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover the dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Then pinch off a small part of the balled dough and roll it into an oblong pipe. Cut 1in pieces off the pipe shape and roll each piece into a circle about 3in in diameter.
*for a dough variation, you can make glutenous rice dough by using 1 1/4 cup of regular flour with 3/4 cup of Glutenous Rice Flour. It makes for a softer dough. You can also drain the kimchi liquid and replace some of the water with that liquid for a more orange dumpling
This could be whatever your heart desires! See above in the post for ideas. I really like the one with the following:
200g Half & Half Meat
1/2 green onion finely chopped
pinch of crispy radishes (located at select Chinese Stores like Dun Yong)
1 tsp minced ginger
Minced Tofu -as much as you like
pinch of minced red chili
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Create 1Tsb balls of the mixture and place in the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumplings.
Heat frying pan with olive oil. When hot fry the dumplings for about 7 minutes until crispy brown. Then lower heat and add 1/4 cup of water and immediately cover with lid. Steam for another 8-10min or until all the liquid has evaporated. Serve with dipping sauce!
Soy Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup Shoyu (or Soy Sauce)
1/2 cup Chinese black Vinegar (or rice wine if you can’t find)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp sliced scallion
Whisk together all of the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.