(***Update March 22, 2011: The author of Asian Dumplings, Andrea Ngyuen, has mentioned this blog post on HER blog at http://www.asiandumplingtips.com/2011/03/tester-contribution-how-to-throw-a-dumpling-cook-off-party.html Cheers! And thanks!)
So after my first mention of dumplings…Dumple Dumple: Toronto’s Best Dumpling House..and my restaurant review…I went for a meal of dumplings. Again. Dumpling fever…it never ends!
And THEN…I came across an awesome idea in a neighbourhood wordpress blog that I had to share!
You invite a number of friends over and request that each of them bring along ingredients to make dumplings; the flavour being completely up to them. Rather than re-type the whole idea and instructions, I suggest you simply click on the link above. Soozling has done an amazing job describing the idea, chronologically for those of us who really like to plan! One day, I would love to host such a party. Unfortunately, my present kitchen only fits two people comfortably (although we have fit 5 or 6 during a party! lol) so a dumpling party of proper magnitude would be difficult. Instead, I guess I’ll have to satisfy my dumpling craving by eating at the Dumpling House every so often and….by making my own dumplings!
Yep, I attempted dumplings for the first time and it was awesome!
I have to again mention my fellow blogger, Soozling, again as she reviewed the book that inspired my dumpling adventure! Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen Awesome book! I chose a recipe to try and it was so easy to follow, albeit a lot of work. I have decided to purchase the book and add it to my ever-growing collection of cookbooks. I would also recommend the book to anyone interested in learning to make dumplings (spring rolls, wontons, samosas, etc). If I can do it…a complete and utter newbie at cooking in general…YOU most definitely can!
(I have to apologize ahead of time for some of the pictures in this post. Lighting wasn’t the best, causing many of my pictures to be quite grainy.)
To start, the recipe called for blanching the bean sprouts, so I put on the water and began chopping up the green and yellow onions while I waited for it to boil. The recipe actually called for scallions, but our grocery store only had green onions. A little online research informed me that not only are scallions and green onions pretty much twins, but a couple of websites suggested they *are* the same thing, so I went with it.
Chopped Green Onion
Once the water came to a boil, I dropped in my cup of bean sprouts. Actually it was a handful of bean sprouts since B didn’t have any measuring cups. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s awesome! You didn’t measure! You let go of your anal-retentive attention to detail! Congrats!”
I suppose I did. But on the other hand, have you ever tried to measure out an actual CUP of bean sprouts? Do you stand them up on end so they look like a cupful of bean-y turf? Pack ’em down like brown sugar?
A Cup of Bean Sprouts?
They just aren’t cup friendly. They stick out all over the place like that cup of french fries you get at New York Fries…you know the one…where you start eating and suddenly you find this hollow centre at the bottom. A hollow space that could have fit another dozen fries which YOU actually paid for!
Um…yeah…I’m a little bitter.
So rather than try to stuff those rebellious sprouts into a cup, I decided a fistful was equivalent to a cup. Done.
I’m pretty proud of the fact that I knew what blanching was. Didn’t have to look it up! The recipe said very specifically that once you dropped the sprouts in the boiling water, it would be a short amount of time (20 seconds or so) and then they’d be done. They only needed to boil long enough to soften slightly. So I stood by, testing them with a spoon. Once they softened, I drained them, rinsed them twice with cold water and chopped them into pieces about 1/4″ long.
Blanching Bean Sprouts
Blanched & Chopped Bean Sprouts
After the sprouts, I had to deal with firm tofu, another ingredient I have never used before. Fairly straightforward, after the exploding tofu juice incident that is.
They fill those containers right to the brim, don’t they? I pulled open the top and tofu juice kind of went *FOOM* for lack of a better adjective. Anyway, once I cleaned up that little explosion, I simply crumbled up the tofu with my hands and added it to the sprouts.
Bean Sprouts and Crumbled Tofu
Added the garlic and ground pork, followed by grating the ginger. (At which point I was warned to “Be sure to wash your hands after handling ginger…*especially* if you’re heading to the washroom!” So noted, so done.)
With all the ingredients added, I added the sauce (a mix of soy, sesame oil, pepper and salt) and mashed up the filling with a fork until it was well-mixed.
At this point it was smelling SO good! I covered the bowl and let the mixture sit for about half and hour, letting the flavours mingle and get to know each other 🙂 Then I pulled out my handy-dandy dumpling wrappers!
The book contains a chapter on making your own dumpling wrappers, which I think one day I would like to try, but being a newbie at the whole process, I decided that I would simplify my first dumpling attempt by buying pre-made wrappers. B picked them up at a Korean market in Toronto, 40 wrappers to a pack, and I found them so simple to use, and so yummy to eat!
One tablespoon of filling placed just off centre started the process. Sealing them shut required some water. I kept a cup of water nearby, dipping my index finger and running it around the outer edge of the wrapper which worked like a glue, holding the dumpling closed.
Placing the filling on the dumpling wrapper
Awwww! Such a cute lil' dumpling!
The book said the recipe I was using would make 32 dumplings. I was able to make 40 with another 3 or 4 tbsp of filling leftover. In hindsight, I probably could have stuffed more filling in a few of them…ah well.
I had some time to kill before cooking them for dinner so I placed each layer of finished dumplings on wax paper, one layer on top of another, and put them in the fridge. They weren’t in there for very long, probably half an hour or so, but the dumplings on top, which I had left uncovered, had already started to dry out. So, if you are going to refrigerate them for a bit, be sure to wrap them in cling wrap or something. Also, ensure they aren’t touching each other. The wrappers weren’t the least bit sticky while I worked with them but they stuck to the wax paper when I tried to remove them later on, so I can only imagine the mess had my dumplings stuck to each other!
Ready to Cook!
After dinner, we decided to freeze the remaining dumplings. I placed the tray in the freezer exactly as you see it in the above picture for about an hour. Once the dumplings were frozen, I then transferred them to a container and returned them to the freezer. Again, this just ensures that they don’t stick together.
The cooking process was fun, involving some new techniques that I had never used before. The book called for panfrying so the process began…with a deep wok:
The recipe didn’t specify to use a deep pan, rather it referred to a non-stick skillet, but I suggest a deep pan of some kind and you will soon see why.
Next, I heated up the oil…just enough to cover the bottom.
Lil' bit of oil
Once the oil was hot…(How do YOU tell if your oil is hot enough? I splashed a couple drops of water into the wok and when it sizzled, I assumed it was ready.)...I added the dumplings. The book specifically said they shouldn’t touch in the pan but I sort of overlooked that part, on purpose.
Fried them on two sides, each for a couple of minutes…and then, the fun part!
I wanted to have a video of this part of the process to share but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out. Therefore, my lovely way with words will have to do.
After cooking the dumplings on two sides, the recipe called for adding water until it was about 1/4″ deep. Even I know that randomly dumping rogue water into hot oil is a bad, bad plan without some precautions…thus, the deep wok! I filled a kettle with water and removed the lid just enough to be able to pour the water in. It was pretty amazing to behold, oil and water snapping and popping everywhere. In hindsight, it sounded a bit like popcorn.
I haven’t been able to find an explanation for the use of the water. It definitely kept the dumplings moist and gave them a nice texture…I also thought that perhaps the water helps stretch out the cooking time so that the meat is well-cooked…but I haven’t been able to find an actual explanation. Anyone know why so many books call for water when cooking dumplings? Just a traditional thing or is there practical reasons for it?
Anyway, once you’ve added the water, you leave it on medium heat until the water has boiled away and you’re left with sizzling dumplings. Let them cook a tiny bit longer until they are a nice golden brown!
They were absolutely delicious and I have to say that I was feeling quite proud of myself afterward! (I also made the dipping sauce, which is included in the recipe below!)
Finished Dumplings! Nom nom nom!
Korean Meat and Vegetable Dumplings**
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 6 oz firm tofu
- 2 large green onions (white and pale green parts, reserve dark green for dipping sauce), finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- ½ lb lean ground pork (the original recipe suggested ground beef as an option)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 pkg dumpling wrappers (I used up a package of 40)
Korean Dipping Sauce
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Optional Additions (I didn’t use any of these, but feel free!)
- 2 tsp garlic
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 small scallion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 med-hot chile, thinly sliced
Serving: 40ish dumplings (I was able to make 40 dumplings with this recipe, even though the book said it would make 32. In hindsight, some could have used a bit more filling. Ah well.)
- If your dumpling wrappers are frozen, be sure to remove them from the freezer and give them time to thaw.
- Blanch the bean sprouts in a pot of boiling water until they are no longer stiff, approx 30 seconds or so. Drain and rinse with cold water a couple of times, squeezing out any remaining liquid. Chop into lengths of approximately 1/4″. Place in a medium sized bowl
- Crumble the tofu into the bowl with the sprouts, mashing up any chunks. I used my hands, seemed the easiest way to do it. 😉
- Add the green and yellow onion, garlic, ginger and meat. Stir an mash until the filling is evenly mixed.
- In another smaller bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce. Pour this in to the filling mixture and continue to mash all together, evenly distributing the ingredients and the added sauce throughout. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. This will allow the various flavours to mix together. (You can also refrigerate the mixture overnight if you wish.)
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper (or parchment paper) on which to place the dumplings. If you plan to refrigerate or freeze them, add a bit of flour to the paper to avoid their sticking.
- Scoop approximately a tablespoon of filling onto a dumpling wrapper, placing it slightly off-center towards to the top.
- Keep a cup of water nearby and after spooning the mixture onto the wrapper (or before…your call) dip your finger in the water and wet the edge around the wrapper. This will work as a glue to seal the dumpling closed.
- Gently fold the wrapper in half and pinch it closed. (There are various folds and pleats you can use to create a stylish dumpling…none of which I know…I simply pinched them closed into a half-moon shape.
- Place them on the wax/parchment paper, layering sheet on top as needed.
- If refrigerating before cooking, cover the dumplings with plastic wrap or some other type of covering, else they will dry out quite quickly. (If freezing, cover and place them as they are in the freezer for approximately an hour. Then, you can place them into a container without worry that they’ll stick together.)
- Use a deep pan or wok with a lid (or plan to use aluminum foil as a cover). Heat it over med-high heat and add enough oil to film the bottom.
- Add the dumplings on their side, not allowing them to touch. Fry them for a couple of minutes, until they are golden brown on one side and then flip and do the same t other side.
- Holding the lid almost completely over the skillet/wok, add water to the pan to a depth of about 1/4″. The oil/water mixture will begin to spit and bubble so be ready to replace the lid asap. Lower the heat to medium and allow the dumplings to cook until the water has boiled away. (I removed the lid a few times during this process to allow steam to escape and reduce condensation.)
- Once the water has mostly evaporated (approx 6-8 minutes or so), the dumplings will begin to sizzle. Allow them to cook another couple of minutes, browning any remaining sides if you wish.
- Serve with dipping sauce (recipe above…simply mix together in a bowl, adjusting for taste).
**Recipe taken from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen NOTE: Any differences between the recipe in the book and the one posted here are all my own based on my cooking experience. For detailed instructions and more background explanations, I recommend checking out the book!