Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Around the World in Dumplings

I have long contended that human beings are more alike than they are different. And food is a perfect way to examine our connections. Since starting this blog, I have been trying to decide what I could do each month that would be fun and interesting. And since I teach, maybe a little educational.

I like the idea of exploring the culture of others. Culture should not only be preserved, but shared. We can all grow and learn from each other. The world is becoming more interconnected and all of us need to become global citizens and gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for how the rest of the world lives. Food is one way to explore culture.

I am going to begin this journey with dumplings. Why? Because I like dumplings; they’re cute, homey and comfortable. There are many kinds of dumplings. There are Asian dumplings. The Italians have gnocchi, a potato or ricotta cheese dumpling. The Germans have spaetzle. And finally don’t forget good ole fashioned chicken and dumplings. I will be using this blog to talk about dumplings. On the third Monday of each month, I will present a new dumpling.

All dumplings are some variation of cooked dough. They can be made from flour, potato, or matzoh meal. They can be dropped or rolled (gnocchi) or filled (Asian dumplings). They can be sweet (apple) or savory (chicken and dumplings). They can be a part of a stew or soup, a side dish. They can even be served for dessert.

I am going to start with Chinese dumplings. I have long wanted to learn to make Chinese dumplings. My graduate student, Liz, taught me to make them. Thanks Liz for sharing your culture.

Chinese Dumplings

1 pound lean ground meat (pork, beef, turkey or chicken)
¼ cup finely chopped green onions, with tops
¼ cup shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1Tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 Tablespoons sesame oil
Dash white pepper
Skin: 40 won ton wrappers

1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in very hot water for 5 minutes. Then squeeze out the excess moisture and minced mushrooms.
2. In a large bowl, mix mushrooms, meat, green onions, ginger, garlic, wine, cornstarch, pepper, sugar, salt, sesame oil, and the white pepper.

Folding the dumplings:
1. With your finger spread water to wash around the edge of the wrapper. Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle. (Be careful not to put too much; it'll leek out during the folding process.)
2. Pinch the edge of the wrapper and make a fold like you see in Step 2. (If you're a beginner at folding, place the wrapper on a flat surface while you work. Otherwise, keep it in your hand.)
3. Make 2 more identical folds in the same direction, until you end up with 3 folds, as shown in Step 3. 4. Bring the folded side together with the no-folds side, and press to seal. Repeat the process with the remaining won ton wrappers.

Note: Either won ton wrappers or gyoza wrappers can be used to make dumplings.  

Cooking procedures:
1. Heat a wok or nonstick skillet until very hot.
2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, tilting the wok to coat the sides.
3. Place 12 dumplings in a single layer in the wok and fry 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. 4. Add ½ cup water. Cover and cook 6 to 7 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. 5. Repeat with the remaining dumplings.

Chinese Dipping Sauce
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 Tablespoons red wine or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
2 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sugar or brown sugar, or to taste
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger

Combine all ingredients. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 hour to give flavors a chance to blend.

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