Sunday, June 14, 2009

Double Happiness Chinese Steamed Dumplings

I recently joined a blogging group on the web called The Daring Kitchen. The Daring Kitchen is the new sibling of the Daring Bakers, and they hold a monthly challenge to make something a little harder and more testing than the meals I usually find myself cooking. I was excited to join - I have watched the Daring Bakers making the most amazing cakes and pastries, but did not consider joining because there is a definite limit to the amount of sweets we would ever manage to make or consume in this house. The Daring Kitchen, however, looked exciting to me with its move into the savoury side of cooking.

So I was bracing myself for my first challenge, wondering whether I was about to be completely overwhelmed by what they would ask me to attempt. Instead, I was completely blessed by my first challenge: Chinese Dumplings. While I have never made them before, some of my family is Chinese, we eat Chinese food all the time, and dumplings are a particular favourite with the kids. In other words, I knew that what I made would get eaten, and I knew how it should look and taste. And as for the making itself, I had more fun doing this than you would imagine, but it is definitely something to do as a communal activity - next time I will line up the partner , friends or kids for an hour or two of this. The fillings are relatively simple to pull together, and they can sit in the fridge while the dough is being made. While I used the two suggested fillings, you could really let your imagination go and create anything here, or else just copy one or two of your favourite yum cha dumplings.

The dough was the revelation for me. It consists of only flour and water. No salt, no eggs, nor anything else. I used the food processor method described below, and wound up with a fairly hard lump of dough, which I kneaded then left to rest for 15 minutes. I then sliced it into strips, rolled the strips into sausages, and chopped the sausages into pieces (see pics below). Because it felt hard, I couldn't imagine that it would become pliable enough to fill, but it does. The whole process of rolling, filling and pleating is very satisfying. It made me feel incredibly satisfied - definite double happiness dumplings!

Chinese Dumplings
pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 wombok cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch


prawn filling:
225g raw prawns, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
225g ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup ginger, minced
1 cup water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional) - I used chopped fresh chilli
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and smooth to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Recipe note from the Daring Kitchen: Your 2 cups of flour should weigh 250g - some flour sits denser than others, so a cup measurement is not definitive. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of cabbage leaves on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes. (I used my steam oven and cooked for about 7 minutes).


Woman with a Whisk said...

Love your pleats! They look like little presents. Great job.

Anonymous said...

I've looked at this group and considered joining. I'm still considering.

These look terrific! I would have enjoyed taste testing.

Anonymous said...

You did an awesome job!

I still haven't managed to do both daring bakers and daring cooks in one month. It always creeps up on me!

I think I'll still try looks so good!

Melinda said...

Well done on your first challenge! Your dumplings look very professional and sound very tasty.

Jen Yu said...

Oh, those dumplings look so pretty. You did such a nice job with them and I'm really glad that after seeing and eating dumplings in the past, you are now an expert at making them. Yay!! Great job.

Andrea said...

Great job on your dumplings, they are perfect! I had so much fun with this challenge too, dumplings are the best :)

Wok Through the Fire said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your first Daring Cooks challenge. The dumplings look great! I'm a little nervous about next month's challenge!

Me! said...

Gorgeous! Great job making them.

Debinhawaii said...

Very impressed with the dumplings! They look so perfect!