One of the best parts of living in the East Bay of San Francisco is the number of delicious foreign foods that are readily accessible. What’s even more exciting is living with people who grew up in other countries and know how to cook tasty, flavorful and authentic eats – a great way of bringing travel to you. Angela, one of my housemates, grew up in Taiwan and is a master at whipping up dumplings.
Her recipe will not disappoint. And if you’ve spent time on that side of the world, you will experience the added benefit of tastebud teleportation like I so often do.
One of my very first traveling experiences was a six-week trip to China the summer after my first year of college with a group from my university. The smells and tastes of dumplings always transport me back to a classroom in the heart of Hangzhou in eastern China, full of flour-dusted kindergarteners teaching us how to make these little foreign pockets full of flavor. Our teachers, sweet, adorable children who couldn’t understand our words – nor we their’s – were able to connect with us through the art of dumpling making.
^^ Saul, one of my travel mates, with one of our little dumpling teachers on that summer day in Hangzhou.
^^Save image above to print as a shopping list.
^^ Shaving the water chestnuts. To add an authentic flare, use a super huge butcher knife, a necessity of any true Chinese chef.
Prepping: Shave off the skin of the turnips and water chestnuts. Mince the chestnuts, turnips, cabbage, chives and pork to very tiny bits (keep all separate).
^^ The key to authenticity is very, very small pieces. Once you think you’re done mincing, mince it again!
Mixing: In bowl 1, mix together the chives, chestnuts and half of the pork. In bowl 2, mix together the cabbage, turnips and the remaining half of the pork.
Seasoning: In each bowl, squirt in soy sauce and sesame oil (we just eyeball it). You can always cook a few testers and season to taste. Stir it up ‘real good’ now.
Folding: Cover your workspace in a layer of flour. With a teaspoon, scoop a ball of filling (from either bowl) into the center of a dumpling wrapper. Dip your finger in your bowl of water and rub it against the inside edge of the dumpling wrapper, creating a 1-inch thick ring. Pinch together the wrapper, and then fold a small part between your thumb and index finger, working your way from the center to the end in three folds. Now only half of the dumpling should be folded. Start back at the middle and pinch / fold the other side with the same technique. It doesn’t really matter how you fold it, as long as you pinch it tight so it doesn’t come loose when boiling (or this will cause it to explode / fall apart in the water). Feel free to get creative with it, but try to minimize the amount of air that gets trapped in the dumpling by pinching firmly.
^^After you have the dumpling in a pizza-like shape, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
Cooking: Bring a large pot of water, about 50 perecent full, to a boil. After going one-by-one through each dumpling and repinching the folds (to ensure they are tightly pressed together), place your dumplings in the boiling water. When the dumplings float to the top, add cold water to the pot until it is 70% full. Let the water come to a boil again and wait until dumplings float to the top again. If the dumplings are not fully cooked through at this point, fill up the pot to 85% full, let the water come to a boil and wait until the dumplings float to the top a third time. Dumplings are almost always cooked all the way through after a 3X boil.
^^ My housemates, showing off their cute little dumplings of all shapes and sizes :-)
Chowing: Sprinkle on a little more soy sauce + sesame oil, grab some chop sticks and get chowing! If you have extra filling, throw it into some cooked rice and add some seasoning, eggs and veggies for a delicious dumpling-inspired fried rice dish.