City Adventures

The Art of the Dumpling

When I say “Dumplings” the first thing that probably comes to mind, as it does for most, is Peking Ravioli. You know, the ones you buy from the terribly inauthentic Chinese food place down the road that delivers until 2am and offers french fries as one of their top three appetizers items.

Dumplings are so much more than this. Yes, Asian cuisine has a plethora of dumplings and they are all incredibly delicious and perhaps, are my favorite kind of dumpling. However, the term “Dumpling” can be used universally throughout multiple cultures to describe an item of food. Today however, we are gonna focus on the Asian kind.

Chinatown intimidates the hell out of me. Although smaller than most Chinatown’s in other cities, it’s a section of town that is only a few blocks wide and deep and it’s crammed with restaurants, there seem to be 400 people on the sidewalks at all times and there is always a traffic jam somewhere. The restaurants are  similar in a lot of ways; most of them offer beautiful visuals of the meals they serve on their windows and walls. There also seems to be one bakery for every three savory restaurants. All offering beautifully packaged treats that look nothing like anything I have ever had. Even with the visuals posted in most restaurants,I admit that on my own, I would not have a clue of what to order or where to go.

Enter my friend Alan! Alan paid me a surprise visit this week for lunch, which meant lunch at the amazing Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown. If you are ever in Chinatown and looking for a quick, hot amazing meal, Gourmet Dumpling House is my recommendation.

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Alan is the reason I am obsessed with Asian style dumplings. About three years ago he took me to Chinatown for my first authentic Chinatown meal and my first dumpling experience. Which, included the holy grail of dumplings: Soup Dumplings! Yes, it also always includes my non-dumpling obsession: Scallion Pancakes.

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Soup dumplings are magical little pouches of steamed dough filled with spiced meat (normally pork) and savory broth. After biting into my first one and having my savory broth spill out everywhere, I was quickly taught the right way to eat soup dumplings:

  1. Pick dumpling up at the seam of the dough with your chopsticks and place it in your spoon.
  2. Lifting the dumpling up slightly, bite a hole in the side of the dumpling, letting the broth spill out into your spoon.
  3. Stuff remaining dumpling into your mouth and then drink remaining broth.
  4. Repeat!

Coincidentally this weekend I am teaching a class on Dumplings! My class will be focused more on dumplings from around the world (think empanadas and gnoochi). To get ready for the class I went ahead and made all the recipes at home to see how they would turn out. I will be doing a recap of those recipes next week since they all came out pretty good. Often when I teach, I find some of the recipes to be lacking flavor or balance of ingredients so if I can recipe test them before class, I can make any adjustments I need to make sure they come out perfect. I am still getting used to teaching savory classes, so the more practice I get with the recipes, the better.

Sticking with our Asian theme and after a few changes, I wanted to share this recipe for Pork and Shitake Shumai. It’s a play on a recipe we are doing in class. For a healthier version you could use ground turkey or chicken, although pork is very classic.

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If you have never made dumplings before, this one of the easiest recipes you could make. Buying wonton wrappers not only saves you time from making a dough, they are also light and chewy in texture and do not easily wrap while assembling them. You will need to buy a Bamboo Steamer to cook these properly. Sur La Table offers a mini steamer and a regular size steamer which is great depending on how much space you have in your kitchen!

Good Luck and Happy Eating!

-K

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