I love dumplings.
All dumplings, everyday. I sometimes try and figure out which dumplings I am most loyal to and fail miserably. I must say I often start Asian, is this because I am Jewish and we seem to have an eternal bond with Chinese food? I love Shanghai dumplings, the little tiny soup filled ones I think are my favourite. I am always amazed that they squirt hot liquid into your mouth and yet how delicate the wrappers are. Do you think it is neat that the Chinese take solid cubes of highly flavoured broth, wrap it up, steam it and it doesn’t break? Incredible. Oh, and that vinegar dip that cuts through the richness. That perfect yin and yang.
Then there are Taiwanese morsels filled to the max with that cool surf and turf of shrimp and pork loaded with ginger and garlic, or the Northern ones with rich lamb. I like the quick easy start to making dumplings with wonton wrappers. These make quick work of dumpling making and thus you want to make them again and again. Stored carefully in the freezer these little babies can be pulled out asa tasty quick appetizer either steamed of fried.
For the filling you will need:
- 2 cups of finely sliced napa cabbage with the outer leaves removed
- sea salt
- 12 oz lean ground pork, preferably local and organic
- 8 oz sustainable peeled deveined, coarsely chopped shrimp
- 3 medium scallions, top and base removed as well as outer leaves, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbls Chinese rice wine, sherry or white wine will do
- 1 tbls freshly grated ginger, outer skin removed
- 1 tbls soy
- 1 tbls sesame oil
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 or 2 packages wonton wrappers
In a medium bowl, toss cabbage with 2 tsp of salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. This will help remove the water content so your dumplings won’t be soggy. Once this is done squeeze out as much moisture as you can and lay on a paper towel to absorb any moisture left.
In a large bowl, toss everything together including the cabbage, mix well and let rest in the fridge or 20 minutes.
This is important as it allows all the flavours to come together.
A quick way to make all this work for you is to start with the cabbage, as it is draining work on the rest of the chopping. A food processor can make quick work of the shrimp if you don’t want to chop it by hand.
To assemble have a small bowl of warm water. This will help seal the edges. Wonton wrappers can dry out so work quickly laying out 10 at a time. Cover the rest with a towel to keep moisture in.
Whether they are circles or squares place filling just below the mid line, just a teaspoon or they will not pinch shut and will explode…a very bad plan. Once filled, dip your index finger in the water. Run the water along the edge. Pick up the dumpling and squeeze shut. Really pinch shut and lay on a baking sheet covered with a towel. Continue this process until the entire filling is used up. If you have taken care with the wrappers they can be placed in a freezer bag to use next time.
My favourite way to cook these is in a pot with a bamboo steamer and a bit of parchment to prevent sticking. Bring the water to a boil, top with the steamer filled with dumpling and cook for aprox 3 minutes. Remove and serve with an easy dipping sauce of red Chinese vinegar and tiny strips of julienned ginger.
These dumplings as I said earlier freeze wonderfully. Line a baking sheet with either wax or parchment paper. Freeze the dumplings. Once they are frozen they can be packed into a freezer bag. Do try and make sure that nothing in the freezer is on top of them as they are still delicate.
These wonton wrappers also make another favourite dumpling of mine. This one is from Italy. Ravioli with pumpkin or squash. These ravioli have far less ingredients so the recipe will certainly seem a little easier.
You will need:
- Roasted squash or pumpkin
- Amaretti cookies
- 1 tbls Butter
- 2 tbls Olive oil
- Freshly washed sage leaves
- Half a lemon
- Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees F
Roast a butternut squash or small pumpkin by washing it, cutting it in half and removing the seeds. Rub the inside and out with olive oil and sea salt and pepper in the inside cavity.
Place on the parchment lined baking sheet and roast until very tender, aprox 30 minutes. Remove to cool.
This part is a bit by feel and really depends on how moist your squash is. In a medium bowl, scoop out the squash and mash. Add to the squash crumbled cookies until the mixture is quite tacky, a little less dense than a dough.
Following the same procedure for the Chinese dumplings make the ravioli. Or if you prefer to make them larger, place the filling in the middle of one wrapper, brush with water and top with another wrapper, still pinching super well. Again, these freeze very well.
I like to place these in a fairly straight-sided sauté pan filled with boiling salted water. Try and give them a little room so they do not stick. They are quite delicate so handle them carefully. While these come to a boil, in another sauté pan add butter and olive oil and heat. Toss in sage leaves to crisp, with a slotted spoon and a dish towel remove ravioli one at a time, tamp down on the dish towel and slide into the butter mixture. Repeat until all the ravioli are in the butter. Heat, give a good squeeze of lemon and serve.
Dumplings abound and there are ones that are a little more difficult to make but only because you must work with dough. Most dumpling dough resemble pasta dough so are quite forgiving. Perogies filled with sharp cheddar and mashed potatoes sautéed in brown onions, Jewish kreplach with chicken liver filling and served in hot bowls of chicken soup, apple blossoms..sweet apples in a flaky pastry.
The fun with puff pastry filled dumplings is that they can be a easy as getting good puff pastry already made form a local bakery and making lunch or dinner pockets.
At this time of year we almost always have leftover turkey.
How about a filling of chopped turkey Mexican style sautéed with cumin, diced onions, red peppers and corn, heaped with a queso fresco, feta or ricotta salata?
Roasted bbef in a red wine sauce thickened with a bit of roux and smothered in fried onions and assorted mushrooms?
Vegetarians can rejoice in a filling of leftover sweet potato Indian spiced with peas, onions and zucchini.
My last suggestion plays with phyllo.
A simple traditional filling or lets also try a not so traditional one.
You will need:
- 1 package of phyllo
- Filling 1
- 3 bunches of well washed, steamed, cooled, squeezed dry and chopped spinach
- 1 bunch of well washed, chopped fresh dill
- 500g Greek feta
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp nutmeg, if you have an actual nut even better.
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients together and set aside
Filling 2 is exactly the same as 1 transferring the spinach to pureed roasted beets, aprox 4 cups.
Phyllo, like wontons dries out very quickly so again follow the proceedures to keep it protected and moist. You will need aprox 2 cups of equal parts melted butter and olive oil.
On a clean dry work surface lay out 1 sheet of phyllo, brush with butter mixture and repeat 3 times. Now, there are a ton of ways of making these; little purses, triangles, bigger bundles like the pies we chatted about of in a strudel form. Sort of a super large dumpling, ya work with me.
Lay the phyllo sheets so you have the wider end against you. Now fill with 3 inches of filling all the way along but leaving 1 ½ inches on either side. Start to roll away from you tucking as you go. Once you have gone once around tuck in the 2 ends towards the middle sealing the whole log. Just before you finish brush the end with butter to seal it shut. Now, do the same with the outside of the entire log.
Bake at 350f for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Try the different sizes. It is tons of fun. I also think the Ravioli filling would be just great as well.
As always, please let me know your thoughts. If you would like me to write about anything in particular don’t hesitate to ask and I will do my best to accommodate.