A few weeks ago, a local church did a reverse offering (yeah, they even made national headlines!). They passed a bucket around and everyone withdrew an envelope. In that envelope was either a $10, $20, or $50 bill. The goal was to invest that “seed” money to help the town of Manville recover from Hurricane Irene. A kid who I tutor decided to use his money to register for a 5k and solicit donations from family and friends. His six year old brother used his money to buy blank cardstock and make Christmas cards to sell. Vicky and Will decided to host a “How to make dumplings” session and charge a modest tuition fee. You have to admit, all of these ideas are pretty darn awesome.
Overall, we had a blast. Someone else used their money to buy Sangria for the event and after the tutorial, we all gathered around to make 500+ dumplings for the volunteer event on October 22. These dumplings will be feeding those volunteers. 500 may sound like an obscene number, but with five-six people working on the task, it really didn’t take as long as you’d think.
If you like what you see here or are feeling that stir of generosity within you, please donate to the cause! All proceeds will be donated to the effort of your choosing! And if you’re wondering, yes, your donations are tax deductible. Plus, help spread the word by sharing this blog post. All ad revenue this month will be going towards the cause too!
There are several tips and comments I took away from the class:
- I’ve been holding a cutting knife wrong my whole life. Isn’t that sad? And I’m supposed to know what I’m doing since I run this blog. Anyway, observe the photo above. See how Will’s (he’s a righty) thumb grips the left side of the handle while his index finger protrudes to the blade? The rest of his fingers are wrapped tightly around the handle. This gives you a solid grip with enough force to chop vegetables.
- When chopping vegetables, you want to think ‘LIGHT’ AND ‘DELICATE.’ Don’t smash the living daylights out of the cabbage or chives. Gorden Ramsey has an awesome video on how you should ‘respect’ herbs rather than bruise them like most of us do. Here’s Gordon’s video on how to chop herbs. He features the “baahhh-sil.”
- When chopping herbs or vegetables, you want to tuck your fingers inwards. This means your front three nails are doing a face-plant (sorry, that was wrong; from Mr. William himself: “Your Ring and Middle finger hold the food, typically with the nails for grip. The thumb and last 2 fingers hold the food together on the sides. The knife sits against the either the knuckle or the flat part of the finger above the first knuckle.” ) Gordon also gives a brief 101 on this point in that video.
- When using chives, try to get chive flowers. Not only do they have the flower tips (which you can definitely chop up and include in your mix) but they have round and swirling stems. Compared to regular flat chives, these are more fragrant.
- To get those beautiful folds in the dumplings, scroll down in to the recipe for the technique.
The one main observation that left me baffled was the combination of Napa cabbage and chives in this recipe. My mother, who is Taiwanese, always separates the two vegetables so it was interesting that this recipe incorporated both. I had a quick bite of a dumpling, which tasted great, but my question to you guys out there is- Is there a difference between Taiwanese dumplings and Cantonese dumplings? I also asked a coworker, whose family is from Taiwan, and she said that she never saw both in the same recipe. I tried to do some digging on the web but didn’t find much. There was an Epicurious recipe that incorporated both, but most other recipes had either one or the other.
So without further ado, here’s the recipe!
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/4 pound Napa cabbage (3-4 leaves)
- 1/4 pound chive flowers (a small bundle)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
- Package of dumpling wrappers from the Asian store
(If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also make your own wrappers from scratch. All you need is all-purpose flour and water! Here’s a previous blog post explaining the process with step-by-step photos!)
Dice the Napa cabbage and chives very finely. When I say finely, I mean they should be 1cm by 1cm. Then, mix the ground pork and diced cabbage and chives in a bowl. Make sure the pork and vegetables are evenly distributed. Season the mixture with salt, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Remember not to knead but rather mix well.
(Set aside a small cup of water)
Take a wrapper and place it flat on the palm of your hand. Then, spoon a generous portion of the mix onto the middle of the wrapper. Be sure you don’t put too much or else you won’t be able to seal it. Dip your index finger into the water and coat the rim of the wrapper with the water. It should look like the photo below.
Now, it’s time to seal and fold the dumpling. Carefully bring the bottom end of the wrapper to the top so that you get a semi-circle. This is where it gets a bit tricky. Because there’s water on the wrapper, the dough will stick to each other if you’re not careful and you won’t be able to get those perfectly folded designs. To prevent that, you want to insert your index finger between the two wrappers. Ultimately, you’re thumb should be facing towards you, the index finger should be in between the wrapper, and your middle finger should be supporting the wrapper on the other side. Think about pointing your index and middle finger to the left (if you’re a righty) with your thumb pinching the index finger.
After, you want to deftly make creases from the left to the right side. It’s like folding paper when you were a kid to make “springs.” The folds are only on one side of the dumpling. Notice how the backside of the dumplings look plain but the front side, if you observe closely, has folds. Make sure you seal the dumpling tightly or else it’ll leak when you cook it.
Cooking the dumplings:
Boiling: Add enough in a pot for dumplings to move freely. After the water comes to a rolling boil, season the water with salt. Then, add enough frozen dumplings to not crowd the pot. Stir gently to ensure the dumplings don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. You’ll want to cook them for about 10-15 minutes. Typically, when the dumplings rise, that’s when you know it’s done. The skins in the dumplings should be pulled close to the filling and the filling should be firm to touch. To be completely sure, open one dumpling to sample.
Frying: (Um, everything tastes better fried!) Use a non-stick frying pan over a medium flame and coat the pan with oil. Add the frozen dumplings but leave room between each so that they don’t touch one another as they cook. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Check the pan every 5 minutes to see if the water is dry. If so, lower the flame slightly and add more water and cover. Continue this for 20 minutes or when dumplings are cooked. When they’re done, leave them uncovered and cook off the remaining water. This will help them develop a slight crust on the bottom of the dumplings.