The Ugly Dumpling Begins

This blog, simply, is about food. About procuring and preparing and consuming, whether at a food stall in a crowded soi in Bangkok, Thailand, (where I was until a few months ago) or in a quiet kitchen in Boulder, Colorado (where I am now).

The title of this blog comes from the dumplings I made last week. My friend Xiang Yi Zhang gave me her family recipe and taught me how to make them in Bangkok. We had several alcohol-fueled dumpling parties, and somewhere there are pictures of inebriated expats covered in flour and wearing Hello Kitty aprons.

Here is Xiang Yi’s recipe, followed by my elaboration:

Filling:
Pork mince (1lb will feed 4)
Chives (ratio; pork : chives = 2 : 1)
Salt, pepper to taste
Oil – any, but sesame has flavour if you like it, otherwise, any veg oil – 1tblspn
Optional – pounded coriander root, ginger (5 roots, 1 inch cube ginger)
Wrap: Flour and water, stiff dough is best
Dipping sauces – Chinese vinegar with chopped/pounded ginger, coriander root, garlic, chilli, spring onion, coriander (cilantro) leaves – all to taste. Combination of any is OK.
Dip bottom of dumplings in oil then place in medium heat pan. Brown, then add enough water to generate steam for 5-10 minutes. Dumplings take around 20 minutes to cook through.

XYZ says “Chinese chives” are essential to the recipe. These are also known as garlic chives, nira and by other names. I didn’t have any, so I used finely diced white onion and some green onion as well. I mixed the onions and pork with minced garlic, salt and pepper, finely chopped fresh ginger and dark sesame oil, and let it marinate for half an hour or so.

Store-bought wrappers are easy to come by, but making them by hand isn’t difficult, and it’s a lot cheaper. Xiang Yi just eyeballed a mixture of flour and water, but I used this recipe (with room-temperature water) and my food processor.

I cheated with dipping sauce, using a few tablespoons of prepared chilli paste purchased from Xiong Farms at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. The paste is just chillis, onion, garlic, fish sauce and sugar. Thinned with some soy sauce and a little sesame oil and topped with some fresh cilantro, it’s perfect for quick dip.

Folding and sealing the dumplings was the hard part, and that’s where the practice will come in. Mine stayed sealed, but I wanted those pretty little ruched folds of dough, and that didn’t happen. And thus The Ugly Dumpling was born.

I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep writing. And maybe next time, I’ll spring for the Dumpling Master 3000.

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