Monday, April 01, 2013

Chinese Dumplings - Pork Cabbage

Dumpling is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Years Eve celebration in the Northern parts of China, why you may ask? The shape of the dumpling resembles the shape of a Golden Sycee which was the highest currency back in days. The idea of eating Sycee-shape-liked dumpling during Chinese New Year Eve goes way back in tradition, the more you eat the more "Golden Sycee" you have in your belly and therefore the more gold/fortune you will have for the New Year.

It is very hard to provide this recipe as it has been handed down by word-of-mouth from generation to generation. The version I will provide here is more of a Northern Chinese styled dumplings.  You will find the dough, fillings, size and style of cooking differ from region to region. So I have tried to come up with more precise measurements as a recipe here.

I love dumplings as you can use a variety of combination as fillings. Traditionally dumplings or buns are "commoner" or "servants" food, as the fillings are made up of whatever they could find.  It is still a cheaper optioned Chinese food; with 12 of these babies I always have a satisfied belly.  Pork cabbage is the easiest choice - readily available ingredients, but if you can find yellow chives, OMG Pork with yellow chives as fillings are the bomb! Beef is usually with spring onions or garlic chives. As for vegetarian it becomes a little bit more complicated - in order to get that rich intense flavour and texture, it usually include Asian style scramble eggs (we called it egg flower - it is an ball shaped, approx. 5 mm in diameter), vermicelli, and loads of finely diced vegetables such as chives, cabbage and many other varieties. Seafood version is simple, add diced up prawns and mix it with the vegetarian fillings and voila!

The secret to the dumpling is adding water/stock to the filling - it is harder to do this step if you're making a vegetarian version, since the cellulose wall of the vegetable doesn't absorb water well. Hence when you make a vegetarian filling you add vermicelli, tofu and/or scrambled eggs.  Have fun making dumplings, it is a great group activities with friends and family, enjoy!

Pork and Cabbage Dumpling

4 cups flour
2 cups of water
(2:1 ratio of Flour to water)
Or you can just buy pre-made dough from your local Asian supermarket.

500g pork
¼ cabbaged, finely diced
250 mL water (or chicken stock)

Sauce (for 2 person)
2 tbsp of Soy sauce 
1 tbsp of Vinegar
Dash of sesame oil
1 finely diced garlic (optional coriander and/or chilly to give it more intense flavour)
1.      Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre of the flour, add all the water (2 cups) into the well.  Mix it with a chopstick/fork, once combined turn the dough onto a clean surface.
2.      Knead the dough (about 15 min) until smooth and shiny.  Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a dampen tea-towel and rest for 30 min in room temperature.  While the dough is resting, make the filling.
3.      Place the pork into a medium sized bowl and loosen the meat with a chopstick/fork by stirring it.  In small quantities, add a little bit of the water at a time and stir well.  Continue this step until all the water has been added.  Add the diced cabbage and mix well.  Cover and place in the fridge if not using it straightaway.  If you find the water has escaped from the meat after a little well, give it another mix and it should be fine. (This is the optional ginger step, I usually don’t add any, but if you do find the meat has quite a strong porky taste, add about 1 teaspoon of finely diced ginger and mix well)
4.      Flour a clean surface and turn the dough out and roll it out and then divide into quarters.  Return ¾ of the dough back to the bowl and cover with the tea towel.  Make sure the board and rolling pin is well floured.  Roll the dough out into a long rod approx. 2 cm diameter, cut the dough into smaller sections of 2 cm width.
5.      With your hands shape each small section of dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk with the palm of your hand.  Roll the dough flat with a rolling pin into a circular disk about 1-2 mm thickness (this is the step you would find easiest with an Asian style rolling pin but should be fine using the western styled pasty rolling pin).
6.      Add a generous teaspoon of filling and place in the centre of the circular disk dough, wet one semi-circle edge with water, fold the dough in half and make sure the edge is tightly sealed.  Repeat until all the dough or fillings are used up.
7.     You can either boil or pan-fried the dumplings or even steam them, the choice is yours.  If boiling, you know the dumpling is cooked once it floats on the surface.  Pan-fried – in a large cold pan, add about 1 tbsp of oil, arrange the dumplings so they not touching each other.  On a medium to high heat, wait until the pan has heated up, add about ½ cup of water and cover.  Once most of the water has evaporated, lift the lid away and cook until the bottom of the dumping is golden brown.
8.       Sauce – combine all the ingredients.  Enjoy!
Tip: for the dough, I usually add all but a little bit of the flour, as it is easier to add more flour to the dough then water when you adjust the dough during the kneading step. The dough should be a little bit moist and should not stick to your hand once you have kneaded it well.  When you first roll the dough out with the rolling pin, you should find the dough retract a little bit because of the gluten and this is a sign of good dough.  If yours do not do this, fear not, you still end up with delicious dumplings.

The sauce recipe provided here is only a guideline. Personally I like it with a lot of garlic and more vinegar, while other people would like some coriander or chilli in their sauce.  So mix it up and adjust it as you like.

Got a pasta machine at home?  You can put the dough through the pasta machine and then cut it out with a ~8 cm cookie cutter.  I usually put the dough through until quite thin, Setting 7 if people have that option on your pasta machine as well.

What to do with extra filling?  Make it into meat/vege patties. A little bit of oil in a frying pan and place it on medium heat. Roll the filling out into desire ball size and place it into the pan, flatten the ball out with a fork.  Pan-fry both sides until golden brown.

What to do with extra dough?  Roll it out into a big circular disk like 20cm in diameter, pan fry it in a non-stick pan in medium heat until golden brown.  You can then use it as a wrap as it is, or you can further steam the dough so it becomes a softer wrap like the pancake they use in Peking Duck.

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