I’d love to enthral you with one of my trade mark tales of reminiscence and offer you an insight into the paradoxical conundrum, the enigma wrapped in mystery that is the inner workings of my faltering psyche. Unfortunately I have no clear recollection of my first dumpling experience. No doubt it was a chance encounter at the bottom of a day old trough of red slop procured from an extraordinarily average excuse for a chinese “restaurant”.
You know the ones, big red signs, an over-the-top caricature of some powerful animal which is vaguely referenced in the absurdly poorly worded name of the establishment, which seldom has anything to do with food. Out of focus pictures of the food next to numbers by which to order, on the wall mounted menus as opposed to an actual description. You’ll find these wee gems in the heart of every back water hillbilly vomit town, and any self respecting suburban block of shops in the country. We’ve all been there, sampled their wares, and most have lived to tell the tale.
However humble an encounter by which I first came across these little bundles of joy, I think it is safe to say that I was duly impressed, if not obsessed! My love of dumplings has become so deeply profound as to even rival the passionate affection for my 1st food love, symbol of new zealand, my home land, the almighty meat pie! Upon reflection however these two pillars of culinary excellence share many of the same agreeable attributes. A soft, yielding pastry shell concealing a most precious cargo, of moist, unctuous, meaty filling, exploding orgasmic juices into your eager orifice with every indulgent bite!!!!
Sorry; like I said dumplings are pretty good. So good in fact that I have spent years testing (some would say binging) and perfecting a recipe for home consumption, so as to satisfy my dumpling lust at the slightest whim. I even spent a considerable portion of last year working in one of Melbourne’s premier dumpling dispensaries, just to get closer to the elusive secret of this pastry covered prize.
As any connoisseur will tell you however, not all dumplings are created equal! Let me say however, that although you would have to try pretty hard to produce an altogether bad dumpling, there are those that stand above the rest. In Auckland everyone has had a midnight hoon on the New Flavour restaurants offering, or even some of you intrepid eaters may have ventured a plate or two at the neighbouring Spicey House restaurant. While these all all fine examples of the craft and you will not find yourself wanting, a little known outfit in Mt Roskill, quietly takes the cake (or dumpling). Tianze Dumpling House crushes the competition with perfectly seasoned filling, light, delicate pastry and the best selection of condiments to match (condiments are not to be over looked, but are surely not the focus of this particular article), the best thing about this place is that the stench of pretentiousness, that unmistakable ‘hipster aroma’ is blissfuly lacking here at Tianze. With a menu that screams contemporary chinese classics, it won’t be long before the douche bags, and moustache fondlers find their way to this quaint eatery.
However, nothing I have ever had in NZ can compare the the undisputed heavy weight of dumpling domination, Shandong Mama. Nestled into an unassuming pocket in the Mid City Arcade, in the middle of melbourne’s bustling China Town. Shandong Mama is hands down the BEST SHIT EVER!!! But this is not your usual dumpling format. These crispy little beauties are folded at the sides like a taco and pinched together at the top leaving the filling exposed at either end. And what a filling it is! I’d prattle off their entire dumpling menu if you actually gave a shit, but the two highlights in my book have to be fried prawn, chive and black fungus dumplings (because who doesn’t want fried prawn dumplings?), and the house speciality the fried mackerel dumpling, drowned in lashings of chilli and black vinegar. They have other things on the menu, which are actually really great too, but when I get to that table there can only be one thing going in my hungry hungry hole!
So with chinese new year freshly in our minds, and the scent of steamed (or panfried) pastry thick in the air, I set out on the road to home dumpling heaven yet again. So now, after years of failed experiments and crap guesses, nudging ever closer to perfection in pastry I bring you my latest, greatest attempt. Though surely not the final chapter in my dumpling journey, this is the finest recipe I have concocted to date. Enjoy the fruits of my hard work and suffering you mooches.
Pork and Cabbage Dumplings
- 1200g fatty pork mince
- 150g black fungus soaked and chopped
- ¼ wombok cabbage finely chopped
- 50g ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 20g garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 50g shallot peeled and finely chopped
- 30g black vinegar
- 50g light soy sauce
- 10g sesame oil
- 30g crab paste with soya bean oil
- 60g char sui chinese BBQ sauce
- 30g salt
- 30g sugar
- 2 packets of gyoza wrappers (roughly 120 wrappers)
Combine the black fungus, wombok, ginger, garlic, shallots, and crab paste and sauté in oil in a large pan until cabbage is sweated down and the mix is aromatic, around 5 mins. Move onto a plate and put in the fridge to cool down. Once the mix is cold combine with all the other ingredients (except the wrappers of course). Mix by hand vigorously, picking up the mix once it has combined and slapping it back into the bowl. This changes the structure of the meat proteins causing the mix to be come stiffer and more homogenous. Scoop a teaspoon of pork mix into the middle of each dumpling wrapper, wet the far side of the wrapper and bring the two sides together and pinch with your thumb and fore finger being careful to squeeze out all the air as you go (if there are air bubbles inside they will expand during cooking and split your little pockets of love!). Lay on baking paper on a tray carefully so they don’t touch, and repeat with the rest of the mix. You should end up with roughly 100 of these tasty little buggers. Reserve 8 dumplings (or however many you wanna eat) and freeze the rest. They should keep for roughly 2 months before they start to split.
- 8 pork and cabbage dumplings (or however many you wanna eat)
- 200g water
- 16g flour
Heat a large non-stick pan with 1 ½ tablespoons of oil and sit the dumplings standing up in straight lines across the pan. According to chinese new year tradition placing the dumplings in a circular formation implies that your life will be circular in momentum, meaning you will never get anywhere, ya bum! Whisk together the flour and water. Once the dumplings have begun to brown on the bottom pour the water/flour slurry into the pan and promptly cover to steam the tops. After around 4-5 minutes the tops of the dumplings should be soft and cooked. When this happens remove the lid and allow the water to evaporate out of the slurry leaving a thin crust on the bottom of the pan connecting the dumplings. Once the crust has browned to your liking, use a spatula to hold the dumplings in place and tip off the oil. Next, grab a large plate and (this is the easiest bit to fuck up right here!) place the plate on top of the pan and flip both over to turn the dumplings out onto the plate.
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of laoganma crispy chilli (otherwise known as crack!)
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced spring onion
- 3 sprigs of coriander
Combine the vinegar, soy, chilli and sesame oil, mix well and spoon over the crust of your pot sticker dumplings. Next scatter the spring onions and coriander over the crust. Next comes the best part, take that lovely crust you have laboured so hard to create and keep intact, and smash the fucker! Next the only thing to do with all these broken dumpling, is eat that shit! Enjoy.
This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is all about love, in all it’s forms and is hosted by Chinelo A at Good Cake Day.