Monday, August 29

Don't Worry My Little Dumpling, Daddy's Gonna Make It Alright

Ohhh, there seems to have been quite some time between posts. Let’s blame a technical hitch, shall we? It’s not like one spent the past two dark and frozen months lying inert by the fire snivelling into a tankard of shiraz and mumbling incoherently at the television, the horrors of which only Seasonal Affective Disorder can bring. Not like that at all.
Dumplings though! Dumplings could warm the heart of Otzi the Iceman. And I’m talking the Chinese variety. Those slippery, wrinkly, salty, slightly rubbery little pouches of delight that can be savoured in the mouth one or two at a time.

Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) may be divided into various types depending on how they are cooked: boiled, steamed or shallow fried. In China, jiaozi are eaten all year round and at any time of the day – breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can constitute one course, starter or side dish, or the main meal. Every family has its own preferred method of making them, with favourite fillings, and of course, jiaozi types and preparation vary widely according to region. According to folk tales, jiaozi were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, one of the greatest practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine in history. They were originally called "tender ears" because they were used to treat frostbitten ears. (Which is very handy to know in this climate).

A prosthetic frostbitten ear.  Image courtesy of Bodytech Emporium.

To save leaving the house, one recently whipped up some jiaozi. Two kinds – steamed and shallow-fried. The steamed contained a fine filling of mashed firm tofu, finely chopped oyster and shitake mushrooms (lightly sauteed first), finely chopped coriander, about a centimetre of freshly minced ginger, not much minced red chilli, a splash of sesame oil and a glug of kecap manis. I love Kecap Manis. And I believe he loves me.

Using store purchased dumpling wrappers I shaped these ones into round ‘twist-top’ dumplings, making sure to apply some water around the edges to ensure they stayed together and being careful not to over-stuff them. These were then steamed in a two-tiered bamboo steamer for about fifteen minutes. You can tell they’re ready when they go slightly transparent and wrinkly.

For the shallow-fried variety, I mashed up a large orange kumara (sweet potato) which I had baked in the microwave, some finely chopped red chilli and some salt and pepper to taste. Easy as that. These ones I shaped into what the Chinese probably don’t call ‘quarter moons’ and shallow fried them in grapeseed oil and a little sesame oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until the skins were golden and bubbly.

One has been growing one’s own greens over the winter which when sauteed in plenty of garlic, yet more sesame oil, a drop or two of tabasco, some teriyaki sauce and finished with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, make a delightful accompaniment to the jiaozi.
Jiaozi Two Ways

Look at moi!  Look at moi!  Tending to ma greens...
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