Sometimes I just crave foods I've only ever eaten out in a restaurant. It's annoying because this means my craving can only be satisfied by actually going to the restaurant. This can prove problematic when it's summer and I no longer have the convenience of a student loan, the Bank of Dad is wearing thin, and I'm jobless. The worst is when I have a craving for something I am certain I could not even try to replicate at home. So when, earlier this summer, my mind became fixated with those dreamy, delicate, parcels of joy that are Chinese Dumplings, I was doomed. Or so I thought...
However a careful bit of research done in my eternity of spare time led me to discover that making Chinese Dumplings is actually very simple! No less than two store cupboard ingredients to make the pastry, not much kneading involved (something that has often put me off making home made bread and the like), and very little resting time which means these mini morsels of flavour can be ready to eat in no time at all.
Inevitably I endeavoured to try my hand at this tasty piece of Chinese artwork, deliciously satisfying my aching craving, saving myself a penny and being able to show off to family and friends. What's more is that instead of only getting about three or four dumplings of each filling, which is all you get in restaurants per portion (and obviously I'm too embarrassed to order the two or three portions I could easily eat), I can make as many of each filling as I like or more and store it in the freezer waiting for another bout "dumpling-craving-syndrome" to take over.
So here's how it's done.
For the pastry (this makes about 16 dumplings):
140g plain flour
125ml hot water (from the kettle)
Simply combine the water and flour in a bowl. Mix using a fork. Then, turn out on to a clean floured work surface and knead for about 8 minutes.
Leave to rest covered with a damp teacloth for 20 minutes. (I used this resting time to prepare my filling.)
After the dough has rested, knead again for about 5 minutes. The dough should be easily malleable so the kneading won't strain your arm.
Roll out the dough into a long sausage and cut into 16 evenly sized pieces, again using a well floured work surface. Roll each piece into a round circle, fill with a mixture of your choice (about a teaspoon sized amount) and fold over into a crescent shape using a bit of water to stick the sides shut. Crimp the sides into an attractive fashion the best you can, and they're ready to cook!
To cook simply steam in a steamer for about 3-5 minutes. To ensure the dumplings don't stick to the bottom of your steamer I advise placing each dumpling either on a piece or greaseproof paper or a lettuce leaf for authenticity.
Serve with soy sauce topped with crunchy scatterings of spring onion to dip.
As I said, you can fill these dumplings with whatever takes your fancy. However, it is important the filling is not too wet else your dumplings will be hard to handle and end up a sloppy mess. Also, it is important to keep the filling small. Chop your ingredients as finely as you can manage. And lastly the filling must be tasty! After all the pastry is tasteless, you need something inside that will pack a punch.
Here's the filling I used:
1 carrot finely diced
3 spring onions finely chopped
1/2 a red pepper finely diced
7/8 green beans finely chopped
a few mushrooms
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 red chilli finely chopped (you can deseed the chilli to reduce the heat)
shaoxing rice wine vinegar
Heat a little oil in a pan. Get a good heat on the pan before adding the garlic and chilli. Fry for about a minute or so, then add the rest of the vegetables. Allow the vegetables to cook a little but not completely soften. Add about half a table spoon of the vinegar and a good splash soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning (the soy acting as salt). Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil for the real Chinese restaurant taste.
Let the mixture cool before filling the dumplings. If the mixture seems too wet, put it over a sieve and let some of the liquid drain out.
So, it's as easy as that! And they're as delicious as the ones you buy in a restaurant. Craving = satisfied!
Until next time...