Another Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week have come and gone here in China! This time is important here for two reasons: first, to celebrate the moon at its fullest; and second, to commemorate the founding of “New China” in 1949. Last year was the 60th anniversary, which is thought of as an important age for growth and maturity in a person.
But a romantic evening under a full moon is incomplete without one thing: homemade Dumplings! Last week a colleague invited me to his family’s house to make dumplings from scratch. (Actually, we bought the little dough wrappings… but everything else was really fresh!) I suggest buying dumpling wrappings from your local Asian food store or major grocer chain. Here are “Wonton Wrappers” available on Amazon.
Before we get started, I should mention that dumplings are generally a once or twice a month thing in Chinese households; similar to our pizza or pasta nights I remember from growing up. In this case, it is a great way to bring the family together for a bonding session. 10 per person should be enough. On this most recent occasion, we added a pan-fried fish and a tarot-root soup to make it a full meal for 5.
1~ PREP filling: Fresh meat is crucial to good dumplings. I prefer pork, but you can use anything you want! Grind up about 1 pound (.5kg) and put in a bowl. In the picture we added corn, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
2~ Spice the meat how you prefer, but we used a few splashes of soy sauce, some sugar, and turmeric. It’s better to go light on the seasoning at this point.
3~ Shred celery and carrots. Mix thoroughly with the meat you have prepped. Feel free to use clean hands to mash it all together. (Great task for a kid with some self-control!)
4~ Wrap ’em! Put a little bowl of water and 1 chopstick on your table. Take a wrapper and lightly dab water around the edges. This will work as glue for the dumpling. Then, take a spoon and scoop just enough to fill the middle of the wrapper with room left for a complete, clean seal. Too much filling and the edges will not close. This may take a little finessing…
5~ Boil! After you’ve wrapped what seems like too many dumplings, prepare them for a hot water bath. You’ll notice that the wrap becomes more transparent when they are fully cooked; needs no more than a few minutes.
6~ Dipping sauce is essential. Use a small cereal bowl as a container and fill it 1/3 with soy sauce. Add a spoonful of dark vinegar to that. Use a red-pepper spice and adjust for taste. Small pits of chives work well in this too, but aren’t necessary. Share among 5 people or split liquid up into 5 smaller bowls.
You’re done! See the fish on that plate over there? They were cooked with their heads on and they were delicious! See my version of pan-fried ginger fish here!