Ok, so I’m a dough wimp. I wish it wasn’t true. I’ve tried to be a good person and use dough. I’ve tried making bread for our house.
I tried to make a sourdough starter and I pretty much did, but then I was bad and let it die or remain on life support in the back of my fridge. I have memories of my dad rolling out fresh pasta on our home pasta maker when I was a kid. I kinda successfully made ramen noodles from scratch.
Shit, my grandpa was a baker.
Still, I kinda can’t handle dough. Once I have it all made and ready for me to make something out of it, I get scared and want to run away. The end product seems to never work out, I whine. It’s usually more that I’m lazy. And then after that mess and with flour everywhere, it’s like: why bother? With bread, it’s easy to give up. I live in Seattle, good bread is everywhere!
But the reason I chose this month’s book for the Cook the Books challenge, Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen, was to get over all of that. I started slow, cuz I’m chicken. I made samosas. They were easy to make, forgiving, and delicious. Finally I decided to bite the bullet and make some dumplings. This past weekend I made Andrea’s basic dumpling dough, and then made two different kinds of dumplings. And I gotta say, nice work, me! Mission accomplished! Here’s what i made:
Basic Dumpling Dough, page 22. Extra Chewy Dough, page 23. Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings, page 31-32. Kimchi Dumplings, page 44-45. Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce, page 215. Korean Dipping Sauce, page 215.
If you’re like me, a dough wuss that is, Andrea’s Basic Dumpling Dough may change your life. I have never made an easier dough. Remember how I said it took 4 days to make a loaf of sourdough with homemade sourdough starter? Eff that shit! It took me about 4 minutes to make this dough. How awesome is that? Answer: Really awesome!
Seriously. Put regular old AP flour in your food processor. Meanwhile, boil a small amount of water. Let it cool for a few minutes. Turn food pro on and then put hot water in through tube. Let the food pro do its food pro thing. And…done! Seriously, the dough was so easy to make it was almost laughable.
So then you bag and label your dough. Since I was making Korean kimchi dumplings (mandu) too, I made two versions of the dough. For the dough for mandu, I used the recipe for extra chewy dough, which just substitutes some of the AP flour for sweet rice flour. This makes the dough extra chewy, Andrea says, which is preferable for these Korean dumplings.
Then on to fillings. I made the pork and napa cabbage filling exactly as written, using some quality pork from Blue Valley Meats out of Walla Walla, WA. Good stuff. Oh, and definitely get your hands on some Chinese chives if you can. Scallions just don’t replicate the taste.
For the mandu, I couldn’t decide whether to make the kimchi filling or the meat filling. Backstory: I love kimchi! Seriously. I get dirty looks at Korean joints cuz I ask for the kimchi banchan to be refilled too much. I make my own kimchi too. If you want to make your own, may I recommend the recipe I posted? So good. Double S and I eat the kimchi mainly in the form of kimchi stew (kimchi jigae), which I regularly make. It’s basically a big, spicy, steaming bowl of kimchi, tofu, scallions, beef, chicken broth and spices. I decided to take the flavors of that stew and make a dumpling out of it. I did so by following Andrea’s recipe for kimchi mandu but substituting pork for zucchini. Why? Cuz it’s February, homie. It ain’t the season for zukes! It’s a crime to buy limp looking zucchini at the grocery in February when soon (wishful garden thinking alert!) they will be coming out of our ears. And cuz zukes are kinda tasteless flavor sponges, and I was already using another tasteless flavor sponge, tofu. I wanted the inside of the dumpling to taste like my kimchi stew. So I made dumplings two ways. Yes, I am kinda crazy. Who else takes something they’re afraid of and decides to make 64 of ‘em on their first try? That’d be me!
So after you’ve got your two ziplock bags of dough and your two bowls of filling marinating in the fridge, it’s the final countdown.
I’ll give you a minute with that one. Hey, who else is pumped for the return of Arrested Development on Netflix this spring? Me! I’m about to do a re-watch of the run of the show. Excited! Speaking of Netflix, anyone else mainline House of Cards this past weekend like Double S and I did?
Anyway, now you gotta put your money where your mouth us and actually make these ‘effers. I did something different from what I usually do: I actually read the instructions for making the dumplings multiple times and did so before I was faced with a bunch of flour and hopelessness in my kitchen! And it worked. Yay me!
You can do this as a kind of assembly line. I was working with Double S. Try to have at least one other person helping when you make these.
I worked with one batch of dough at a time. First, I halved the dough. Each half will make 16 dumplings Then you roll that half into a 1 inch thick log. Kinda like pretzel rolling!
Then, divide each half of that into half. This makes it easier to try to cut equal pieces of the dough. You want to end up with 16 dumplings total. I needed quite a bit of flour to keep everything from sticking.
Take each final piece and lightly smash it with the heel of your hand and make sure it’s lightly dredged through the flour to keep things from sticking. Once you have that done, do the same to the other half of the dough.
Now you have 32 nice little pieces of dough. Then you move on to the next station in the delicious assembly line. Here’s where I used my handy dandy new tortilla press. I followed Andrea’s lead and covered each side of the press to avoid stickage. Don’t use regulation plastic wrap. That didn’t work at all! Andrea suggested a piece of a Ziploc bag covering each side of the tortilla press, and that worked like a charm. Thanks again, Andrea! Press down and get your 32 pieces flattened out. Put them on a sheet with parchment paper.
After that is done, you need to do a second rolling to get them to the proper diameter. Each dumpling recipe states how big the finished product should be, both of these were to be about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. The 8” tortilla press I have almost made them that diameter, but they still needed a bit of rolling. For this, I used my handy dandy new dumpling rolling pin. Andrea’s directions are great here. She says you should visualize a quarter sized section in the middle of the dumpling that you want to keep that thickness. It will hold the filling.
Then use your hand and the rolling pin to roll about a half an inch of the outer part of the dumpling or so to get to the proper size. They kinda look like fried eggs while you’re doing this! And that image actually is kind of helpful. The “yolk” being the quarter sized area you want to keep a bit thicker. This worked perfectly.
When you’re done with the pressing and the rolling, place the finished rounds on parchment paper. They tend to stick, so dust with a bit of extra flour. After this, you’re ready to fill them. As I said, my hands are like this when I try to make something intricate:
Whilst Double S has delicate lady fingers.
Wow, is that video encased in amber from 1999 or what? Holy crap! The pants alone: Khakis! Wide legs! Cargos! And the hair. What was with the extreme parts, ladies? Oh, and wrist bands for no reason! Flowers on everything! A few additional observations: 1) My gf at the time introduced me to Luscious Jackson, and wow did I remember them as cooler looking than they look here. 2) I’ve ridden NYC buses and currently ride a Seattle metro bus every day. Funny: They’re just like this! 3) The lead singer really looks like she now writes a blog about either: a) knitting, b) gluten free and/or vegan baking, c) attachment parenting, or d) all of the above.
Back to my dumplings! Because Double S is awesome, she filled 64 dumplings that night. You should have seen her, trying out all of Andrea’s suggested folds: the big hug (which looked like a butt to yours truly!), the half moon, the pea pod, and yes, even the pleated crescent. Can I get a What What for Double S?
Double S got the folding down to a science! As the dumpling folder, her observation was that the dough was very easy to work with and sealed really easily.
Once we had it down, we got moving on the rest of the dough. Whilst Double S was doing the more intricate job of folding the prepared dough rounds into dumplings, I got started on the rest of the dough. Cutting it into 32 pieces, flattening it on the press, and rolling it out to a fried egg approximation. You must do those three steps before filling the dumplings, to get the right thickness.
Make sure you have parchment paper and flour. The dough can be sticky. Also, cover what you’ve made with a towel so they don’t dry out. Success!
We did find the mandu dough, in which I used the rice flour, to be easier to work with. While Double S finished up folding the last batch, I made the sauces. Easy peezy! Earlier that day I had hit the Asian groceries in my nabe. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the Chinkiang vinegar or the Shaoxing rice wine I needed. But I got all the flours for my next dumpling projects!
I will get over to Uwajimaya to get the recommended stuff that I couldn’t find. Andrea does a great job of recommending specific brands and packages. It really helped!
Then, on to the cooking. Andrea says that either of these dumplings can be boiled, steamed, fried, or pan fried. We decided to boil the majority of them, and then pan fry some to see how that turned out.
The cooking process was easy. Andrea’s directions were spot on. And most importantly, not a single dumpling came apart while cooking. Victory!
So how did they taste? Awesome, thanks for asking! Seriously. We loved these dumplings. We had been eating a lot of dumplings lately in restaurants and we both agreed, these were better. Why? Its gotta be because of the fresh dough. The fillings were good too—quality ingredients. No mystery meat here!
Oh and the sauces. They were so good. If you, like us, have these dumplings as a meal, you may want to round out your meal a bit. We were craving something fresh to go along with the dumplings, like a small salad or something to cleanse the palate.
So our goal was to have some leftovers and we sure did! Andrea has good recommendations for storage. We froze these up like berries in the summer, individually, on cookie sheets in the freezer first so they didn’t stick. Then into Ziplocs. Worked like a charm!
After the meal was over, we had a bit of a dumpling debrief, where we talked about what we’d do differently next time. First, if you are making two or more different kinds of dumplings, it may be easier to make each kind of dumpling its own shape. Since we boiled some and pan fried some, we never knew which one we were eating until we bit into it. This only matters if you want to dip the dumpling in the sauce that was made specifically for it. Second, if you are going to pan fry your dumplings, make sure your oil isn’t too hot to start. Ours got a bit overcooked because the pan was too hot. This made the dumpling itself a bit too hard. Three, the prettiest dumpling shapes prior to cooking were the half moon and pea pod, while the big hug shape stood up best to cooking. Double S liked them because she thought they looked like a restaurant’s dumplings. Four, if you want your kimchi dumplings to really taste like kimchi, you may want to add some traditional kimchi spices to your filling, like kochukaru and gochujang. See my kimchi post for more info. We felt that the taste of kimchi was pretty muted in the dumplings. Fifth, the dipping sauce recipes are top notch. We wouldn’t make any changes to them. What a great dinner!
Ok, so, have you made any dumplings yet? I’ll be posting a big round up of recipes on February 27th, so send us a link to your dumpling post by February 22nd, to email@example.com. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t play along last month. Join any time! For more information on 2013’s Cook the Books challenge hosted by yours truly and Meg over at Grow and Resist, go here. Check out Meg’s blog, too. She’ll be cooking up some dumplings and writing her review at the end of the month as well.
I’m loving this cookbook so far. Give it a try; dumplings are easier than they look! Happy cooking!