Happy New Year!
2014 is the year of the green wood horse, a high energy year of rapid progress, unexpected and fleeting opportunity, potential for scandals and for those with a business involving wood or fire 2014 will be a particularly lucky year.
Chinese New year began on the new moon of the 31st in the tiger month of January, and will continue until the full moon on Feb 14th, plenty of time to celebrate and observe ancient rituals for the new year and sacred meanings of symbolic foods like dumplings.
Dumplings/Jiaozi for Chinese New Year and Spring Celebration is a tradition dating back to the Sung dynasty. These luscious and delicate little bundles of exquisite flavors and textures are the original comfort food.
Dumpling making is easier than it looks and can be done solo, but much like tamale making at Christmas, labor intensive dumplings are reserved for celebrations. Making them is traditionally a community event involving friends and family, potentially a deliciously fun pre-party.
Click on images to expandKeep your first attempts simple with one or two fillings and start with the store bought round dumpling wrappers. After you have made them a few times I highly recommend the handmade dumpling wrapper, it's a little thicker than store bought and allows for all organic flour, addition of veggie colors and gluten free flours.
Dumpling Filling:Finely minced ginger, garlic and green onion with lotus root or water chestnut for crunch is the foundation for multiple fillings and will be used in the two below. One part ginger-garlic mix to three parts vegetable mix.
On the left is a Green Tara ingredients: baby bok choy, edamame, broccoli, kale, baked tofu and shiitake mushroom for body, cilantro and thai basil.
Broccoli, spinach, bok choy, kale or napa cabbage should be lightly blanched for 60 seconds until bright green and immediately plunged into ice water to rapidly stop cooking. Place leafy green veggies in paper or cotton towels and squeeze as much liquid out as possible.
On the right is Orange Tara ingredients : roasted delicata squash, shiitake, maitake and beech mushroom with baked sprouted tofu.
Kobucho squash or pumpkin are equally delish
Hard winter squashes like pumpkin or kabocha can be placed whole in a 350º oven for 30-56 minutes to make cutting easier.
Dumpling ingredients must be minced very fine.
Place 4oz minced veggies in a bowl, add 2-3oz ginger-garlic and green onion mix, add 1oz minced lotus, add a teaspoon or two of hoisen sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil to taste. And do taste as you the create your filling. Traditional Chinese dumplings use little or no garlic, Japanese gyoza uses much more garlic.
Be careful that your filling does not get too wet.
Assembly:Prepare your assembly area, everything must be prepped and ready to assemble before you start.
Do not try to rush the assembly, dumpling making is a mindfulness practice, much like Japanese Ikebana-flower arranging, and requires the maker surrender to the process.
Have a clean cutting board, stack of dumpling wrappers, damp paper towel to keep skins from drying out and another to cover made up dumplings, a small dish of water to moisten dumpling edges and your pre made fillings neatly arranged for easily assembly. Extra minced ginger, chili paste or hoisen to add to dumplings for extra kick.
Each dumpling skin will hold a rounded teaspoon of filling, chopsticks are perfect for picking up just the right amount of filling. Moisten the edges of the wrapper, and moisten edges again after making your fold.
Select your dumpling fold, shown is a simple crescent fold with the edges crimped up towards the center as seen in the bottom picture, but be creative, invent your own fold!
Dumpling skin colors reflect the ingredients,
and if you make your own skins your dumplings can be many colors. Try beet or pomegranate powder for pink dumplings, pumpkin powder for orange dumplings and spinach powder for green dumplingsAs dumplings are assembled keep them covered with a damp paper towel.
Dumplings of all kinds generally freeze very well. Dumpling may be placed on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen (1 hr) and transferred to a ziplock or freezer safe glass container for dumpling awesomeness anytime in the next 3 months. Frozen dumpling will need an additional 1-2 minutes cooking time
Method One: boiling. Boiling requires a stock pot of boiling water with a dozenish dumplings added and as the water returns to a boil a cup of cool water is added to the pot. The cool water calms the boiling, the agitation from boiling can tear apart the dumplings and adding cool water slows the agitation. You will add cool water four times, allowing pot to return to a boil before each addition of cool water.
Method Two: pan fry/quick steam method commonly referred to as 'potstickers'. For this method you will take your freshly made dumplings and place them in a hot skillet with a little peanut oil, make sure the skillet is hot before adding oil. Add dumplings, add water until dumplings are half immersed, Cover and reduce heat to medium until boiled dry. Remove cover and turn dumplings over, add enough water to immerse 1/4 of each dumpling. Cover and boil dry, remove lid, dumplings should be golden brown and steamed through.
Method Three: steaming. Take a large stock pot of boiling water and place a bamboo steamer basket with raw dumpling atop the boiling water, cover and cook 10 minutes.
Chopped cilantro leaves, green onions, sesame oil or any nut oil, sesame seeds or anything that reflects the contents of the dumpling
Flavoring Agents and Sauces:
Season your filling mix with any combination of the above flavoring agents. Tasting is essential to great cooking, please taste as you go along.
Basic Dipping Sauce
one part soy sauce
splash of sesame oil
minced ginger and garlic
Optional: chopped green onion or cilantro, chili oil or paste
Experiment with different vinegars, bamboo and black vinegar work great and even balsamic is particularly nice with green veggie dumplings.
This sauce also doubles as a fab stir fry sauce
Sweet Chili Sauce
4oz organic sugar (coconut sugar is great but tricky)
4oz rice vinegar
splash of sherry
3-4 minced garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chilies, and/or minced habanero, thai chili or jalapeño to taste
Bring to a boil in saucepan, allow to boil 10 min.
Whisk together 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch with 3-4 Tablespoons water, add to sauce pan after mix has boiled 10 min. Reduce heat and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and taste, more sugar, vinegar or dried crushed chili can be added to taste.
Refrigerate. Excellent as a quick sauce for Asian noodle or rice and veggies dishes
Dumplings and BeveragesTea is traditional, but for dim sum lovers that had the habit of Coca Cola with their dim sum, Om recomends any nice, bubbly mineral water
Procuring Ingredients:Mitsuwa , east side of Centinela just north of Venice Boulevard
3760 S Centinela Ave Los Angeles, CA 90066
Nijiya, east side of Sawtelle just north of Olympic
2130 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025
Galleria Market on the corner of Western and Olympic Blvd
3250 W. Olympic Blvd Los Angeles
Wing Hop Fung in Chinatown on Broadway between College and Alpine
727 N Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90012
Ranch 99 in San Gabriel Square at the corner of Del Mar and Valley
140 W Valley Blvd San Gabriel, Ca