Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ugly Dumplings

Our favorite quick and cheap lunch place is Fried Dumpling in Lower Manhattan. It is a small storefront and Chinese ladies handmake the dumplings on site. It is one of the best bargains in New York, $1 for 5 dumplings! You can eat them in the shop at a tiny counter with soy/vinegar and/or hot sauce supplied in recycled squeeze bottles or get them to go. A bag of 30 frozen dumplings, is a whopping $5!

After observing the ladies making the dumplings, Hiroko decided to make her own from scratch. She consulted dumpling/gyoza recipes from websites to cookbooks, and picked the gyoza recipe from one of her Japanese cookbooks.

She started by making the dough, mixing the dry ingredients with warm water. After pounding and kneading for 10 minutes, the dough reached the proper texture approximating that of an earlobe....this guideline courtesy of the cookbook. Now it was time to allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for an hour. While the dough napped, she prepared the stuffing using ground chicken and pork and mixing the meat with minced ginger, scallions, and garlic.

So far, it seemed very simple and easy. The struggle began when she tried to roll out the dough into small individual wrappers. She rolled the dough into a log about 1-inch in diameter and then cut it into 1-inch slices. She then carefully rolled each out into a thin crepe-like sheet. The recipe made it look as if these would be easily rolled out into a round shape. However, everytime she rolled out the dough, it was neither round nor square. After awhile, her rolling skill improved a little, but the wrappers were still far from being a nice round shape.

She filled the wrappers with the seasoned meat stuffing, but they resembled ugly croissants more than dumplings. Rick suggested to cut the dough using a round cookie cutter, so that the wrappers will have uniform shape.

Hiroko fried the dumplings in grapeseed oil while Rick made the simple soy/vinegar dipping sauce. After tasting it, we realized that Hiroko had forgotten to add salt to the stuffing mix. Although the use of some salt is recommended we found that once they made contact with the dipping sauce and entered our mouths, our first homemade ugly dumplings tasted beautifully juicy and delicious!

Hiroko gained a new appreciation for the skill of the dumpling ladies at Fried Dumpling. Each return visit presents her with another opportunity to observe their technique and marvel at how they roll out the nice round wrappers.

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