Seeing how it’s the 14th both in Singapore and London… (Still not used to the 8 hour time difference. Christ.)
This month’s challenge wasn’t, well, much of a challenge for me: jiao zi (饺子), or guo tie (锅贴) – it depends on how it’s been cooked – otherwise known as Chinese dumplings or potstickers. I make these often enough that they don’t even warrant a mention anywhere. In fact, I think the only time I did mention them online was that one time I happened to make them whilst doing that ‘photograph all you cook for one week’ challenge.
Just as well it wasn’t anything new to me, since this one was done in something of a rush, that one free London day I had in the midst of all my travelling last month. As I was hurrying it through even then for the sake of the other errands I had to run too, I fear I was, erm, a tad sloppy, photography-wise. Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the shots.
This month’s recipe was provided by Jenyu of Use Real Butter.
We were given a choice between a pork-based filling, and a shrimp-based one. Seeing as how I’d been dying for an excuse to buy those gorgeously huge tiger prawns at the fishmonger’s near my place, and greatly heartened by the fact that the nearby Sainsbury’s had taken to selling water chestnuts, I went for the latter.
The problem with things you’re very familiar with – in particular, things you’ve never referred to a recipe for, ever – is that you tend to ‘do things your own way’, so as to speak. In the spirit of the challenge, I decided to stay as close to the list of filling ingredients as possible. Here’s what was listed for the shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch
I’m afraid I left out the ginger root – I hate that stuff, and won’t use it unless absolutely necessary. I used light soy sauce in place of salt (because I think it tastes better), and also added a dash of Chinese wine (I find it tends to make the dumplings ‘lighter’). More corn starch than listed was thus used (however much more, I don’t know) in order to sufficiently bind this somewhat wetter filling mixture.
Apparently, the real challenge here was making your own dough, and rolling it out as thinly as possible, before folding the lot into dumplings. The dough’s really just flour and water. I usually toss in a pinch of salt too. The proportions given were 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour to 1/2 cup (113g) warm water, and extra flour for worksurface. Personally, I say just go with however much flour and water it takes to get a dough which feels right (I quote from the recipe given, ‘a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch’), since a lot depends on the flour you’re using and where you’re making it. I know I tend to use a lot less water and a lot more flour when making them in Singapore than in London.
(Note: It was suggested somewhere in the recipe thread that it was easier to add flour to a wet dough, than to add water to a dry dough. Personally, I prefer making a drier dough, and keeping a handy bowl of water by my side. This is because the dough tends to get wet as it stands anyway. Particularly in Singapore. Should the dough really get too dry, a couple of finger-dabs of water usually does the trick.)
Having mixed the filling and rolled out the dough, next came sealing the dumplings. Apparently, there was a guide for pleating the dough. Which I only realised days after I had made them. *headdesk* Ah well. That should teach me to read things more carefully in the future. Here’s the guide for those who would like a look. Otherwise, this is how I seal my dumplings, one-hand E****-style:
Place the wrapper with the filling on the palm of your hand. Notice how jiao zi tend to have this funny sort of crescent shape, convex on one side, concave on the other, and flat on the bottom? The bottom’s flat where it rests on your palm. The convex side is obtained by moulding it against the curl/curve of your four fingers behind, and the concave side is the result of shaping via the thumb as you press the edges close with the tips/pads of your thumb and four fingers. Fast and easy. Feel free to pleat/crimp/pinch the edges after you’re done for added aesthetic appeal, if you like. (I swear all this, even the ‘pleating’, can be done with one hand.)
Notice the size? See, I have this thing about sizes. I usually make pork-filled jiao zi on the larger-than-normal side, because pork usually strikes me as something hearty and filling. Sort of why we have pork-filled buns. On the other hand, prawn-based fillings usually strike me as more delicate, like the har gao you get during dim sum. Thus the smaller-than-normal size of these dumplings. (Note: Smaller dumplings are harder to pinch shut single-handedly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
One way of serving these is to fry them, as you may see in my first picture. Fried Chinese dumplings are called guo tie (锅贴), which is where the term ‘potstickers’ come from. 锅 = pot. 贴 = stick. Normally, only the base ever really comes into contact with the pan, giving it a nice, brown bottom. I usually like giving the other two sides on the top a bit of a fry too, though, before I return them to the base-touching-pot position and adding the water. I find it makes the dough a little more bite, not to mention that lovely fried-ish taste, but that’s probably just me. Eat with a vinegar-based dip.
When not fried, they are just known as jiao zi (饺子), which is really just a name for such dumplings. You can steam them (again eaten with a vinegar-based dip), and you can boil them. Here, I boiled them, and served them with Chinese noodles and soup. The soup’s from a stock of prawn, chicken, and kelp. (The heads and shells of the prawns used above, chicken bones, and Japanese konbu boiled together in water which, as it is boiled, is reduced.)