…and Dumplings Three Ways


Saturday was a busy day, a vast dumpling-construction project of a scope to rival the Great Wall.  Maybe a bit of hyperbole, but the Terrified Amateur started work early in the morning, and very nearly needed to cancel his Saturday-evening plans.

Ultimately, though, the effort paid off, producing a vast armada of savory bites.  These were portioned into air-tight bags and frozen (uncooked), ready to extract in the months ahead whenever a convenient, homemade and, most important, delicious meal is required.  Just a small fraction of the project appears below:

Frozen Pot Stickers

As this entry’s title indicates, three varieties appear: from left to right are Vegetarian (four folds), Tsak Sha Momos (a Tibetan beef-filled dumpling, three folds) and Pork-Seafood (pleated).    In the entry’s main picture, the Tibetan beef dumplings are in the foreground.  These were pan-seared; the one in the front has been flipped to show the light toasting this method produces.  This is the most complicated preparation but also the tastiest.

Behind the Momos, along the back of the plate, are the Pork-Seafood version.  This one was boiled and involved a bit of improvisation from the original recipe (actually, they all did).  For one thing, the primary instructions call for using just shrimp and scallops.  However, a little ground pork makes everything juicier and much more savory.  Ironic, because the T.A. usually isn’t much of a swine fan, not really.  In this case, though, it works.  Also, a bit of lobster was left over from an earlier entry, so why not add a decadent touch?

Finally, in the bamboo steamer basket are the Vegetarian dumplings.  This is easily the healthiest version, due both to the content and to the light coming method (steaming).  These taste good.  However, the next time I’ll increase the proportion of mushrooms.  It still will be vegetarian (and oh-so-healthy), but the additional mushrooms will add to the savory profile a partially-reformed carnivore still craves.

Before revealing where these recipes appeared originally, a bit about the dipping sauces.  They both contribute zing to the experience and highlight every flavor.  The dumplings are great by themselves but the sauces make them extraordinary.

In the small marble bowl is sepen, a fiery Tibetan dipping sauce.  Go slow with this; it’s flavorful but intense, possibly also serving as Yeti repellant.  The decorative bowl in the background holds a slightly more conventional Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce.  Still plenty of flavor, but unlike the sepen, it won’t stir the dead.

You’ve made it this far, so if you’d like to keep reading until 2018, let’s give credit where it’s due.  The Seafood Dumplings and the Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce were featured in the July/August 2007 issue of Eating Well Magazine.  As you read, a little ground pork was added to the recipe, so the T.A. tried to eat well, but he fell a little short, didn’t he?

The Vegetarian Pot Stickers are Ming Tsai’s recipe.  The Tibetan entries, both the dumplings and the sepen, were found, of all places, in the New York Times.  Finally, after trying various dumpling wrapper recipes with similarly varying degrees of success, Saveur offered the best version in its January 2017 issue.  Unlike other recipes, this one includes egg whites, which add the elasticity so crucial to successful dumpling wrapper.

There you have it – three kinds of dumplings, folded three different ways and cooked by three individual methods.  Numerology enthusiasts will notice a heavy reliance on three.  Good thing Tibetans consider it to be a fortunate number.  Maybe that’s why their dumplings were folded three times.

*****

Dumpling Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (*1)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 large egg whites

In a large bowl combine the flour and salt.  Pour in the water and add the egg whites.  Stir with your fingers.  Dough should be shaggy with dry pockets of flour, like biscuit dough.

On a well-floured surface using floured hands, knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, until smooth.  This should take about four minutes.  Transfer to a floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

To make the wrappers, pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a large olive.  On a floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a round shape about 1/16 of an inch thick and about four inches across.  Ideally, fill the wrappers as you make them.  However, if you’d like to build a stockpile first, stack the wrappers, each separated with plastic wrap or wax paper.

NOTES:

1 – You’ll need to have plenty of extra flour on hand, as it prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or to itself.  Of course, it’s easier to use store-bought pre-packaged wrappers, but that isn’t as cool as telling everyone you made your own!

*****

Vegetarian Pot Stickers

  • 1 red onion, diced (*1)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup diced shitake mushrooms (*2)
  • 1 cup white cabbage, shredded (*3)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (*4)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • canola oil (*5)

In a wok, add a little oil and saute the onions and ginger.  Add the mushrooms and stir.  Add the carrots cabbage and chives. Season to taste with the pepper.

When the mixture is soft, place in a colander to drain.  When sufficiently cooled, transfer to a large bowl and add the sesame oil and cilantro.  Cover and chill for at least half an hour, to allow the flavors to incorporate. (*6)

NOTES:

1 – Two medium-sized shallots also will do very nicely.

2 – As mentioned in the text, it might be wise to increase the amount of mushroom while leaving the other ingredients constant.  This will produce a more savory dumpling.

3 – Napa cabbage is a good tactile choice, as it has an interesting crinkly texture.

4 – Of course, I ground Szechuan peppercorns, my latest obsession.  Plus, it contributes a uniquely spicy, floral touch.

5 – As with most Asian-inspired dishes, I chose peanut oil.  It doesn’t overpower the other ingredients but it does provide a rich, savory note.

6 – In this and in all this entry’s recipes, place about two tablespoons of filling in each dumpling wrapper.  Fold and cook as desired.

*****

Tsak Sha Momos

(Tibetan Beef Dumplings)

  • 1 pound ground beef, about 85% lean (*1)
  • 1/2 cup minced onion (*2)
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro stems
  • 3 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (*3)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt

In a large bowl combine  all the ingredients (*4) and add about two tablespoons water.  Mix lightly but well.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minute to two hours, to allow the flavors to develop. (*5)

NOTES:

1 – If you want the recipe to be even more authentically Tibetan, you could use yak instead.  Of course, this would inspire the question, where on earth do you shop?

2 – Or, use a similar quantity of shallots.  In case you can’t tell, onions aren’t one of the T.A.’s favorites.

3 – As you’d expect, canola oil suggests a replacement.  In this case, though, it isn’t peanut oil but sesame oil; it seems to match the whole Tibetan theme.

4 – Because Tibet’s high altitude and harsh winters limit its agricultural potential, great reliance is placed on root crops.  For this reason I also added half a cup each of carrots and daikon (Japanese radish).  Also making an appearance are Szechuan peppercorns; their spiciness goes well with the hearty filling, and because Szechuan shares a border with Tibet, it’s likely its peppercorns also supplement the local cuisine.

5 – In this and in all this entry’s recipes, place about two tablespoons of filling in each dumpling wrapper.  Fold and cook as desired.

*****

Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings

  • 1/2 pound scallops, minced
  • 1/4 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper (*1)

Combine all ingredients. (*2)  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. (*3)

NOTES:

1 – Naturally, I used my flavorful favorite, Szechuan peppercorns.

2 – Preference and availability supplemented the ingredients list.  As mentioned previously, half a cup of ground pork adds a wonderful juiciness.  A little lobster was left over from an earlier recipe, so it added a distinctive touch.  Finally, a minced serrano pepper added a faint, but flavor-enhancing heat.  Because of these additions I doubled all the non-meat ingredients to keep everything in balance.

3- In this and in all this entry’s recipes, place about two tablespoons of filling in each dumpling wrapper.  Fold and cook as desired.

*****

Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (*1)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Combine all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30  minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

NOTES:

1 – This works out to about one medium-sized lemon.

*****

Sepen

(Tibetan Hot Sauce)

  • 1 cup whole dried small red chile peppers (*1)
  • 1 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorns (*2)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro stems and leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger

If possible, soak chiles overnight in plenty of cold water.  If time is short, cover chiles with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes.  Drain and discard soaking liquid.

In a blender or in a mortar, combine all the ingredients with about three tablespoons of water.  Final mixture should be smooth, but the pepper seed should remain whole.

NOTES:

1 – If you can’t find small whole peppers (I used dried Thai bird peppers), substitute half a cup of red pepper flakes.

2 – Provided you don’t have Szechuan peppercorns on hand (pity) or if you’d like to cut back a little on the heat, “regular” pepper would do nicely.

 

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