Bernie’s Irrational Euphoria Dumplings

In food on 02/04/2009 at 10:20 pm

Bernie Made-Off with my school’s money! In actuality, my money! I still can’t believe my school administration admitted it to us today, to explain why we don’t have rotations for next year in Manhattan. Wow. The media calls it irrational euphoria to describe the people who fell for this Ponzi scheme, like when you can’t believe you fell for a dumb prank like giving someone all your money, or rather the entire collective funds of the government loans of your school’s kids. Well in this case, it would be euphoria of the I’m-out-of-my-mind-furious kind.

Where to find refuge from the world’s turmoil? Food, of course. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing, right? There’s only rational euphoria to be found here, like when flavors combine in a way that just make you beyond happy. That’s why people like dumplings – it’s the perfect bite of QQ and savory dripping meat juices co-mingled with soy-vinegar-spicy sauce.

In really really non-Asian towns, they call them Chinese ravioli. Or they also do that in bars which are strictly college kids’ conception of what a Chinese dive bar would be. My college bar, the Hong Kong, had these massive mostly dough dumplings, which most people would consider only suitable for sponging excess alcohol. This is the same joint that featured the ‘Hong Kong,’ which was the dregs of all the nights unfinished beverages in one gigantic drink. Couldn’t be an urban legend, could it?

Our go-to spot in Chinatown for cheap dumplings is on Mosco Street, still only 5 for $1 steam-grilled gyoza, spiked with watered down vinegar. Their secret ingredient is five spice powder. I find the flavor too overpowering for home use, since I usually stuff my dumplings till they’re chubby with pork. Theirs is minimally filled, thin like origami boats.

I prefer Happy Dumpling on Mott Street, the one by the indoor garage and the Chinese jerky place, which is interestingly situated next to a funeral home. They are mainlanders but make the stuffing I like, pork and Chinese chives, not the nasty pork and Napa cabbage combo which seems to be the classic. Another favorite is the three-scents, the seafood one. In Flushing, we’ve tried a lamb variety, at a pulled noodle shop where we often find men drinking cases of Bud and puffing cigarettes under the three No Smoking signs. The dumpling? Overrated and overly game-y.

ground fatty pork
Chinese chives
shittake mushrooms
soy sauce
roasted sesame oil
chili paste or sriracha

Dough Rant: Frozen store-bought dumplings are always inferior to homemade dough. There’s not much difference between dried pasta and fresh, according to our Italian friend, but we find it’s the proper thickness of the wrapper and the chewy spring slickness that’s missing from the frozen dumpling. Machines squeeze all the character our of a dough, whereas the homemade is bumpy and lends to inherent good chew. The absolute worst kind is that organic frozen stuff you can buy from Fresh Direct, filled with non-binding vegan crud. That junk falls apart in water and is beyond flimsy. All-purpose unbleached flour is the best for this job.

Make the dough by mixing flour and water together. (There are recipes using hot water making the dough QQ, but I find it’s fine with cold water. The key is letting the dough rest before rolling, and kneading.) We use a half bag of flour and enough water to make a soft, pliable dough – start with 2 cups water and add more as needed. Knead for 5-10min, until dough is smooth and shiny. You want the consistency to be like your earlobe, not sticking to the counter. It will soften while resting. Let it rest covered in a bowl with a damp towel while preparing filling.

Mix together pork, chopped chives, chopped reconstituted mushrooms (squeeze out excess water), soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper. (I’ve also added water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, chopped shrimp and chicken; turkey would be good too)

Roll out dough (floured surface if necessary) in chunks. Keep extra dough covered. Roll out strips about 2″ in diameter, chop 2″X2″ chunks off using pastry cutter. You can use a rolling pin to roll out the wrappers, or I just flatten them with my thumbs moving in a clockwise direction. Try to keep the middle a little thicker so the stuffing doesn’t burst through the bottom.

Spoon filling into middle and hold wrapper in one hand. Pinch the ends together in the middle and work your way down the two sides. Seal edges by pinching with the length of your thumbs and index finger. Pleat top, usually 3 looks nice. (4 is a homonym for death in Taiwanese, so that’s bad luck).

Two methods of cooking: Boil in water, wait till the dumplings float to the top, then cook 3-5 minutes, depending on how stuffed they are. Or the potsticker method, saute in oil on bottom-side down, then pour water to cover the bottom and cover with lid to steam for 5 min.

Sauce: Mix together soy sauce, sesame oil, chili paste and vinegar to taste. I like apple cider vinegar or black vinegar.

To store extra dumplings, flour a cookie sheet and place them spaced apart, not touching, and put in freezer for at least 20 min, until they’re hard when you pluck them off. Keep in Ziploc bags and put them directly in boiling water to cook without defrosting.

* JeJu secret splurge ingredient: If you are feeling fancy, try adding ground shrimp pork in with your ground fatty pork in a 1:3 ratio. You can score the shrimpy mixture at chinese butchers; our favorite in chinatown (look for the clean one on Bayard just east of Mott or on Mulberry north of Bayard – there are about 4 owned by the same folks, all good) always keeps us stocked.


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