My Little Dumpling

In food on 10/23/2009 at 9:17 am

Here is the cute poster for this Sunday’s NYC Dumpling Festival:

morsels du jour

We shan’t be going to it because the other half decided we must get spiritual on Sundays now. Last week, we visited the Unitarian Church (the Caucasian version of Buddhism) in Summit after our previous disastrous attempt to go to the ghetto one in Orange. This one was much nicer, though the demographics were a little too bourgeois and elderly for us. The best part was going to lunch at the Summit Diner downtown.

real-o deal-io

Yes, it really is that awesome. The interior has backless stools along the counter, and booths on the opposite wall, all reds and browns (wood-paneling). The food is pretty much greasy spoon stuff, except their huge breakfast sausages were like the ones at Tom’s Restaurant on the UWS, whose sausage is the standard by which I judge all others. This one is up there. The Greek men behind the counter were bantering and having a grand ol’ time while going through the motions in almost a precious ritualistic fashion. It was a great show. Next we’ll be checking out the church near our Asian Food Mart, so we can go food shopping afterwards.

I am a fan of things wrapped in flour. Now that I’ve mastered the potsticker/dumpling, bao, and eggroll (which isn’t featured above), it’s time to move onto three items which I’ve never seen: idli, palitaw and kuih koci. They all cook by using a steamer. Pierogi and gnocchi are out because of the other half’s potato issue. Until I have time to gather the ingredients and make them, I’ll reserve judgment on which one will be added to my repertoire. I’d also convert them to a savory flavor.

By the way, that Tang’s brand dumpling is probably one of the grossest things I have ever put in my mouth, no QQ and the filling falls apart. I know how to boil a frozen dumpling and those, my friends, are impossible to boil. I’d really feel sorry for the contestants at the eating contest if those were the ones they are forced to scarf.

One wrapped delight I miss is zhongzi, which Mother used to make but it took all day and forever. There used to be a place in Chinatown that sold 10 or more varieties with different ingredients, each only $1. I could get my fix then, but they still lacked that authentic Taiwan flavor, that earthy dirty umami. I’m including the classic recipe from my childhood (via the secret blue spiral notebook with yellowing pages), but I’m thinking it’ll also make a great rice cooker treat. It’s fun to eat the dumpling out of your hand, but I ain’t got the patience no mo’.

Sweet glutinous rice (don’t cheap out, get the Japanese brand)
raw peanuts
pork with skin and fat layers
dried shittake mushrooms (rehydrate in water overnight and julienne)
fried shallots
100 year old duck egg yolks (dislodge from whites)
five spice powder
soy sauce
salt & pepper
bamboo leaves

Soak rice in water overnight. 1 cup = 2 zhongzi. Pour out excess liquid.

Soak peanuts with boiled water ~4hrs. Steam in rice cooker. Shake dry and put in bowl.

Cube pork into 1″ chunks (so each piece has fat and skin) and stir fry. When meat is opaque add shittake mushroom, soy sauce, five spice powder, salt&pepper. Saute ~5 minutes.

Pour pork mix liquid into rice, add peanuts and fried shallots. Add salt, but not too much because the duck egg yolk is plenty salty.

Cut duck yolk with string or knife.

Soak bamboo leaves with warm water until limp. Wash in cold water and put aside.

Get twine and cut ~30″, tie 10 together with a knot on one end.

Assemble zhongzi by placing two leaves at a slight ‘v’ (one larger, one smaller), fold into small pocket. Put down a layer of rice, add pork mix on top, some more rice, half a duck yolk, top with rice. Bundle up and wrap around the middle with twine.

Boil a big pot of water. Add zhongzi and simmer for 1.5 hours. Unwrap and eat with soy paste (thick soy sauce) and chili paste.

***For rice cooker method: Don’t soak the rice. Add rice and all ingredients into rice cooker. Fill up to the line matching the number of cups of rice plus a little more for the extra stuff, mix well. Cut soaked bamboo leaves and place loosely on top (just to absorb the fragrance). Cook as you normally would for rice.

10/28/2009 update: So I tried my above rice cooker method and it wasn’t a good idea to place the bamboo leaves on top. It prevented the rice from steaming properly, and since my cooker is based on indirect heat, there lies the rub. So, instead, I would soak the bamboo leaves until they get pliable – while the rice is cooking – then drop them in on top of the rice after it’s done. The leaves are so fragrant the sauna should percolate the aroma nicely. Also, add more water outside the rice cooker during the cooking since you’ve got extra bulk to cook (this is only if you’ve got the old school style rice cooker).

***There’s many variations on the bamboo-leaf wrapped dumpling, savory and sweet. Each region and country in Southeast Asia also has a version. Here is the Vietnamese style from Serious Eats. Asian tamales are the best.

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