What in the world is my post title, you ask? Simply, our 2nd Daring Cooks challenge! Need more help than that? It was hosted by a woman I'm happy to call a friend of mine, the fantabulous Jen Yu of Use Real Butter. Still stumped? 中国饺子和锅贴! Did that help? OK, fine...
Chinese Dumplings and Potstickers!
I was tickled when Jen spilled the beans to us, over breakfast last month, that she was June's Daring Cooks' hostess-with-the-mostess! It was literally hours later that she posted the challenge (from her hotel room nonetheless!) Chinese dumplings! A positively fantastic challenge for Jen to host. Especially since the main reason I first started reading Jen's blog was for her Fan-Diddly-Tastic Chinese recipes; written out clearly with measurements and instructions. As most children/grandchildren of Chinese immigrants know - when you ask said relatives how to make a particular dish you get what I get from my mother "Oh I don't know, just add it until it tastes right." Which is usually followed by "maybe you should watch me make it and estimate." Neither is very helpful when I'm on the other end of a phone call inquiring about a tricky Chinese recipe.
First things first here, the difference between a dumpling and a potsticker is... nothing other than how you cook it. Dumplings are usually boiled or steamed while potstickers are pan-fried. Other than that they are the same thing.
We were given Jen's entire recipe for dumpling skins, fillings (1 pork and 1 shrimp) and a dipping sauce. As I reviewed her recipe however, I realized that it was quite close to my family's dumpling/potsticker recipe; right down to the dipping sauce! So I pretty much made my family's recipe since it's what I'm familiar with. I did do a version of Jen's dumpling skin to check it out first, but lemme tell you - our family recipes for all the elements of this challenge were near identical, so I probably won't even get a slap on the wrist for using my own.
My family uses more water than Jen in the dumpling skins. 6 T of water per 1 cup of flour, while Jen uses 4 T of water per 1 cup of flour. I don't know whether this was something with my weather, or the day, or my skill after practicing, but I liked the dough better with more water. After cooking, the skin felt softer and thinner even when I rolled them out the same thickness.
The family filling differs a bit as well but really you can throw anything into a dumpling and it’s legit if you enjoy it.
My auntie taught me to fold dumplings differently also. I’ve put together a step-by-step to show people how we fold dumplings in my family. I also tried Jen’s way and while her way seems easier to do, I think our way allows you to stuff more filling in the dumplings. Pick your priorities! We fold ours with either 4 folds or 6 folds depending on how intricate you want to be. The other thing that’s nice is you could fold (for example) shrimp with 4 pleats and pork with 6 and then you can tell the difference without having to keep them separated.
I’ll post higher resolution pictures when I get home so that you can see better details when you click on them – I’m currently traveling and the bandwidth is very low so I can’t upload large images.
For 4 pleats:For 6 pleats:As is always the case, the folding started out a little rough (read: ugly) but gets much easier and faster (read: better looking) as you go. I should have made multiple batches while I was at it, but I didn’t have room in my freezer. Even still, I made up a second batch of skins a few days later and filled them with our family har gow recipe. Voila: shrimp dumplings
Cooking the dumplings is so easy and fast. Just fry the bottoms up a bit and then dump in the water while it splatters and splashes and steam them until the water’s gone. After all that complicated slicing, dicing (the filling) and folding (the dumplings) it’s nice that cooking is so simple and easy. And of course that’s for potstickers; dumplings are just as easy – either boiling for soup or steaming gently to eat with a dipping sauce.
My favorite dipping sauce is really simple. Light soy sauce, Chinese pink vinegar and some sugar. I’m just as bad as my mother here in that I can’t give you measurements… “just pour them together until it tastes good.”
It’s always scary to set up for and make these “complicated” things I’ve learned from my family; and do so all alone at home. It’s so much more fun and less-intimidating to do them with a small army of Chinese females gathered around me instructing [demanding] that I fold my dim sum the correct way. But these relatives are aging much faster than I’m willing to accept. In fact, my mom’s oldest sister, my Auntie Frances who has been like a pseudo Por-Por to me (my own passed away many, many years before I was born) taught me to make almost all the Chinese food I make. Her health and age have now carried her to a point in which she’s no longer cooking very much anymore. It is to her that I dedicate this post, and to Jen I send my thanks - for pushing me and reminding me that I can make these things. And in doing so, I can carry on the family traditions for many, many, many more years.