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February 2014 Cookbook of the Month-- ASIAN DUMPLINGS: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More: Translucent Wheat and Tapioca Starches;Transformations of Rice

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from ASIAN DUMPLINGS: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen.

Translucent Wheat and Tapioca Starches, pages 130-151
Transformations of Rice, pages 152-177

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  1. Fried Sticky Rice Dumplings, p. 163

    I decided to kick off the year of the horse with these dumplings. Now, I have to eat gluten-free, and while there are a number of gluten-free wrappers in this book, this particular wrapper, as written, is not. So a little adaptation had to occur.

    The recipe for the dough calls for 5 3/4 ounces of glutinous rice flour and 2 1/4 ounces of wheat starch. The glutinous rice flour is gluten-free, and I had it on hand, so no problem there. The wheat starch is a problem. I suspect I could have made the dough with 100% rice flour, but I decided to substitute some tapioca flour for the wheat starch. I used the same amount, by weight, as the amount of wheat starch in the recipe.

    The other dry ingredients are sugar and salt. They all get mixed together in a bowl. Two tablespoons of lard go in, and then you pour in some water just off the boil. Stir until the lard melts and the dough starts to come together. Then you transfer to a work surface and knead until you have a cohesive ball. Wrap the ball in some plastic wrap and set aside to let cool. Easy as can be.

    The dough is divided in half (with one half being wrapped back up so it won't dry out). You roll this into a log and cut into 10 pieces. Each piece gets shaped into a football-shaped dumpling, according to instructions on p. 164, and filled with the filling. I used the Char Siu Pork and Mushroom Filling on p 166. The the dumplings then get fried in oil.

    The dough came together just as described in the book. Some of my footballs didn't look perfect when I shaped them, and I was concerned that they might fall apart in frying or at least come out looking ugly. But that did not happen. What did happen is that in the oil, they seemed to even out and came out better-looking than when they went in. And not a single one broke open in oil. In short, this is a very forgiving recipe. They came out a nice golden brown, and the crust was crunchy on the outside with a bit of chewiness inside. Delicious. Served with a kumquat dipping sauce, which was not from this book.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      Forgot to add picture. The dumplings are front left, accompanied by a spring roll in rice paper, a lettuce wrap, and the kumquat dipping sauce.

       
      1. re: MelMM

        Look at you go Mel, those look stunning. I love that the deep frying not only made them tasty but also made them prettier.

      2. Char Siu Pork and Mushroom Filling, p. 166

        I used this filling for the Fried Sticky Rice Dumplings on p. 163. I had some homemade Char Siu that I made from a Grace Young recipe, but smoked in my Big Green Egg. So that's what I used for the char siu. To make the filling, you dice up the char siu, a bit of dried shrimp, a scallion, and a couple reconstituted dried shitakes. This gets sautéed and seasoned with a sauce of soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine (bourbon in my case), sugar, white pepper, and five spice powder. The sauce has a bit or cornstarch mixed in to thicken the mixture. When you add the sauce, it quickly thickens up so the filling is not "saucy" at all, just seasoned.

        This filling had a nice bold flavor, so it was perfect for the sticky rice dumplings. My char siu was very smoky and strong tasting, so it made a nice foil for the mild dumpling dough. I would definitely repeat these dumplings and this filling.

        1. Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings, p. 135 and
          Vegetarian Crystal Dumplings, p. 139

          Okay, I'm cheating a bit as it's been a month or so since I made these :) But from the cookbook they're the ones I keep going back to, mainly cause that's the kind I like to eat.

          For the har gow, I sub water chestnuts for the bamboo shoots cause I like them better. Otherwise I follow the recipes exactly and the result is really great.

           
          2 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            Lovely looking? I plan on trying the har gow this month as they are my husband's favourites. How easy did you find the dough to work with?

            1. re: delys77

              As I've mentioned, I took a class by her last year and, for me anyway, this was the easiest dough. I have a tortilla press and it works great for making dumplings. You sometimes get it too thin and then just "wad" it up and redo - a frequent word heard in our class :) The dowel is pretty important also. We had some pieces in the garage that worked great. You're gonna be blown away!

              ETA: Those dumplings were a little overcooked.

          2. Sticky Rice and Spiced Chicken in Banana Leaf - p. 173

            Amazingly I had everything for this recipe but the chicken which is easy to pick up at any store. You have to be a bit organized with the recipe as AN instructs to soak glutinous rice for at least 2 hours, even overnight. I started in the morning. Soaked the rice and defrosted all ingredients that were in the freezer. Had an event during the day and was planning to go to Asian market to pick up steamer rack but the weather turned really nasty and I only dashed to the grocery for chicken. Rice had to be steamed and I struggled without proper rack and overcooked it somewhat but it is still great. So, now I have all components sitting in the fridge - defrosted banana leaves, cooked rice and chicken filling. I made a couple of small rice balls with the filling inside just to taste and they were so good! Tonight I am too tired to cook, work tomorrow and an evening activity... Will be steaming little packets on Tuesday evening and will report then. But I already know that it will be delicious :)

            1. So I have a question for the experienced dumpling-makers on this board. How much more labor intensive is it to make your own dumpling skins vs. using store bought. And is it worth it? I've never used either.

              17 Replies
              1. re: Westminstress

                It certainly is more work than opening a package, but IMHO when time permits, it is worth it. It takes a while to get into the groove of rolling, but the homemade skins are so much easier to work with and much more forgiving when pleating and sealing and it doesn't take long to find a rhythm. Plus you can have fun and play with the colours of the dough, which makes a dumpling binge-fest more exciting!

                1. re: Allegra_K

                  I made my own for the first time a few days ago. The instructions in the book were spot on, and I really had no trouble (although I did get a few tiny holes when pinching them together). I pretty much had to make them, as I did not see pre-made at the large Asian market I shopped at to get the various starches. Perhaps I did not know where to look! (I was looking for them when I was having trouble finding the starches-- but I eventually found the starches and made them myself).

                  1. re: DGresh

                    That also brings up a good point, some wrappers (ie: leavened dough, wheat starch and tapioca starch based skins, glutinous rice dough) are not available even in Asian markets, you kinda have to make your own; whereas others, (ie: basic dumpling, wonton, spring roll, rice sheets) are pretty available, usually found near the refrigerated fresh noodles in Asian markets.

                2. re: Westminstress

                  I've done it once and never made homemade skins again. They ARE much better, but if you're making a large batch of dumplings to freeze (which is what we do) and you're still learning how to roll out the skins, it can take forever.

                  1. re: emily

                    Btw, I was doing the traditional hand rolling method with a thin wooden dowel when I tried these - I think the tortilla press would be much faster.

                    1. re: emily

                      I can't remember if I mentioned but Andrea taught us to first use the tortilla press and then a dowel for making the edges thinner than the rest. Easy peasy.

                      1. re: emily

                        It's unconventional, but I preferred using a pastry roller to using a dowel.

                    2. re: Westminstress

                      Absolutely worth it. No comparison actually. And once you learn how to do it, it's pretty much a snap. I would never consider buying the wrappers again.

                      1. re: Westminstress

                        I'd look at it this way; if you are someone who thinks it is worthwhile to make noodles/pasta by hand, then making your own dumpling wrappers is worth giving a whirl. If not, there's a reason fresh/boxed noodles are available at the market! The trade off in making wrappers is pretty similar.

                        Also it is a question of access and personal taste--I've made rice sheets before, but didn't think they were worth the extra trouble given my lack of expertise, and easy access to a good Asian grocery that carries fresh local rice sheets. On the other hand I never make jiaozi or guotie with store bought wrappers, 'cause mine are better!

                        1. re: qianning

                          qianning,

                          How do make your guotie wrappers? Similar to Nguyen? Dunlop? An entirely different technique?

                          1. re: BigSal

                            More like Dunlop's, cold water dough, but with the Taiwanese twist of adding a little oil (1/4 tsp per 1 C flour) to the dough. And just to clarify, not saying this is better than AN's, just that we like it better than store bought.

                            Have never made the hot water dough, hoping to try AN's sometime this month.

                            1. re: qianning

                              I've only made ANs with the "just boiled water." Love it and it's super easy. Also has a little oil.

                              1. re: qianning

                                Thank you. I did like Dunlop's version with a touch of oil and two different flours. I liked Nguyen's too (which is very similar to Hiroko Shimbo's recipe, but I believe Shimbo's includes salt). I think I remember really liking the texture of Dunlop's a bit more. I may have to compare them side by side to really determine.

                                1. re: BigSal

                                  This month I've found myself wondering if I should try a couple of doughs side by side (different recipes, different flours, & etc), but whether I'll have the ambition to actually do so remains to be seen....

                                  You, on the other hand, are often so good about this sort of test, shall love to hear if you have a chance to do any comparisons.

                                  I don't think I ever add salt to unleavened doughs--bread, pasta or "skins"--am I missing something?

                                  1. re: qianning

                                    I honestly can't remember if I noticed a difference with salt added. I'd like to figure out which I prefer. Fortunately, my family has become accustomed to my crazy food quests. The search for the best bulgogi recipe was warmly received. :)

                                    1. re: BigSal

                                      "best bulgogi", your family is lucky!

                                      I have a lot of Chinese books on dumplings/buns/breads/snacks and the differences in recommended flours and proportions and techniques are quite wide. And often diametrically different from AN's recipe.

                                      So far I'm really impressed with AN's exact and accurate measurements (this is not a strong point of Chinese recipes, IMO & experience); but I would like to try at least one side by side comparison with different flours this month.

                          2. re: Westminstress

                            Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I have both a tortilla press and a pasta machine (a hand crank Atlas) but have made neither tortillas nor pasta since my son was born 3.5 years ago. Neither is particularly difficult, both are better homemade, but in both cases it is far easier to open up a package. In the case of the dumpling skins I had the impression that the time spent making and rolling dough was somewhat offset by the fact that filling the dumplings is easier and faster.... but it sounds like even taking that into account, making homemade skins is more work.