Year of the Dragon

20 Jan

Monday may be the start of the Year of the Dragon, but around here, it’s going to be Year of the Dumpling.

We love the colour and excitement of Chinatown during the lunar new year celebration. And as much as we adore the cacophany of packed restaurants and all the tastes, we’re always inspired to try our hand at home with some exotic recipes.
We’ve been making traditional shu mai and har gow at home for years. But the idea of using chopped boneless country-style pork ribs and combining with gelatin might be our most authentic shu mai yet.

And there are some exciting new wave recipes we’re dying to finally try. Cook’s Illustrated has an interesting curried chicken with carrots and basil.

And for those too lazy to fill another dumpling wrapper, we have some chicken balls combining colourful shredded carrot and green onion, and turkey scallion balls with soy-ginger glaze.

So to start, here is Cook’s Illustrated’s take using a food processor to grind boneless country-style ribs in two batches: one chunky and one fine. Once combined, the smaller pieces helped hold the larger bits together and add a pleasant textural contrast. A mixture of powdered gelatin and cornstarch keeps the filling moist.

Do not trim the excess fat from the ribs; it contributes flavor and moistness. Use any size shrimp except popcorn shrimp; there’s no need to halve shrimp smaller than 26 to 30 per pound before processing.
Makes about 40 dumplings, serving 6 to 8 as an appetizer

Steamed Chinese Dumplings (Shu Mai)
From Cook’s Illustrated September 1, 2010
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs , cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, tails removed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup water chestnuts , chopped
4 dried shiitake mushroom caps (about 3/4 ounce), soaked in hot water 30 minutes, squeezed dry, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1(1 pound) package 5 1/2 inch square egg roll wrappers
1/4 cup carrot, finely grated

Combine soy sauce and gelatin in small bowl. Set aside to allow gelatin to bloom, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place half of pork in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground into approximate 1/8-inch pieces, about ten 1-second pulses; transfer to large bowl. Add shrimp and remaining pork to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped into approximate ¼-inch pieces, about five 1-second pulses. Transfer to bowl with more finely ground pork. Stir in soy sauce mixture, water chestnuts, mushrooms, cornstarch, cilantro, sesame oil, wine, vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper.

Divide egg roll wrappers into 3 stacks (6 to 7 per stack). Using 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut two 3-inch rounds from each stack of egg roll wrappers (you should have 40 to 42 rounds). Cover rounds with moist paper towels to prevent drying.

Working with 6 rounds at a time, brush edges of each round lightly with water. Place heaping tablespoon of filling into center of each round. Following illustrations below, form dumplings, crimping wrapper around sides of filling and leaving top exposed. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with damp kitchen towel, and repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Top center of each dumpling with pinch of grated carrot.

Cut piece of parchment slightly smaller than diameter of steamer basket and place in basket. Poke about 20 small holes in parchment and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place batches of dumplings on parchment liner, making sure they are not touching. Set steamer over simmering water and cook, covered, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately with chili oil.

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