Monday, 4 April 2011

dumplings. broth. perfect.

A weekend night a while back, I found myself sipping cocktails with a couple of friends in a nice bar where loud lounge music played in the background and beautiful people wore high heeled shoes and spectacular earrings.

We were all discussing dumplings.

Having a very animated discussion, I might add.

I had mentioned that I was thinking about making dumplings for lunch on Sunday, just to give it a try... And ensued a passionate debate about the perfect filling, about the merits of steaming vs. frying and a number of other, evidently very important, issues (Chinese! Japanese! KOREAN!). However, despite such minor differences, the general sentiment appeared to be that Helsinki is a godforsaken backwater and a hoplessly lost case mainly due to its lack of decent dumpling restaurants. So, clearly, dumplings are serious business.

I was confused. Sure, I'd had some pretty decent dim sum in Manila in the Chinese fast-food joint where I used to meet my ex boyfriend for lunch, and I am about as obsessed with gyoza as I am with edamame beans (and I will come up with just about any excuse for heading to rue Ste Anne to get some when I am in Paris), but apart from that my experience is pretty much limited to watching how-to videos on youtube and the occasional drooling over the cookbook section in the FNAC in avenue de Ternes. I haven't ever experienced the OMG-dumplings-are-the-best-food-ever moment that all my friends seemed to share, and consequently, I did find the situation a little bewildering.

Neverteless, the point of all this is that last Sunday I made dumpling soup. My very first dumplings, in spicy broth, hot broth with lots of pak choi. And that, although there remains a lot for me to learn and quite a bit of room for improvement, I am beginning to understand the passion of my friends.

shrimp dumplings in broth

This is a very crude version, which may be amended about any way you like. I might post a more precise recipe once I figure out my preferred proportions of this and that, but for now this will have to do. This should be enough to give you the general idea of how to make dumplings. Frozen dumpling skins can be bought in most Asian food stores (in Helsinki there are several good ones in Hämeentie, near the Hakaniemi market).

For the filling:
a few drops of sesame oil, to taste

dumpling skins

For the broth:
Vegetable or chicken fond
Pak choi

Parsley to serve

Mix all the ingredients for the filling finely into a fine paste. With a spoon, put a small dollop of filling on the middle of a dumpling skin, wet the edges of one half of the skin, and fold the skin over to form the kind of dumpling you prefer, like this. Press the edges together carefully to seal in the filling. Boil the dumplings with the chopped vegetables in the broth, and serve steaming hot with some chopped parsley.


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