Chinese Dumplings

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So far, I would have to say that the highlight of my trip to China has been cooking alongside Mandy and learning how to make Chinese dumplings. I did my best to take notes, ask questions and keep a careful eye on all of the steps. I even consulted with Mandy via gmail chat as I wrote out this recipe to be sure that I had it right. That being said, Mandy has told me several times that the problem with making real Chinese food is that recipes and exact amounts are rarely used. Most people that she knows that cook do it by taste, smell, and texture. Or, to them a cup is the green cup that their grandmother had on the counter. So I encourage you to use your best judgment as you go forward with this recipe. If you’re mixing and it feels like there should be more soy sauce, corn starch, or even green onions for that matter, go with your gut. For example, after finely chopping the garlic and throwing it in the bowl she said, “I don’t know, what do you think, more garlic?” Of course I responded with, “Heck yeah more garlic.” Also keep in mind that the filling should stick to itself pretty well, but not the sides of the bowl.

A huge thank you to Mandy for opening up her kitchen to me and doing her best to teach me!


We started with shopping for fresh ingredients

Pork, Cabbage, and Mushroom Filling for Chinese Dumplings
As taught to me by our friend, Mandy

Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
3/4 cup Chinese cabbage, finely chopped
3/4 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 green onions, including whites, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 egg
1 tsp chicken bouillon (or one cube, crushed)
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

~50 dumpling wraps*
1/2 cup water (for sealing the dumplings)

Corn oil and water for cooking

*Available in most well stocked grocery stores in the refrigerated section (or near produce) or can be found at Asian specialty stores. It might not hurt to call ahead and ask! I will add an updated link to this recipe when I get home and test out making my own dough!


Some of the ingredients


Chop Chop!

Directions
Place all of the first group of ingredients in a large bowl. At first, use two clean hands to lightly mix together and evenly distribute various ingredients. When the ingredients appear to be evenly distributed hold the bowl with one hand and use the other to fold the ingredients from the back side of the bowl to the front. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and fold again. Repeat until the filling is sticking together after each turn. This process keeps the filling from being overworked and getting tough. If for some reason it just doesn’t seem to be coming together you can try adding a little bit more cornstarch and a tablespoon of beaten egg.


Folding ingredients together

To fill the dumplings, hold the dumpling wrapper in one hand and place about 2 tbsp of filling in the middle. Wet one finger and run around the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper (kind of like a taco) and pinch in the middle. The sides will still be open at this point. Now, each open end is going to get 3 pinches. Each pinch will work it’s way to the middle. You want the final dumpling to be able to stand on it’s own.


Filling


The theme of the evening was pinch, pinch, pinch

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add a group of dumplings to the pan and cook in oil for two minutes. After two minutes, add 1/2 cup of water (or enough to come 1/3 of the way up the dumplings), cover the skillet with a lid (careful there will be some splatter!) and cook for 6-8 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed. Repeat with remaining dumplings.

For dipping, Mandy threw together some soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and green onion. I didn’t get the exact measurements or a picture, though.


I made beef and mushrooms with gravy and mashed potatoes,
Jesse put it all in one bowl and enjoyed 🙂

Shrimp Fried Rice

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The first time Jesse was in China he had a lot of fun shopping for souvenirs. He brought home lots of really cool stuff. And when I say lots, I mean it. He had 3 suitcases, one of them the size of Texas. The suitcase that was the size of Texas was actually overweight to the point that he had to remove stuff and put it in a box to be shipped back. The airline rep at the counter said he couldn’t just pay the overweight fee because it was just too heavy for the workers to lift on to the plane. Yeah, that kind of “lots of stuff”. Granted he also had to TAKE a lot of stuff with him so it wasn’t all souvenirs, but a good amount.

Now, I know you can buy chop sticks here in the US, but I still thought it was awesome when he brought home a pack. He also brought a really nice Chinese tea set. Little yellow cups with black and red masks painted on the side and a matching teapot perfect for brewing tea. As cool as those things are I don’t always have a good excuse to use them. But this week a little celebration is in order. And I think the most appropriate way to celebrate is making Chinese food and using my chopsticks and tea set.

Why the celebration? Because, I AM GOING TO CHINA! I am so excited I can’t stand it. First and foremost, I get to be with my husband. Second, I get to travel to some where completely new and different to me. I hope to find ways to really immerse myself in the culture and learn lots of new things. And of course I plan to try lots of new foods!

As for the fried rice I made, it was delicious. It’s always fun when I get to use my wok and try new ingredients (Chinese cabbage). I can’t say how authentic this recipe is but I will definitely make it again.


Shrimp Fried Rice
(Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 medium head Chinese cabbage, coarsely chopped
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
1/4 soy sauce
1/8 rice vinegar
1/8 orange juice
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup frozen peas
8 ounces small shrimp, shelled, raw, deveined
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp green onion, sliced (for garnishing, and I forgot but will remember next time)

Heat the oil in a wok (or large skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 6 minutes, until it appears limp. Stir often.

Create a well in the cabbage and pour in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, orange juice and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add the shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp is light pink then add the rice and peas. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly making sure to coat the rice evenly.

Make a well in the middle of the rice. Pour the eggs into the well and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring with a fork. Gently fold the eggs into the rice.

Serve immediately with green onions for garnish.

Beef With Snow Peas and Baby Corn

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Today I was thinking of Jesse all.day.long. Wondering what the weather was like, how his jet lag was, and of course, what he was eating. I started thinking of all the different kinds of foods he tried the last two times he was in China. I was really proud of him because he really stepped out of his food comfort zone and tried things I had never imagined he would try. And he even liked a lot of them. Another great thing about the food in China is that they use a lot of vegetables, so he started to like a much wider variety.

While all of that was swimming around my head I also started thinking of vegetables, and ginger, and soy sauce. Side note, ironically they don’t use much soy sauce in Shanghai, at least they don’t put it out in restaurants and use it as a condiment like we are so used to in American Chinese restaurants. Jesse says they associate that with being a bad cook or having bad ingredients. Anyways, I then started to crave those things.

I remember seeing this recipe a while back on one of my favorite blogs, the Pioneer Woman. It sounded really good at the time but for whatever reason I didn’t get around to trying it. Finally, after my round about thinking session earlier today, I remembered and decided I had to make this. So really, in a very complicated web of my every day thought process, this meal is all about Jesse and his trip to China. I only wish he were here to enjoy it with me, especially since it was so tasty!


Beef with Snow Peas and Baby Corn
(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Ingredients

1-½ pound Flank Steak, Trimmed Of Fat And Sliced Very Thin Against The Grain
½ cups Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar (or if you forget to buy this at the store, apple cider vinegar and a splash of white wine)
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
8 ounce package of Snow Peas and Baby Corn
5 whole Scallions, Cut Into Half-inch Pieces On The Diagonal
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Crushed Red Pepper, For Sprinkling
Jasmine Or Long Grain Rice, Cooked According To Package

Directions

In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, and ginger. Add sliced meat to bowl and toss with hands. Set aside.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add snow peas and baby corn and stir for 45 seconds. Remove to a separate plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Set aside.

Allow pan to get very hot again. With tongs, add half the meat mixture, leaving most of the marinade still in the bowl. Add half the scallions. Spread out meat as you add it to pan, but do not stir for a good minute. (You want the meat to get as brown as possible in as short amount a time as possible.) Turn meat to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a clean plate.

Repeat with other half of meat, allowing pan to get very hot again first. After turning it, add the first plateful of meat, the rest of the marinade, and the snow peas. Stir over high heat for 30 seconds, then turn off heat.

Serve immediately over rice. Sprinkle crushed red pepper over the top to give it some spice.