dumpling Tag

JALAPENO POPPER DUMPLINGS W/ PICKLING JUICE DIPPING SAUCE

ONE DOES NOT TELL YOU THAT WHEN PICKLED JALAPENO AND CHEDDAR CHEESE ARE IN THE COMPANY OF GROUND PORK, DELIVERED IN CAPSULE-FORM, THEN FURTHER DIPPED INTO A REDUCTION OF ITS OWN PICKLING JUICE, THE COMBO CAN BE BORN ANEW.

My speculation into a jalapeño popper dumpling began many years ago.  It was first brought into light by a specimen from my brother-in-law, who gave us two dozens of online-ordered frozen dumplings which, I was told, had become somewhat of a local internet sensation at the time.  The entire makeup of the dumpling was very well-balanced, a perfect ratio between silky and chewy wrapper, not too thin, not too thick, and a fully-housed filling of pork, chopped Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chili, cilantro, plus some other secret stuffs that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  It was unexpected, well-flavored, totally legit.

I have since then, for a handful of times, attempted to replicate that particular dumpling outside of Taiwan where Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chili aren’t always a common item, and had found such task to be extremely impractical at best.  First of all, Taiwanese-style peeled and pickled chilis are, even when available, highly inconsistent in quality between various brands, ranging from awesomely crunchy and peppery with a tinge of sweetness, to barbarically over-sweetened, flaccid and tasteless.  Then what complicated the matter even further was that every attempts to replace it with another type of pickled chilis, had resulted in a flavor profile that was completely unrecognizable.  In some work, documentary for example, there are certain values in writing recipes involving ingredients that are highly specific and exclusive, necessary even.  This, I decided, isn’t one of’em.

I decided that the idea of a dumpling involving a delicious pickled chili, one that is available and reliable nonetheless, could only be realized from a perspective ungoverned by its original inspiration.  Which brings us to, jalapeño popper dumpling.

I made a jadeite-green wrappers colored by green scallion puree, sturdy yet soft, smooth yet chewy, a proper capsule for a filling that is fully specked with spicy and peppery chopped pickled jalapeño and cubes of sharp cheddar cheese, each occupying tiny gooey pockets throughout a fatty pork filling that is brightened with fresh cilantro.  The compatibility between pickled jalapeño and cheddar cheese requires no dispute, but one does not tell you that when they’re in the company of ground pork, delivered in capsule-form, then further dipped into a spicy, briny and tangy reduction of its own pickling juice, this classic combo can be born anew.

Sometimes the destination isn’t where the starting point had intended.  And often times that pisses me off.  In this case, I am not.

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SINGAPORE HAWKER MARATHON: CRYSTAL DUMPLING (ZONGZI) MADE WITH SAGO PEARLS

 

WHAT:  Beautiful, jewel-like, crystal dumplings called zongzi made purely with sago pearls, which I didn’t actually eat in Singapore.

WHY:  Although, as far as I know, this is technically not a “Singaporean thing”, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t.  Its glossily translucent and elegantly geometric body is made entirely with tapioca sago pearls, making it enthusiastically bouncy, springy, chewy, the most texturally cheerful dumpling out there served cold with coconut dark brown sugar syrup.

HOW:  By soaking and various natural coloring agents, we are turning plain sago pearls into colorful mushy fillings that, through baptism of boiling water, transforms into these gem-like, glassy and slick dumplings that are wonderfully chewy, cooling and simply euphoric to look at.  It’s a texture thing, very much like the addictive quality of tapioca pearls inside boba teas.  The single source of fragrance and flavor that is fused into these dumplings (except the green ones that are made with pandan leaf) depends solely on these spear-shaped leaves, often times called zongye (dumpling leaf), mostly harvested from a particular type of East Asian evergreen bamboos.  It’s hard to describe it to those who haven’t personally experienced it, as it is a truly unique fragrance.  In my best ability, but probably inadequate, I would say it’s a combination of very intense corn husks and grassy tea leaves.

If you feel wary of this unfamiliar ingredient, trust me, once I was too.  But after getting over my illogical fear – one that wasn’t even inconvenient because you can buy these leaves with only a few clicks on your computer – I am now so in love of it that I want to use the leftover, incredibly aromatic cooking water as a base for soups!  And once I’ve learnt how fun it is to shape them, I just want to sit by a sunny window and make zongzi all day long.

Staying in line with the Southeast Asian flavors of this series, I’m proposing a serving syrup made with coconut milk, dark brown sugar and sea salt, mimicking the flavor of palm sugar.  But any other sweethearts like honey, maple syrup, or date syrup will do, too.

 

IT’S A TEXTURE THING!

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DIM SUM MONTH: GLASS DUMPLINGS W/ MUSHROOMS AND SMOKED GOUDA CHEESE

DIM SUM MONTH STILL CONTINUES…

OK, I know it’s not February anymore, but there’s still a couple more dim sum I want to share so DIM SUM MONTH is oozing into March a bit…

WHAT:  Glass-like translucent dumplings stuffed with caramelized mushrooms and a soft-hearted center of smoked gouda cheese, all in a beautiful tear-drop shape.

WHY:  Because the only tears you’re gonna cry are happy ones when you try this.

HOW:  This wrapper is actually my favorite not only because it’s so beautiful, but it actually freezes well, or should I say better than the more common and popular crystal shrimp dumplings.  It has a pleasantly bouncy and chewy mouth-feel, and it gives the audience a preview to whatever fillings you put inside!  In this case, we’re doing deeply oven-caramelized mushrooms that are bound together by a bit of ground pork and parmigiano-regiano cheese (and a hint of truffle oil if you can splurge), creating an earthy, warm and aromatic cradle that rocks a soft and temperate center of smoked gouda cheese.  Nothing is going to shout “funk!” in this flavor-profile here, only modest but confident display of a well-tolerated harmony.  The only accessory it likes is a brightening dab of heat from this chili sambal romesco sauce.  But the sky’s the limit here.  How about grassy colored spinach filling with a stronger punch of blue cheese, or sweet and red-cheeked carrots or beets and funky goat’s cheese?  Dream wild.

* I believe that the next post will be the final chapter of dim sum month, and I’m going to list out a complete game-plan on what, how and when to prepare certain items ahead of time, and throwing then all together at our virtual dim sum party :)

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DIM SUM MONTH: Crystal shrimp dumpling w/ shrimp oil mayo

EXACTLY WHAT DIM SUM IS SUPPOSED TO, BUT SOMEHOW FORGOTTEN TO BE,

LITERALLY, AS TO TOUCH HEART

Welcome to DIM SUM MONTH!

WHAT:  I’m dedicating this whole month to the delicate art that is dim sum.

WHY:  I’m slowly and painfully realizing how scarce a good, thoughtful and delicious dim sum can be.  Even in Hong Kong – the supposedly promised land of dim sum – I found my expectation being shattered with sloppy, tired, and borderline unethical display of dimness.  Frankly, I’m fed up.

HOW:  Just as unfamiliar as most of you are in terms of making dim sum, I’m going to show you that it is possible for us to create these little baskets of happiness at home.  We are going to take each conventional dim sum item, and mix them with a bit of thoughtfulness and fun.  Almost every items can be made ahead of time, and hopefully at the end of the month, we’ll be able to host our own dim sum party that is more awesome than most.

Let’s start with the classic of the classics – crystal shrimp dumplings.

We are going to correct all of its frequently ignored mistakes: soggy and texture-less wrappers, and frankly, boringness.  This recipe will yield a wrapper that is beautifully translucent, shiny, and just a bit bouncy to the bite, filled with a generous amount of whole tiger shrimps held together by fatty ground pork.  Last but not least, a small dollop of mayonnaise made with shrimp oil and thickened up with cashew butter, will knock this out of the park.

It is a single bite that embodies a carnival of senses: textures, flavors, esthetics and imaginations.  Which is exactly what dim sum is supposed to, but somehow forgotten to be, literally, as to touch heart.

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CRUSTY RADISH DUMPLINGS FOR MY DUMPLING

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MY DUMPLING COMES WITH AN EXTRA DISK OF SALTY, CRACKLING, DRAMATIC BUT ALSO DELICATE PERSONALITY.  IT MIGHT NOT BE FOR EVERYONE WHO LIKE SMOOTH RIDES, BUT IT’S MY DUMPLING AND I LIKE IT EXACTLY THE WAY IT IS.

 

I’ve always liked western funerals.

Or to be more specific, I’ve always liked the meal that takes place afterwards.  The kind of… you’re-dead-let’s-eat attitude, the striving positivity in what I would like to call, “party-grieving”.  Call this meal a “repast” or whatever, but as far as I’m concerned, when a large group of friends gathers and gets drunk plus smothered in casseroles, even if it was after an eternal farewell and no lady’s mascara was fully intact, hey, it’s a party.  So yeah.  I think it’s nice.  I think it’s dignifying.  When I have my funeral, I’m going to make everyone listen to Gaga’s “(now you really) can’t read my, can’t read my poker face”, and like it or not, eat sardine casseroles.  So a few weeks ago, when the reality of what was going to happen started to settle in, I pressed the soft paws of my fur-son Dumpling against my wet face and said… hey, don’t you worry, mommy’s gonna throw you the best party ever.

Except that… ironically, Dumpling hated parties.  If he had known about this mass “trespassing” taking place under his roof, he would’ve taken out his shotguns and barked everyone off of his lawn.  Don’t take it personally.  That was just Dumpling, my sociopathic dog who was really more of a human that hated dogs, and would love nothing more than to remove a harmless chunk of meat from your annoying ankles, no hard feelings.  Chances are, if you knew him, you wouldn’t have liked him much.  In fact, more than being anti-social, he was also a self-absorbed, snobbish, toy-despising and politically incorrect racist…  Basically, an asshole.

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PORK STICKY RICE BALLS W QUICK TTEOKBOKKI SAUCE

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I don’t know how weird is it to change the featured photograph, but I made this dish again, and I just like this street/take out-styling much more.  It suits the dish.  Enjoy!

I’M GOING TO EAT AS MUCH CHEWY AND STICKY RICE-THINGS DRENCHED IN PLASTIC-DYING SAUCES, TO MY TEETH’S CONTENT

So, today is the day.

No, not the day I rolled out of bed looking like Beyonce.  Because that was yesterday.  Nor is it the usual days that I hallucinate behind my gas-mask about the elusive, blue-est of the blue sky-day in Beijing that never comes.  Because today, it actually is.  Totally smog-free.  Yay.  But you know, the cheerleader in me rather focus on the fact that – like how snowstorms only come on the weekends – this miracle just had to happen in the fucking middle of the week.  A thursday.  Pffffff….  Today is also not that day that I unveil another fabulous cooking-alternative like how to make a creamy scrambled egg in 15 seconds, or how to make cruffins with a pasta machine, to say, help you get on with your lives in desperate needs of delicious comforts.  I mean really, enough about you.

In fact, today is the day, that I’m finally done with… my Invisalign.

Yup, that’s right.  For the past 6 months, I’ve been wearing my borderline-intrusive, and not-so-INVISible teeth-ALIGNment devices inside my mouth, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, which I’m finally getting rid of after what felt like a fucking million years, and why?  Well, to make adjustments on my low-profile and pre-middle-aged teeth so SUBTLE, that it could only be noticed by me, myself, and my forevermore judgmental selfies (that bitch just can’t let anything go, can she?).  You see, this is what ultimately happens, when an emotionally unfulfilled woman is left alone in her solitary confinement for far too long that she starts to talk to herself in the mirror.  Whereas a man may see from the reflection, an utter failure; but a woman, one crooked tooth.  Hey, we’re optimistic like that.  So, in 2 hours, I’ll be lounging at the dentist’s office, in a sacred ancient ritual where I rip these damn things off of my mouth and light them up in a hysterical bonfire until they turn to ashes.  That shall feel good.  Then I’m going to come home, with my device-free and minimally improved teeth, I’m going to eat as much as this as I can.

If you’re wondering why this, a savoury version, pork stuffed sticky rice balls giddying in a red pool of spicy, Korean tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake) sauce as my first meal out of the pit, well there are good reasons.  Even though there were plenty of sticky rice-things here and there in the past few weeks already, the experience of ingesting them was, well to say the least, a highly skillful and demanding task.  You see when you mingle the word “sticky”, with devices that are trying to hold onto your teeth for dear life… things can get complicated.  Somewhere along the chewing and the friction and the physical bonding of things, I could, without any notifications, lose a “grip” or get “de-capped” or worse, lose the last trickling ounce of dignity and the will to somehow make this feel funny-ish.  So in the most appropriate and rewarding matter, the only thing that I should be granted with at the end my “correctional” sentences, I am going to eat as much of chewy and sticky rice-things drenched in plastic-dying sauce (yeah did I mention that?  they get colored, too), to the content of my now invisibly aligned teeth.

But what’s in it for you?  Well, if you were already a fan of Korean tteokbokki, then you should know that they’re always a reward even in the absence of a good reason, especially when stuffed with ginger and soy sauce flavoured ground pork, with a fast and easy and dare I say, better, spicy tangy and sweet tteokbokki sauce that will make your flat tires taste good.  But really though, enough about you.

So here, another sticky rice ball recipe.  If you want a word with it, talk to the teeth.

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insights to your shrimp dumplings

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There are days, you know,  not everyday, but days when I really… hate this.  I mean, what is this anyways?  A self-published “web-blog” about me making dinner.  Talk about being a loving sponge when it comes to self-absorbing not to mention a shameless evasion from unemployment.  Oops, did I not mention that?  As many more dignified others who might do this as a hobby aside, I on my other sorry hand, just do this.  No other self-sustaining professions at day, heck or even a non-profit charity to excuse myself of, it’s a testimony of prolonged immaturity and chronic, explicit laziness, hardly anything to be carved on my tombstone.  So yeah, as this self-absorbing continues, sometimes I really hate this.

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Loser double fennel potstickers

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Being competitive has never been part of my persona.  It isn’t one of the virtues of being a quitter, which I like to use as the reason I was never good at sports and why until this very day, I still cannot technically swim (but I float professionally).   It’s not that I’m not into winning but just that I don’t like to be proven losing.  I’m a walking cliche.  But recently I have been braving the turbulent water for the love of my new favorite website and the recipe contest they throw every two weeks.

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