Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chinese New Year Meal #1 - Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings (Shuijiao) with Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing

Gong Hei Fat Choy!   It took us a little while to get around to it, but we finally made our first Chinese New Year meal!  And it was a very traditional one - dumplings (shuijiao).  Dumplings and daikon, but more on the daikon later.  So before I even start talking about this recipe I have to made an admission.  I totally didn't read the recipe right.  We were supposed to make 32 dumplings total - divide the dough in half and make 16 wrappers from each half.  Instead I made 16 total.  I missed the step of dividing the dough in half.  So each dumpling was roughly the size of an empanada and each wrapper the size of a small tortilla.  They were monster dumplings.  Oops.  The size of our enormous dumplings aside, they were really tasty.  The wrappers were silky.  And maybe a little doughier than they should have been, but again, they were monster dumplings.  The filling had really good flavor and texture.  The dumplings were juicy too, not dry and hockey puck-like.  I was really happy with them.  They only took two-three hours to make from start to finish and made a mess of our entire kitchen, but I thought it was worth it.  Once or twice a year I like to take on an overly ambitious cooking project.  This was mine for the next few months.  And it was a really good one. 

I chose the Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing (Liang Ban Luo Bu Si) as the side because it was simple and didn't need to be cooked.  I wanted a vegetable side dish that would be tasty and refreshing, but not too much trouble to prepare.  I was trying to avoid making smacked cucumbers or Sichuan cucumbers because I feel like we make them too often.  So I decided to go with daikon radish instead.  And in the end, it was the daikon dish that really stood out for me.  I loved the freshness of the cilantro and scallion, added to the hint of sweetness that all offset the spicy, saltiness of the dressing.  And I really enjoyed the crunch of the raw daikon.  Don't get me wrong, the dumplings were delicious.  But they were a lot of trouble to make.  The daikon was equally delicious (albeit in a very different way), and it was relatively easy to throw together.  I could definitely see myself making the daikon again in the future to round out a nice Chinese meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings (Shuijiao)
Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More
By Andrea Nguyen

For dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
about 3/4 cup almost boiling water
For filling:
2 cups lightly packed finely chopped napa cabbage, cut from whole leaves (about 7 oz)
1/2 tsp, plus scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped Chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
2/3 lb ground pork, fattier kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

Add flour to the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, add 3/4 cup water in a slow steady stream.    Run machine until dough just forms a ball around the blade.  The dough should be soft, but firm enough to hold its shape when pinched.  If necessary, add water by the teaspoon or flour by the tablespoon to achieve the correct consistency.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough for about 30 seconds.  The dough should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic.  Place the dough in a zip-top plastic bag and seal tightly closed, expelling excess air.  Set aside to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to two hours.  The dough will become earlobe soft.

Put cabbage in a bowl and toss with 1/2 tsp salt.  Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage.  Drain in a mesh strainer, flush with water, and drain again.  To remove more moisture, squeeze the cabbage in your hands over the sink, or wring it out in a cotton kitchen towel.  You should have about 1/2 cup firmly packed cabbage remaining.

Transfer the cabbage to a bowl and add ginger, chives/scallions and pork.  Use a fork or spatula to stir and lightly mash the ingredients together.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining scant 1/2 tsp salt, white pepper, chicken stock, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, canola oil and sesame oil.  Pour the liquid mixture over the pork-cabbage mixture, then stir and fold the ingredients together into a thick, cohesive mixture.  Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from the ziploc and place on a lightly floured work surface.  Cut the dough in half, placing half of the dough back in the bag to prevent drying.  Roll the dough into a 1-inch thick log and cut into 16 even-sized pieces.  Dust the dough with flour.  Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle about 1/8-inch thick using a tortilla press or a heavy, flat-bottomed object.  I cut a quart-sized freezer ziploc bag in half and placed the floured dough dish in between the two pieces of plastic and then used the lid of one of our all-clad pots to flatten the dough.  Repeat with remaining dough pieces.

Take flattened dough pieces one to roll them out.  Aim for 3 1/4-inch diameter wrappers.  Imagine a quarter-sized circle in the center of the wrapper.  This is the "belly" of the wrapper - you want the dumpling to retain a thicker belly.  Use a small rolling pin to roll out the outer 1/2 to 3/4-inch of the wrapper.  Try to roll the rolling pin with the palm of one hand while using the other hand to turn the wrapper in the opposite direction.  Continue to dust the wrapper with flour if it sticks to the rolling pin or the work surface.  Place finished wrappers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour.

Before assembling the dumplings, line another baking sheet with parchment paper.  For each dumpling, hold the wrapper in a slightly cupped hand.  Scoop up about 1 tbsp filling and position it slightly off center toward the upper half of the wrapper.  Press and shape the filling into a flat mound and keep 1/2 to 3/4-inch of wrapper clear on all sides.  Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper to meet the top edge and pinch together to seal well.  Place the base of the dumpling down on a work surface and gently push down to steady the dumpling and make it sit flat.  Repeat with remaining dumplings and wrappers keeping assembled dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel.

To cook the dumplings, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add half of the dumplings, gently dropping each one into the water.  Nudge the dumplings apart with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking together and/or to the bottom of the pot.  Return the water to a simmer and lower the heat to maintain the simmer.  Cook the dumplings for about 8 minutes, until the dumplings float to the surface, look glossy and are puffed up and somewhat translucent.  Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon, a few at a time, placing the cooked dumplings on a plate.  Return water to a boil and cook the remaining dumplings.  Return the first batch of cooked dumplings to the hot water to reheat for 30 seconds.

Serve hot dumplings immediately with Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce.

Tangy Soy Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More
By Andrea Nguyen

1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp black vinegar
1/8 tsp sugar (optional)
1-3 tsp chili oil
1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
2 tsp finely minced garlic

Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing
Land of Plenty
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1 lb daikon, washed, peeled and trimmed
1 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
4 tsp Chinkiang or black Chinese vinegar
1 tbsp pickled chili paste (we used a combination of chili paste and chopped salted chilis)
1-2 tsp garlic, minced
3-4 tbsp chili oil to taste
2 scallions, green parts only, very finely sliced
a handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Using a cleaver, mandoline or food processor, cut daikon into very fine slivers, about 1/8-inch thick.  Sprinkle with salt, mix well, and then drain in a colander  for about 30 minutes.

Just before serving, combine the sugar and vinegar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the chili paste and garlic and mix well.  Pour in the chili oil (you can dilute with canola oil if you don't want it to be too spicy).  Add sliced scallions and cilantro.

Shake daikon dry and drizzle with dressing.  Serve.

Combine soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a bowl.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add chili oil.  Right before serving, add ginger and/or garlic.

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