Tuesday, March 19, 2013

(Belated) Chinese New Year Meal #5: Xi'an Potsticker Dumplings (Xi'an Guo Tie), Tofu Shreds with Baby Bok Choy and Tiger Salad (Lao Hu Cai)

When I first saw this recipe for Xi'an Potsticker Dumplings I got really excited because they look like the pan-fried pork dumplings from A&J Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland (pictured below).  A&J is one of my all-time favorite Chinese restaurants and I try to visit every time I find myself in Maryland.  The filling is different - I'm not sure that I have ever had Chinese dumplings with a beef filling, but I can't swear to it.  I know that I have never made beef dumplings at home.  I will be the first to admit that my dumplings don't exactly look like the ones at A&J (and their bottoms are a little bit more cooked than I had intended for them to be), but I did my best.  And I was really happy with the way they turned out.  I thought these wrappers were easier to make and less doughy than the wrappers from the Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumplings (Shuijiao) that we made last year for Chinese New Year.  There were errors in execution both times.  I am not a proficient dumpling maker and I am happy to admit that.  But I thought that all things considered, these wrappers turned out better and the dumplings themselves were easier to wrap.  And they they fried up really nicely.  While I really liked the wrappers, I was less enamored of the filling.  It was good, but when I want a dumpling I really want a nice juicy pork filling.  I think I would like to make the dumplings again (with pork) because the skins were awesome and they were easy to throw together. 

The tofu noodles were something of a challenge.  The problem with buying ingredients at an Asian grocery store is that sometimes you end up with ingredients with no instructions on how to cook them.  And that's what happened to us here.  Ours were labeled "tofu rolls."  When I got home and tried to search for "tofu noodles" all I ended up with were tofu skin noodles or yuba noodles that are much thinner.  So I had to wing it.  And it didn't occur to me until after we had already made dinner that I should have searched "tofu shreds."  Oops.  Luckily, our dish came out just fine.  I tasted a few of the tofu shreds prior to blanching them and decided that 2-3 minutes in a pot of boiling water should warm them through and make them tender enough to eat.  I originally wanted to make a variation on the liang pi cold noodles from Xi'an Famous Foods since we were making Xi'an dumplings, but it has been so long since I had them that I wasn't sure I could replicate them.  Instead we tossed them simply with the ingredients we had in the fridge - baby bok choy, garlic, ginger and dried chilis.  They were yummy.  I love how just a few ingredients - garlic, ginger and dried chilis tossed in the wok can really give a dish great flavor.  I know that some people might be put off by the texture of the tofu noodles, but I happen to enjoy how springy they are. 

The tiger salad was a last second addition to lunch after I realized that we only ended up with 12 dumplings.  I think we were supposed to have 16 (although the recipe never specified), but I ran out of filling after we made 12 dumplings.  I really liked the freshness of the dish and the bright flavor, but if I were to make it again I would cut down on the amount of Chinkiang vinegar because the dish was a little too acidic for me.   

Recipes after the jump!

Xi'an Potsticker Dumplings (Xi'an Guo Tie)
Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
By Fuchsia Dunlop

For the wrappers:
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more to dust
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp bread flour
1/2 tsp cooking oil
For the stuffing:
4 1/2 oz ground beef
1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tbsp finely sliced scallion greens
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
4 tbsp chicken stock or water
2 oz yellow or green Chinese chives, finely chopped
3 tbsp cooking oil
For the dips:
Chinkiang vinegar
finely chopped ginger
finely chopped garlic

Boil some water in a kettle.  Combine the two flours in a mixing bowl with the oil.  Pour in about 1/3 cup boiling water and mix briskly with a fork.  Then add enough cold water to make a dough (about another 2 1/2 tbsp).  When it is cool enough to handle, knead until smooth, then cover with a wet tea towel and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Combine all the stuffing ingredients (except the cooking oil) in a bowl and mix well.  It's easiest to do this by hand.

Dust a work surface with a little flour.  Roll the dough into a long sausage 3/4-1 inch thick.  Use a knife to cut the dough into 2 cm pieces (you should end up with somewhere between 14-16 pieces), giving the dough a half roll between cuts to stop it from getting flattened out.  

Lay each piece cut end-up on the work surface and flatten with the palm of your hand to make convex discs.  Roll the discs into wrappers about 3 to 3 1/2-inches in diameter.  The best way to do this (for someone right-handed) is to cradle the far edge of a disc in the fingers of your left hand while you roll from near edge to the center, turning it between rolling movements.  You will end up with a slightly curved disc that is thinner at the edges than at the center.

Use a table knife or a bamboo spatula to lay about 1 1/2 tsp of filling along the center of the wrapper.  Firmly pinch together the opposite edges of the wrapper, leaving the ends open.  Lay dumplings on a lightly floured tray until ready to cook.

For each guest, pour about 1 tbsp vinegar in a dipping dish and add a little ginger and garlic (about 1/4 tsp of each).

Boil water in a kettle.  Add the oil to a seasoned cast-iron frying pan or a non-stick pan with a lid over medium heat and swirl around.  Lay the dumplings in neat rows in the pan.  Fry them until their bottoms are toasty and golden, moving the pan around for even heating.  Add 1/2 cup boiling water, pouring it evenly around the pan.  Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and allow the dumplings to steam until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Remove the lid, allowing the rest of the steam to escape and the rest of the water to boil away.

Remove from the heat, use a spatula to lift the dumplings from the pan and turn them upside-down on your serving dish so you can see the golden toasty bottoms.  Serve with dip.

Tofu Shreds with Baby Bok Choy

8 ounces fresh tofu shreds (our package called them "tofu rolls" - not the really thin yellow tofu skin noodles aka yuba)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
3 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
5-6 dried Chinese hot chilies, roughly torn
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
Kosher salt
1 to 2 tsp sesame oil

Gently unroll the tofu shreds by hand if they are tightly rolled. 

Blanch tofu skin noodles in a large pot of boiling water until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in the wok over high heat until shimmering.  Add bok choy and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 1 minute.  Add scallions and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add chili peppers. 

Add tofu skin, soy sauce, and oyster sauce.  Stir-fry until tofu skin has absorbed the liquid and ingredients are evenly distributed.  Season to taste with salt.  Remove from heat and drizzle in sesame oil.  


Tiger Salad (Lao Hu Cai)
Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking
By Fuchsia Dunlop

1/2 cucumber
good handful of fresh cilantro
1-2 mild green chilis, to taste (we used 1 jalapeno)
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
ground white pepper

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut each half into three sections.  Cut each section lengthwise into thin slices and put the slices into a bowl.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, mix well and set aside for 30 minutes or so.

Wash the cilantro, trim off the ends o the leafy stems and cut into lengths to match the cucumber slices.  (If you are using cilantro that is sold as leaves only, rather than on the stem, simply chop it roughly.)  Thinly slice the chilis, discarding the stem and seeds.

Combine the sugar, vinegar and sesame oil in a small bowl, with s&p to taste (you may not prefer to add salt, because the cucumber may already be a little salty.)

When you are ready to serve, drain the cucumber and squeeze gently to get rid of excess water.  Combine with the cilantro and chili, pour over the dressing and mix well.

Dumplings from A&J

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