life, medicated with dumplings

Chinese onion and pork dumplings

This is a week of rest for me.  I have some chores to do, but they will all be chores I enjoy: pottery, connecting with friends, writing letters to those I love, making Chinese dumplings (potstickers), dancing with Kai, laughing with friends (and crying some perhaps too.)

Yesterday I made a new batch of dumpling filling and the dough; and today – in front of a movie, I will make a couple hundred dumplings to freeze for the winter and some to bring to Thanksgiving Dinner as an appetizer (they make great appetizers because the sit well, they travel well and they are  good cold,  hot or warm. Besides, how much onion dip can a human eat?)

Making dumplings in my family is a sacred act.  We celebrate all family events by gathering around Chinese dumplings (usually the recipe below, made of spring onion (or leek), pork and cabbage dumplings with dipping sauce and a lot of laughter. When I die, please have them at my funeral reception alongside Necco wafers and Root Beer.  Classy right!?

Dim Sum is a family affair which is why I love to meet friends at a Dim Sum restaurant for the big reach to the many dumplings in the center of the table on the lazy-susan. This dumpling below is the reigning queen of Dim Sum. People gathering at a meal is the cornerstone on which Jesus began what we have called church.  Do this in remembrance of me. We gather, we tell the story of this man and his 12 friends, then we act out a version of the story by eating and drinking. We do it in church with choirs, bread and wine.  We do it in church with Sinatra, pasta and wine.  We do it on Thanksgiving with people, turkey and wine.  Eucharist comes from the word “thanksgiving.” As I make each dumpling I wonder who will eat it?

…”May this dumpling, its taste, its calories and protein bless the recipient.” … next.

Here is how I make mine from my mother’s recipe. This is a big batch, but you can make a third of this if you are a normal consumer of dumplings and not OCD about them like me and my sister Linda! My mother ate dumplings the way Scrooge counted coins – carefully, possessively, miserly and with a certain misplaced joy.  Happily, she seemed to end her story much the way Scrooge’s story ended; which is beautifully and a bit adjusted by a self-awareness which often emerges from pain’s-pause.

Take a head of cabbage, quarter it, core it and boil three quarters till done (al dente – firm but edible), then rise in cool water to stop the heat from further cooking it to mush. When cool and drained, chop into pieces by slicing each quarter one way and then the other to get pieces the size of, well, a small, chopped piece of cabbage.

Then in a big bowl, mix;

3 pounds of ground pork
the cold steamed cabbage, chopped small
6 finely chopped spring onions
a heavy pour of sesame oil (3 tablespoons)
a heavy pour of rice wine or white wine (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon pepper (white is best but black is all I could find in the house!)
3 tablespoons chopped ginger
3 teaspoons corn starch
a heavy pour of Soy sauce (about 3 tablespoons)
2-4 teaspoons salt

Massage this mixture with your hands (really work it…the better it is mixed and massaged together, the better it will be as a wrapper stuffing!  Work it for 5 minutes or so.) Then stuff the wrappers you get in the store (life is too short to make your own wrappers.  If you MUST make your own wrappers,  here is how:

Mix 2 cups of all purpose flour to one cup of boiling water to make a dough.
In a bowl, mix the flour and 1 cup boiling water until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly flour surface about 5 minutes, or until smooth.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a roll 12 inches long and cut each roll into 1/2-inch slices.

Roll 1 slice of dough into a 3-inch circle and place 1 tablespoon pork mixture in the center of the circle. Lift up the edges of the circle and pinch 5 pleats up to create a pouch to encase the mixture. Pinch the top together. Repeat with the remaining slices of dough and filling.  (Here is where I line them up on a cookie sheet and freeze them (not touching!) and drop them in a bag for the long freeze-hold.)

To cook the fresh dumplings: get a pot of water boiling, drop in the dumplings (not too many to be too crowded) and stir a bit so they do not stick together. n When it resumes boiling, add a 1/2 cup of cold water, resume to a boil and as a second 1/2 cup of cold water.  On the third boil, they are done (and should be floating). Then just scoop them out, drain them,and place them (carefully aware of what happens when water hits hot oil) into a non-stick pan with some sesame oil and ry one side until crisp and serve.  Or you can serve them boiled and not fried. (though why anyone in their right mind would not fry a friable things seems odd and rather un-American.

To reheat frozen ones:   simply place them frozen in very hot oil in a non-stick pan, let a slight browned crust form and then pour in a 1/2 cup of broth with a teaspoon of flour well mixed in and lit the pan tightly and simmer on low until the water is evaporated- the dumplings are steamed, and the bottoms of the dumplings are crisp in the remaining oil.  Gently unstick the, toss them around and plate them.  My mother would arrange them in the pan as a lotus flower and plate them by upturning the pan not a platter but then she was a bit of an over-achiever.

The dipping sauce is as follows:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (if you have it)
Mix and garnish with a few chopped chives or spring onions.

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