Dumplings

Just about every continent has its own kinds of dumplings. I am including those that are fillings enclosed in a thin layer of (usually unleavened) dough, and those which are balls of dough that have been boiled or steamed, or even fried.

There are the European dumplings, including those of Britain and Ireland (balls of flour and fat half-boiled half-steamed into a stew to extend a meal), Italian ravioli and tortellini (pockets of pasta with fillings inside) or gnocchi (balls of potato/flour, more similar to the UK dumpling), Scandinavian potetball, nockerl or klopse, Central European potato dumplings or fruit dumpings, Polish pierogis, Russian pelmenis, Middle-eastern shishbarak, Jewish kreplach and matzah balls, and Turkish manti. The dumplings of the United States, as found in chicken and dumpling soup. Carribean dumplings to be served with ackee and saltfish or chicken, and those in chicken soup. Or even Chilean pantrucas, a flat parsley dumpling served in a soup.

Now heading to the Himalayas for their momo, steamed pleated dumplings popular as a snack. Mongolian buuz and khuushuur. Or the Indian dumplings, with their savoury and sweet varieties. There are sweet gujhias, karanji and ada, or if savoury dumplings tickle your fancy there are pitha and kozhakkattai. If you prefer the southeastern asian dumplings, there are the Indonesian fish dumplings with peanut sauce (Siomay), Korean mandu and Japanese gyoza and takoyaki. After this list, we finally reach the dumplings I am most familiar with: Chinese dumplings. There are jiaozi, potstickers, wontons, zong zi, tangyuan and dimsum.

Dumplings are a comfort food (just see how many of them are in chicken soup or in stews or in a thick sauce, or eaten as snacks) made with delicious starchy goodness, and are a general crowd pleaser. They’re easy and fun to make (as long as you aren’t too fixated on them looking great), cheap, good food to share, can accomodate large numbers of people, and the filling can be altered to your tastes or whatever you have in your fridge. So, I made some dumplings. More specifically, potstickers in a southern chinese style.

Potstickers is the affectionate name given to a kind of jiaozi, because they stick to your pot. Jiaozi are pleated dumplings with a savoury filling inside. Just about every region in China will have its own specialty. There are different ways to pleat them, different filling preferences, flavourings used, spiciness, thickness of ‘skin’ around the filling, the cooking method, and size of dumpling. Above all, it’s really up to you. For me, potstickers should have a thicker, more doughy wheat flour ‘skin’ to accomodate for the panfrying cooking method and for maximum crunchiness of the dumpling’s base.

There were both chicken and beef dumplings, each extended with vegetables. Here’s a picture of the chicken dumplings.

Shoot before eating/ Two dumplings left on the plate/ Just made in time

Potstickers are cooked by mix of steaming, boiling and panfrying. How does this work? You can steam your jiaozi dumplings beforehand, then do a pan fry to get a crispy bottom. Or do it the lazy-one-pan-wonder way. Add a couple of tablespoons oil into a hot frying pan (make sure you have a lid to cover it with), place dumplings into pan, give the pan a shake to make sure the dumplings aren’t stuck to the bottom, add a cup of water (or enough to cover the pan by a centimeter or so. The water should be all evaporated near the end.), place lid on pan, turn down the heat and let the dumplings steam/boil for 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the skin. You want to cook them through.), lift lid and let the dumplings sizzle for a while to get a crunchy base. There should be no liquid at the bottom when the dumplings are sizzling. Once you feel the base is done, slide dumplings onto a plate and serve. I enjoy potstickers with a little side of sweetened red vinegar with very finely julienned ginger.

You can find recipes of potstickers at tastespotting.com, so I won’t place a recipe up here. But here is a picture of the one-pan method:

One pan potsticker/ Sizzle, boil and sizzle/ Eat, and don't burn mouth

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