Homemade dumplings and the caribbean, mostly unrelated

Some time ago, after making Romanian chicken dumpling soup, I was doing a search about dumpling making techniques online.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was in the kitchen slaving away at making a large batch of vegan Chinese dumplings for three hours.

photo 8Soon after that, I went on a Caribbean cruise with the hubs and family (just awful, I know *wink*) and, in turn, completely forgot about those wonderfully delicious dumplings I had made.

IMG_2283Until now.

I’ve been going through vacation photos and ran across all the ones I took of the dumpling extravaganza.  I looked at several recipes online for what to put inside them and how to make the dough.  Even with the very differing recipe ingredients and directions that I found, I essentially decided that making the dough wouldn’t be too hard but I’d have to come up with my own filling.  Below you won’t find a standard or well-detailed recipe but this post will give you a general idea of what to do if you’re into creative cooking on a whim!

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Traditionally, Chinese dumplings are filled with the primary ingredients of ground pork and Napa cabbage.  Also, the ingredients are cut very fine so as not the tear the dough while wrapping.  I naturally gravitated to the use of sauteed mushrooms, a huge 24 oz Costco-bought container, and added a can of drained corn to the pan at the last moment.  Since nuts are great for texture, I used chopped walnuts in the mix.  I happened to have some TVP (textured vegetable protein) sitting around that I haven’t used yet so in it went, too.  Since I didn’t have Napa cabbage nor did I want to do the traditional salting and squeezing of it to remove as much moisture as possible, I just used the greens I had on hand: green onions, cilantro, and lactino kale.

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After cooking the mushrooms and chopping ingredients for what seemed like forever, it was time to season the filling.  Again, this is another part that varies greatly between recipes.  After looking at several of them, I settled on about 2 inches of minced ginger (I personally will use a larger amount in the future), several hearty shakes of Chinese 5 spice that I had on hand, mushroom seasoning (a salt/broth replacement that adds a lot of flavor without as much sodium), some drizzled sesame oil to taste, salt and pepper to taste, several spoonfuls of corn starch and a couple of ground flax seed “eggs” to thicken the mixture.  After mixing, taste testing, and adding more seasonings as needed, the filling was so good I really could’ve eaten straight out of the bowl with a spoon.

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What ideally should be done first is to make the dough, then you can let it rest while making the filling.  I followed the directions and flour-to-water ratio from the recipe found here (using the food processor option made it very easy).   If you’re wondering how much dough to make, I believe a good rule of thumb I read that seemed to work is to use approximately the same amount of flour as the amount of filling that you have.

I ended up making a first small batch of dough and let it sit while I made the filling.  Then after realizing I didn’t have enough dough, I made more as needed and let it rest while rolling out and filling the first smaller batch.

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The photos should give you an idea of how to roll chunks of the dough into ropes, and then to cut the ropes into smaller portions to be further rolled out into the actual wraps.  Two tips: use plenty of flour so the thin wraps won’t stick, and make sure you roll the wraps so the outer edges are thinner than the middle.  When the edges are eventually pinched together, they won’t be overly thick if they’re made thin to begin with.

There are plenty of photos on the internet and videos on YouTube to show you how to fill and fold the dumplings.  I just made sure the wraps were roughly the size of my (small) palm, about 3-4 inches in diameter, and then added a small spoonful of the filling–you learn real fast on how much filling is too much or too little.  Have a small bowl of water handy for dipping a finger into for sealing the wraps.  I would recommend only getting one-half of the wrap’s edge wet for sealing.  Again, the photos and written directions at the site here are excellent.

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After making 74 dumplings (short of 75 by just one, darn!), it was time to cook a small batch of them for devouring.  There are three ways to cook them: steam, boil, or fry.  Frankly, crispy fried edges always sound lovely to eat so I opted for the frying method this time.  Again, Jen’s post on her site gives great directions for frying dumplings as well as directions for steaming or boiling.  The only thing I did differently was to add a small drizzle of sesame oil for additional flavor to work its way into the dumplings during the cooking process.

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Needless to say, they were excellent.

photo 9If you have the time to put into making dumplings from scratch, it’s worth it.  There are very few things I’ve made that don’t taste good from scratch (usually due to human error) and, I promise, homemade dumplings are not one of them!