Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch: Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings) and Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)

I'm not sure what I did with myself before I discovered dim sum.  The first time I had it was when I was living in Austin.  A Chinese friend of mine invited me to come to brunch one weekend, and we ended up at a restaurant called Tien Hong near my apartment, complete with carts full of dumplings making their way around.  It was a life-altering experience.  As chicken feet tend to be.

I've been trying to replicate some of those fabulous dumplings ever since, but every recipe I've come across was just not cutting it.  In a final act of desperation, I got one last dim sum book.  And just like that, the clouds cleared and all was good in the land of dumplings.  These are the real deal.

Siu Mai/Shaomai (Chinese Pork and Shrimp Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

8 ounces pork shoulder, coarsely ground or chopped
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ½-inch chunks
4 water chestnuts, finely diced
1 scallion, (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
¼ teaspoon sugar
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
24 packaged siu mai wrappers

In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Oil several 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.  Put about a tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the packaged wrapper; then gather up the edges all around to form a cup shape.  Tap the bottom lightly on a flat surface to flatten the bottom slightly.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.  Arrange finished dumplings ½ inch apart in the oiled pans.

Set up a steamer and bring the water to a boil.  Steam the dumplings for 12 minutes over high heat, replenishing the pot with boiling water as necessary between batches.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate.  Serve hot.

Makes 24 dumplings

Gau Choi Gau (Chinese Chive Dumplings)
From Dim Sum: The Art of the Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder

1½ teaspoons salt
½ pound Chinese chives, cleaned, trimmed, and cut in ½-inch lengths
4 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in ¼-inch dice (about ½ cup)
½ teaspoon soy sauce
 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Wheat Starch Dough, substituting 1 tablespoon glutinous rice flour for 1 tablespoon of the tapioca flour
Peanut or vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the chives and blanch for 1 minute over high heat.  Drain the chives in a colander, and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.  Squeeze the chives dry and transfer them to a medium bowl.  (You should have about 1¼ cups.)

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Combine the chives with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, the shrimp, soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  Set aside.

Cut each cylinder of the wheat starch dough crosswise into 6 pieces.  Put on piece of dough, cut side up, between two 6-inch squares of baking parchment; then position the flat side of a cleaver blade or a flat bottom of a pan over it and press straight down to form a 3½-inch circle.  Peel off the parchment.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the filling onto the center of a circle of dough.  Make 8 to 10 pleats all around the edge, bringing up the sides evenly, and then pinch closed.  Turn the dumpling pinched side down, and pat it gently to flatten it into a 2-inch disk.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.  Lightly dust a board with wheat starch; then place the finished dumplings on it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and then add 1 tablespoon oil.  When it is almost smoking, arrange one layer of dumplings in the skillet, leaving enough room so they are not touching one another.  Cook the dumplings for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, pressing them gently with a spatula, until they turn crisp and just begin to brown.  Carefully add ½ cup water (it will spatter), cover the skillet tightly, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 minutes, or until the dough becomes somewhat translucent around the sides.  Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until the water has evaporated; turn the dumplings to cook until both sides become slightly crisp and light brown.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate, cover them lightly with foil, and keep them warm in the oven while you make the next batches.  Serve hot.

Makes about 18 dumplings

Wheat Starch Dough
1¼ cups wheat starch plus ¼ cup tapioca flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine the wheat starch, tapioca flour, and salt.  Add the boiling water and the oil and stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon.  While the dough is still very hot, turn it out onto a board dusted with 1 tablespoon of wheat starch.  Knead until smooth, adding a little more wheat starch if necessary.  The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Divide the dough into thirds.  Use your palms to roll each portion into an 8-inch cylinder.  Cover loosely with a slightly damp paper towel to keep the dough from drying out.  The dough is now ready to cut and press or roll out as needed.

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