Friday, November 11, 2011

Dim sum and then some

Is it just our family, or does the equation:

Eating out with relatives = Going for dim sum

apply to everyone?

Father in law comes to town.
Dim sum.

Aunt's 62nd birthday.
Dim sum.

Holiday lunch with a whole bunch of cousins.
Dim sum.

It doesn't even matter whose relatives they are. My family. His family. Vastly different groups of people who otherwise have literally nothing in common (except being related by marriage to one of us).

They all love dim sum.

They will patiently wait quite a long time* for dim sum.   They collectively ooh and ah over the har gow and the bao, the shu mai and the rice noodles.  Dip the dumplings in the hot chili paste and mustard, pour tea, and send one of the cuter little kids to chase down the potsticker cart.  That's always the crowd favorite, and seems to be perpetually on the other side of the football field-sized dining hall. After eating themselves silly, they even get takeout dim sum for later**. Yep, everybody is all about the dim sum***.

Except, of course, our children.

My daughter:  I'll have plain white rice**** and a coke.
My son:  (texting and not looking up) I brought my own grapes.  Just a coke.


Dim Sum Worthy Potstickers
I have to say, these are mighty close to the delicacies on that elusive dim sum cart.  They take some work, but the good news is that the recipe makes about three dozen dumplings, so you can freeze a bunch and cook them up whenever the urge hits.  Or when your aunt and cousins drop by unexpectedly.

For the dough:
3 c. flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
1 1/4 c. boiling water
small amount of cool water and a pastry brush, for assembly

For the filling:
3/4 lb. ground pork
1/4 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and finely minced
1/4 c. minced water chestnuts
3 Tbs. finely chopped green onions
2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
1 Tbs. finely minced ginger
1 Tbs. finely minced garlic
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten

For the dipping sauce:
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar or honey
1 tsp. hot chili oil
minced green onions/chopped cilantro, for garnish

For cooking:
3-4 Tbs. vegetable oil
About 1 1/2 c. warm water or chicken broth

Step 1:  Make the dough

Place the flour in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the dough hook.  Fit the lid on, and then, with the machine running, slowly pour in the boiling water.  Process just until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Working carefully (dough will be hot!), knead gently for about 30-45 seconds, until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Set aside under a damp cloth or in a large plastic bag for an hour or two, but not longer.

Step 2:  Make the filling

Place all the filling ingredients into a mixing bowl, and using your hands, gently mix until everything is thoroughly combined.   Heat up a small pan, and cook a teaspoon or so of the mixture over medium high heat for a few minutes, until cooked through.  Taste and adjust the seasonings until you have a filling you really like.  Set aside.

NOTE: You can get creative here, and vary the proportions and the ingredients to suit your taste.  I like the combination of shrimp and pork, both for flavor and for texture, and think the water chestnuts add a nice element of crunch, but nothing is set in stone.  Try a mix of vegetables, add mushrooms, or chicken, or scallops.  Think about all the varieties of dim sum and be inspired!

Step 3: Make the sauce

Combine all sauce ingredients except scallions and/or cilantro in a small bowl. Cover and set aside. Just before serving, sprinkle in the garnishes.

NOTE:  You can certainly use store-bought sauce.  Trader Joe's has a good gyoza dipping sauce that's worth a try.

Step 4: Make the dumpling wrappers

Divide the dough round into two pieces, and roll each out into a long rope, about 1 inch in diameter.  Lay the ropes out on a lightly floured surface.

Using a sharp knife, cut each rope into segments about 1/2 inch wide.   To form a dumpling round, turn the segment cut side up, and roll out with a rolling pin to a circle about 3 inches around.  Sprinkle with a little flour as needed while you work.  Don't stack too many of the finished rounds on top of each other, as they may stick together.  I put little pieces of wax paper between mine.  Keep finished rounds lightly covered with a damp cloth as you work.

NOTE:  You can certainly use store bought wrappers.  I was just dying to know if I could make these entirely from scratch and even come close to the real thing.  Amazingly, the boiled water dough was spot on!

Step 5:  Assemble the dumplings

Place a generous teaspoonful of the filling in the center of a round of dough.   Brush the edges of the dough lightly with a little water.

Then do this:

How much do I love YouTube?

Set finished dumplings on a lightly floured sheet tray.

NOTE:  At this point, you can freeze dumplings as is on the tray so they won't stick together.  Once frozen, place in an airtight freezer bag or container.  They will keep fine for a month or so.

Step 6: Cook the dumplings

Heat about 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Choose a skillet that you have a cover for, in order to steam the dumplings later.   When oil is hot but not smoking, add dumplings, flat side down, to the skillet.  Don't crowd the dumplings! You might be able to cook 6-7 at a time, depending on the size of your pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.  Carefully add about 1/2 c. of water or broth (it will sizzle and steam!) then immediately cover the skillet.  Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until all or almost all of the liquid has boiled off.  Remove the lid, and cook for a minute or two more, or until the bottoms of the dumplings are crisp again.  

Repeat for remaining dumplings, adding more oil and liquid as needed.

NOTE:  For frozen dumplings, add extra steaming liquid, and increase steaming time to 8 minutes.

The dumplings are best served right out of the pan, with the dipping sauce on the side.  If not serving immediately, place crisp side up onto a paper towel lined plate, and keep warm in a low oven.

Click to print this recipe!

My creations are a mash-up of recipes from several sources:
A Cat in the Kitchen, for the inspiration and some of the filling ingredients
Martin Yan, via Food Network, for the sauce and some of the other filling ingredients
Ming Tsai, via Food Network, for the dough and rolling instructions

* If they are my relatives, they have mai tais from the bar while they wait, even if our wait time begins at 10 am.  His relatives, not so much.
** OK, that's my side of the family, too. We have a built in fear of starving that causes us to stock up on food right after eating a meal, particularly if the car ride home might take a while.
*** Our favorite is Empress Pavilion, in Chinatown, but we have been all over town, depending on which relative is celebrating what.
*** The girl does love her rice.  We have a rice cooker permanently ensconced on our counter, and we've blown through two 50lb bags from the Chinese grocery store in the neighborhood in the space of a few months.  The first bag was a Christmas gift from her brother.  Her favorite present, by far.


  1. I would like to eat out with your relatives.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  2. The nice thing about dim sum is that it's perfect for a crowd, so there's always room for one more! Come on down!