Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dumpling Delight!

One thing I always order when at a Japanese restaurant is miso soup. I love miso, I love soup, so it's a match made in heaven. I had seen some discussions on miso soup on some blogs, but was confused by all the unfamiliar ingredients. What is dashi?! It's apparently the most important part of the soup: the broth. How do I get it? That unanswered question had kept me from trying to make my own miso soup for...well ok, only 6 months. But last week I found the answer! Dashi is made by heating up water with sea kelp (konbu) and these nasty fish flakes I don't want to know too much about (aka: bonito). Well those seemed like ingredients I might be able to actually find in a store. To be safe, I planned a trip to my local Asian food market. I'll admit I don't particularly like going to the Asian food market. It's 20 miles away, the parking lot is always full and the spaces are tiny. It's always crazy crowded inside, and the aisles are so narrow that two carts can barely pass by each other. And it smells like fish, which I find to be a very unappetizing smell (I avoid the fish counter at the grocery store too). So I figured if I was going to make the trip, I might as well find some other Asian dishes to make.

Somewhere along the way in my food blog perusing last week I came upon a recipe for pork bao. For those of you not hip to the lingo, pork bao, or Cha Siu Bao, are those steamed bbq pork dumplings you have at dim sum. Never had dim sum? Then you haven't lived! Go and eat some right now! I also found a recipe for some shrimp dumplings that are also something similar to what I've had at dim sum. And this week's Asian food theme was born.
  • Miso soup, courtesy of Serious Eats. This isn't really a recipe, more like an explanation of ingredients and general guidelines. At the very least, it's very informative! I ended up reading this through several times, and then writing my own recipe from it. I'll post that over the weekend, hopefully. The soup used a lot of scary ingredients, but it ended up being pretty simple, and very easy (minus the ringing of hot fishy broth through a cheese cloth, that was rather gross). I'll have to play around with the proportions. I think the miso soups I've had in most restaurants are still better than what I made, but I still thought it was yummy. I ended up buying two kinds of miso at the store, barley (because that's what the guy in the article used), and white because I needed white for another recipe. I tried both kinds in the soup and they tasted so similar I don't think it really mattered. The white miso looked closest to what I get in restaurants, so I assume that's what they use.
  • Pork Bao, courtesy of Cdkitchen. This recipe required quite a few items from the Asian market of the condiment/sauce persuasion. Namely, sweet soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and oyster sauce. Other than the sweet soy sauce, which I had never heard of before (it's thicker and sweeter (obviously) than normal soy sauce), you can buy hoisin and oyster sauce at a regular grocery store. I figured, first, if I'm going all the way to the Asian market, I might as well get everything I can, and second, I've bought hoisin sauce at the grocery store before and it was disgusting. I don't know what the difference was between what I bought the first time, and what I bought this time, but what I bought this time tastes much better. Anyway, OMFG, these turned out fantastically delicious! The sauce was sweet, the buns were light and fluffy, and the pork was tender . My mouth is watering just remembering them. They are, sadly, already gone. One thing to understand about my husband, he eats pork bao like potato chips. He just pops them in his mouth whole and reaches for the next one while he's chewing. Seriously. It's hilarious. When we're at dim sum, he usually cleans out the lady's entire cart. He doesn't like having to wait for a second round. So needless to say, I had to do some major convincing (read: guilt tripping) to get these 24 buns to last 2 whole days. I was very proud of him. I actually got to eat one or two of them. Some tips on the buns: I used a steamer basket in a pot of water to steam the buns (4 buns at a time fit in mine, but I have a large one). This worked great, except the first round of buns stuck to the basket. The next round I sprayed some Pam first with the same result. Then I remembered pork bao at dim sum always have a bit of paper stuck to the bottom, so I tried cutting up squares of parchment paper to stick to the bottom of the bun while it steams. That worked like a charm, and they were perfect after that. Also, the recipe didn't specify, so I used pork rib meat. I was looking for something without a lot of fat.
  • Chinese Chive Dumplings, courtesy of Use Real Butter. Tapioca starch and wheat starch were my Asian market items on this recipe. If you've ever made mochi or used Mochiko flour it has a similar texture to these starches. It's kind of like cornstarch. Kind of unpleasant to handle and it gets everywhere. Have I mentioned I need an apron? So I'm kind of a dummy and misread the recipe. I thought it said 1/4 cup wheat starch, not 1 1/4 cups, so I was surprised when my "dough" I was supposed to "knead" was still a liquid. I ended up just mixing in more starch (trading off between tapioca and wheat since it didn't specify) in 1/4 cup increments, until it stopped sticking to my fingers. It turned out fine, I think. I also couldn't find garlic chives, so I just used green onion. They turned out delicious! The dough had that wonderful gummy consistency I love so much. I usually make food to last the week, but these really didn't keep well. The next day the dough was tough and the flavor was gone (though popping them in the microwave helped a lot), so I would recommend a single meal with these. Also, I ran out of the shrimp filling after about 12 dumplings (the recipe is supposed to make 18), so I would recommend buying more shrimp, or doing what I did and find an alternate filling. I had ended up with extra red onion (more on that later) and savoy cabbage, so I minced the onion and sliced the cabbage very thing and sauteed them in vegetable oil until soft. I actually liked this filling better than the shrimp, though I think that's only because my shrimp were a little fishy tasting (I'm very picky about my fish being fresh which is why I mostly just eat sushi).
  • Stuffed savoy cabbage, courtesy of Serious Eats. First off, I've never bought dried mushrooms before. I've always seen them in the store, but have only ever used fresh. Well this recipe called for dried porcini mushrooms. I figured, no biggie. I see that called for all the time in recipes, should be no problem. Wrong. None of the grocery stores I went to had any dried mushrooms at all. Why don't I just go live in a barn while I'm at it? One guy tried to give me fresh button mushrooms when I asked him where the dried mushrooms were located. The nerve! Thankfully Trader Joe's came to my rescue yet again with a mixed dried mushroom medley. It had porcini, oyster, and shitake mushrooms (and maybe some others I'm forgetting). I just picked out the oyster and figured it'd be good enough (and it was). I modified this recipe a bit to make it a little healthier. I used ground turkey instead of beef. I used brown rice instead of white. And I used whole wheat breadcrumbs instead of white (I just pulsed some slices of bread in my cuisinart). I couldn't tell the difference, or if anything, it gave the dish more flavor. My mom said she didn't think stuffed cabbage was very Asian, and I guess it's not, but the flavors will went pretty well, I think, with the other food. I'm not really a fan of ground turkey, and thankfully that flavor was completely masked by all the other great flavors going on. The tomatoes, the mushrooms, and the cabbage itself provided for some very flavorful mush. My favorite! One thing to note about this recipe, it doesn't use all of its onion! It calls for 1 heaping cup of minced onion, but the recipe itself only ever calls for 1/2 cup. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with the other half. I just left it out, and don't think it was even missed.
  • Sweet summer corn and edamame salad with walnut-miso dressing, courtesy of Serious Eats. Oh man, this was good. This is one of those great recipes that takes minutes. If you used frozen corn, it would literally take as long as defrosting the veggies. I'd seen recipes that used mirin in the past, so I looked for it several times at several grocery stores and never found it. No problem, the Asian market had 10 different kinds. Of course, the next day, I found some at my local grocery store. Go figure. I must say, edamame is darn filling! The dressing was light and sweet and have I mentioned how much I love miso?
All successes this week, I think. Everything turned out so delicious, that it barely lasted! Good thing this is a short week at work because Husband polished off the last of the food for lunch today. I would make everything again. In fact, I found a recipe this week for sui mai. I'm thinking having some friends over sometime for some dim sum-type food would be a good way to go the next time. Of course, I'll have to triple of the pork bao recipe at least.

1 comment:

Spectater said...


it should be a crime to force a pregnant woman to read something like this.

i think rob would really like the salad, especially. he loves edamame and corn.