For the first time in my life I decided to approach in a semi-serious way to Chinese cooking, trying to grapple with one of its must, probably the Chinese food that I like the most: steamed meat dumplings.
I like them so much that often, when I go to a Chinese restaurant, I end up eating only those, in excessive quantities, of course! So I thought: why not try to cook them at home?!
I want to play it safe: these are NOT 100% Chinese dumplings, because this is my personal interpretation! I replaced some ingredients with other more available or more to my taste!
The result, however, is very similar to Chinese dumplings we are familiar (at least in Italy)!
Frankly, the thing I feared the most was the dumplings themselves .. I feared that it would be very hard to make them, that they required a particular manual skill, but instead I was amazed how simple it really was! Of course, as with everything related to food, especially traditional dishes, there are literally millions of ways to do the same thing, but I followed this YouTube tutorial (I bless YouTube: there's a video that teaches to do almost anything!), changing only one thing, after some empirical tests: I used a hand made dough, softer than the one that you could buy at a supermarket, so I didn't moisten both sides of the dough disc, but only one, otherwise it will soften too much, making it difficult to handle!
One last thing: this dish is really easy to prepare, but it's one of those preparations where the more you are the better … In fact, if you should prepare dumplings for 10 people and you're alone, you should arm yourselves with the patience of Job and a lot of time! If you're in good company, instead, it's absolutely doable, provided that you already made dough and stuffing! And then … making dumplings all together!
STEAMED BEEF DUMPLINGS
(= Chinese dumplings in my own way)
Ingredients (about 40 dumplings)
For the dough
* 200 g all purpose flour
* 150 ml (more or less) warm water
* a tbsp of oilseed (for me sunflower oil)
For the filling
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* 300 g minced beef meat (you can replace it with chicken or pork meat)
* a little leek
* a half savoy cabbage
* soy sauce
* black pepper
First of all prepare the dough: in a bowl mix flour, salt, water (go step by step, 'cause you could need more or less water) and oilseeds. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, so the dough will be soft and elastic. Put the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes covered with a bowl upside down or with plastic wrap, so that it doesn't dry out.
Chop finely leek and cabbage, already washed (I chopped them with an electric mixer). Put in a pan a drizzle of olive oil, then add chopped leek and cabbage and let them cook for a few minutes; then add the minced meat and let it brown. Now add pepper, cumin and soy sauce (it's so salted that I didn't add salt, anymore) and let all cook until the meat is nice done, then put the resulting mixture to cool down.
When the dough rested enough (mine rested for a few hours) and the filling is cold, you can begin to prepare the actual dimplings. First of all you roll out the dough to about 2 mm thick (it shouldn't to be too thick or too thin) and cut out circles that are about 8-9 cm in diameter (I used a beer-glass to cut the dough). Flour well the plan on which you'll work and the dishes where you'll put the dough disks of pasta and dumplings, 'cause the dough is a bit sticky!
Now comes the moment of truth: take a teaspoon of filling, place it in the center of the dough disc and make a dumpling , following tutorial (if you don't like the one that I mentioned before, there are others on YouTube). Once you have the dumplings, you shoul cook them!
There are also dumplings made with uncooked filling, but personally I felt safer with a cooked filling, which I think is even more flavorful.
There are at least four ways to cook these dumplings: on the griddle (this way doesn't need further explanation), fried (cook dumplings in a wok containing hot vegetable oil), steamed (you have to use one of those traditional Chinese bamboo containers or any tool for steaming: place the dumplings into the container and put it over a pan of boiling water and let dumplings come to cooking; then remove them gently from the container, because they tend to become sticky. The cooking will take about 8 to 10 minutes) or boiled (immerse dumplings in boiling water -salted or not- for about 4 to 5 minutes, then drain them and, if too wet, put them briefly on a piece of paper towel).
Cook them with the method you like the best or that you find easier and quicker: I steamed some dumplings (they tend to become a little dry) and then, for time reasons, I boiled the rest (they remain softer and clearer in color), and honestly I liked them both ways, but cooking by boiling is much easier and quicker! A note: I had some dumplings left over and I wanted to eat them the next day … if you heat them in the microwave they'll become too dry, but if you boil them in a pot of water for a couple of minutes they'll be as good as freshly made!
Another note: in my opinion, if one day you'll be inspired by some divine and merciful creature, and you'll want to make millions of dumplings, you could freeze them and then throw them still frozen in boiling water. I haven't try this way yet (so I don't take responsibility for this advice), but I think that it would work perfectly, so you can always keep handy a tasty appetizer to offer to friends or guests who come unexpectedly!
Obviously, dumplings must be served piping hot, accompanied by soy sauce, a sweet-and-sour one or, why not, a nice side dish of sauteed vegetables!