Dumpling Works Episode 1: The Right Grind

From these hands: dumplings

From these hands: dumplings

As some of you may or may not know, since moving back to the Bay Area, I’ve been talking to my good friend Matt about starting up a dumpling company.  Now, as of yet, our plans a still in the, well planning stages, but one thing we have made forward progress on is our recipe.  Flavor-wise, we’re pretty close.  We’re focusing on a pretty basic pork dumpling – pork, cabbage, garlic chives, ginger, garlic, soy and sugar. The thing that we’re doing differently than other times we’ve made dumplings, is grinding our own meat. So we’ve been experimenting with the different sizes of the grind trying to figure out what grind will give us the meaty and firm texture we want in a dumpling. Given Matt’s book learning, he’s taken to salting the pork before we grind it which not only adds flavor, but changes the texture of the meat. I think it dries it out and firms it up a little bit.  In our first or second trial, we thought we’d figured it out: going with a large grind in order to maximize the chunky meat bits in the dumpling.  However we found that while the individual chunks of meat were satisfying, the filling as a whole just wasn’t holding together very well after cooking (boiling).  Perhaps too much cabbage?  Perhaps the cabbage was not dry enough?  Not enough mixing? Too much mixing? Did we need to add cornstarch?  In taking a scientific approach we realized that there were so many variables. How could this be? It’s not rocket brain science surgery!  I remembered that in my (vast) dumpling making experience, I would get my ground pork from a butcher in Chinatown and it was rather small grind, but the filling held together quite well even when I added a whole host of other ingredients and hand mixed it like crazy.  So,  keeping all the other ingredients proportionally consistent we decided to change course and try the small grind to see if that would impact the way the filling would hold together.  This is what we discovered…

 

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NYC Eats (with a smaller group of people) – Fu Run

This is the final installment of the NYC Eats (with Matt and other friends).  I wanted to get this out sooner, but I got a little waylaid by the recently acquired full time j-o-b.  So although this meal was eaten almost two weeks ago, its flavors  have been seared into my cerebellum and I remember it like it was yesterday… okay maybe like a week ago.  What I do remember is that with the exception of one dish (which was merely mediocre) the food was uniformly fresh, intense, full of strong, primary flavors and a whole lot of lamb.  We went to a Dong Bei restaurant in Queens called Fu Run. Using a year-old NY Times writeup about the proliferation of Dong Bei Restaurants in Flushing as a guide, we suggested for  Matt’s last NYC dinner one of the the recommended restaurants: Northeast Taste Chinese Food (don’t know if that was a direct translation or what).  Running late as usual – my fault, as usual – Shefali and I speed-walked from the Flushing subway stop the nine blocks to NTCF where Matt, Alex, Waine had been waiting for about half an hour.  Unfortunately, despite it’s super creative name,  in the year since the article was published, Northeast Taste had changed ownership and was now a Peking duck restaurant. While, we all love a good Peking duck, were really had our minds and stomachs set on food from former Manchuria so we stopped by another of the four recommended restaurant from the Time’s article, a nearby place called Hong Yi Shun.  Yet again – I was starting to sense a pattern here – HYS  had transitioned into a different restaurant and while the menu looked appetizing, it didn’t offer quite the dishes we were looking for.  The urgency of the situation was rising as I sensed the growing pissed off-ed-ness of everyone including myself  due to our lateness and the continued emptiness of our stomachs.  We decided to put our faith in the article one last time and headed to a third recommended restaurant, Fu Run which was all the way back where we’d all come from, a block from the subway.   After a wrong turn had us panicking that this restaurant was also no longer in existance (what had we done in our previous lives to deserve this karma?),  we finally righted ourselves and spotted the large awning and bright windows of the promised land, aka Fu Run.  After another nearly interminable wait, during which I kind of lost it – I get emotional when I’m hungry – we were finally seated. And then we ordered.  And then we ate.  Praise Buddha, did we eat.  Take a look for yourself.

[not pictured above: the two varieties of lamb dumplings]

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Chinese New Year 2011 (Chinese Lunar Year 4709)

Eating and cooking in the same space. That’s how we do.

As promised, I bring you the Chinese New Year 2011 post. This year, Shef and I were fortunate to make the trip back to sunny California for some 70 degree weather and feasting with friends at the annual West Coast Chinese New Year family dinner. Check out this old post for the background on this event as well as classic recipes.

As usual, Cheryl and Cam were kind enough to host the event. Unfortunately, it happened to coincide with a bout of stomach flu brought home from science camp by my niece, Maia, for the benefit of her little brother, Dylan, who began suffering its ill consequences right as the party got started.  Poor kid. He’s already so skinny.  So, Cheryl and Cam, being great parents, took turns tending to Dylan who was quarantined in their bedroom as the rest of us ate up a storm. The only stomach pains we were feeling were from overeating.  Speaking of overeaters, for the first time, Sari and Jake (of churrusco fame) and their two kids Yuji and Hana made the trip up from LA to enjoy the festivities.  And enjoy they did as you can see from Sari’s photos which she somehow managed to take in between stuffing her mouth.  Or, she’s really good at multi-tasking.

But to be fair, Sari was not alone in her mouth stuffing. We were all doing our part because there was so much delicious food, some of which you’ll see in the video below. Perhaps I’m not the best multi-tasker because I missed out on a bunch of things, most notably, Erik’s delicious faux eel and tofu (the wonders of dried shiitakes!) and the mountain of delicious desserts.  Big thanks to all the featured cooks and eaters whom I will now list in no particular order: Jake and Sari for bringing your stomachs and prepping skills, PK for being Korean,  Cheryl for your low-cal brussel sprouts  with bacon, Jean for her dumpling expertise, Thu for her PORKalicious egg rolls and Vietnamese expertise, Dave for his ridiculously good banh mi, Shalini for her tender lamb curry, Marissa for her delicate adobo and her mad videography skills, Minh for his dumpling cooking and Vietnamese seal of approval, and Matt for the oh so special boiled chicken.  The Lunar New Year would not be the same without all of you. Gong Hay Fat Choy!

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Dumpling House

This past Saturday after Cantonese class, Waine and I made our ritual pilgrimage for some food. We’d had pho the week before and Northern style Chinese hand pulled noodles the week before that, so I wasn’t really feeling the noodles. One word: dumplings. So we headed to the logical stop a couple blocks from our class, the aptly named Dumpling House a well known haunt of Chinatown locals and hipsters alike. It was by no means the first time we’d been to this place but I thought I would take the opportunity to make it the first stop on the newly inaugurated Dumpling Review Page. Check out the full review.

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Belated Chinese New Year Partay… and post

Gong Hay Fat Choi! Alright, I know it’s already been a month and a half since Chinese New Year so this post is particularly late. But it takes time to edit all my crappy footage and whittle it down to a comprehensible video that shows the whole (or at least wholish) process of preparing a certain dish. And in this case, the footage was crappier than usual, because I was all ADD (or ADHD if you prefer) trying to follow the prep of four different dishes while also chowing down and hanging out with Bay Area friends I see maybe a few times a year. Alright, enough whining. I just want to give props to Cheryl, Cam, Maia and Dylan for hosting another kick ass (that’s Chinese for awesome) Chinese New Year party in their newly renovated house and amazing kitchen. Also, thanks are in order to Cheryl, Matt, Chiara and Dave for being patient enough to cook and let me put my annoying camera in their face. Alright so check out some of the delicious stuff we cooked that night via these fried chicken wings:

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