Monday, October 8, 2012

Cantonese Shrimp Dumplings

I like to stock my freezer with great finger food. These dumplings are easy to make and taste amazing, always better than store bought.  The filling is "flexible" so you can make it your own.  Here's the recipe.

To make 30 dumplings.

Chinese Wheat-Flour Dumpling Wrappers*:
3     cups all-purpose flour
1     cup boiling water

1     lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
3     scallions
6     water chestnuts
2     egg whites
1 1/2  tsps cornstarch
1     tsp salt
1/2  tsp ground white pepper
1     tbsp soy sauce
1     tbsp safflower oil

Dipping Sauce:
1/4  cup soy sauce
3     tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or Worcestershire sauce)
1     tbsp sesame oil
2     cloves garlic, finely chopped
1     tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2  tsp sugar
a few drops of hot chili oil (to taste)

* ready-made Chinese wheat flour dumpling wrappers are available at most large grocery stores or at the Chinese grocer.
** I used dried oyster mushrooms soaked until softened

To make the wrappers:
Put the flour in a large bowl, and add the boiling water.  Blend the mixture well, using a wooden spoon.  If the dough is too dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time until it's moist and springy; if it's too sticky, add more floor, one tablespoon at a time until it's smooth.  Let the mixture cool a bit, then knead for about eight minutes or until a poke with your finger causes it to bounce back.  Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour.

After the dough is rested, use your thumb to poke a hole in the center.  Gradually enlarge the hole until it looks like a large bagel.  Hand over hand, squeeze the dough until it forms a rope, about 3/4 inch in diameter.

To make the dumpling wrappers, slice the dough into pieces about 3/4 inch long, and roll each piece into a ball.  On a floured work surface, roll out the ball into a thin 3 inch disk.  If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, place a piece of parchment paper between them.

Store the wrappers between sheets of parchment to prevent drying.  Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Shrimp filling:
Combine the water chestnuts and the green onions in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Remove from the bowl and set aside.  Place the shrimp into the food processor and pulse until you have a coarse paste.  Add the water chestnut/green onion mix, egg whites, salt and pepper, soy sauce and oil to the food processor and pulse just long enough to mix.  It's ok to have a few larger pieces of shrimp.

Fill the dumpling wrappers with about 1 tablespoon of filling.  You may need to moisten the edges of the wrapper with water to help things stick.

Line a steamer basket with a single layer of cabbage leaves and steam the dumplings over high heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the egg white is cooked through.  If your steamers are stacked, rotate them about half way through.

Serve with the dipping sauce.

To make the Soy Vinegar Dipping sauce
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavours to combine and develop.  Return to room temperature and serve with dumplings.

For the freezer: freeze individual dumplings on a cookie sheet.  When frozen, pack in freezer bags.  Don't forget to label them- you'll never remember what they are in a month!

Dumplings in the steamer- 1/2 with homemade wrappers and 1/2 with store bought wrappers

This recipe is based on one from the "World of Dumplings" by Brian Yarvin.  It highlights dumplings from around the world with easy to follow recipes and directions. The shrimp dumplings were delicious.  I also made the Chinese cabbage and mushroom dumplings but they didn't turn out as I would have liked- I wouldn't recommend them without making quite a few changes.

I recruited two taste testers, foodies Beryl and Eric, to compare homemade dumpling wrappers to store bought ones.  Overall, the three of us preferred the homemade wrappers- they were chewier and just tasted better.  The store bought were ok and they are so convenient.  So, in a pinch, go commercial.

Wanna Play?
You can chop the ingredients finely by hand for a different texture and taste.
Try substituting some of the shrimp with scallops.  Or adding finely chopped ginger.

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