Wednesday, March 14, 2012

things i know about dumplings...and maybe also about life

I've been really into making dumplings lately. I've explored a plethora of fillings (shrimp, pork, sweet potato, cabbage, chives--even goat cheese) and find that the pleasure of making the filling, carefully rolling each dumpling, sealing, and then cooking them only increases as I improve my technique. It also doesn't hurt that they are incredibly tasty--even a bad dumpling is still pretty good.

I love making them with other people, sitting at my kitchen table with a plate of dumpling wrappers, little bowls of water (to wet the noodle encasing) and a bowl of the filling du jour between us. It's a nice way to get to get to know someone. And when I roll dumplings alone, my hands happily take care of the delicate folding, pinching and dusting with flour, freeing my mind to wander. Lately, it's where I do some of my best thinking, and I have discovered that there are some wonderful truths within dumplings and the process of making them.

First of all, no two dumplings are alike. Like anything handmade, there are slight variations in each one--tiny imperfections that reflect the mindset of the maker. These are what make each dumpling special.

Also, a dumpling is only as good as its ingredients. Choose high-quality vegetables, meats, wrappers and sauces to make your dumplings with. It's a pretty direct input-output relationship.

That said, a dumpling is more than the sum of its parts. Something truly magical happens with a fresh, flavorful filling is encased by a layer of noodle and then cooked. It becomes greater than its individual components.

If a dumpling is not properly sealed, a little bit of filling may slip out during cooking. This is not the end of the world. The dumplings will still taste good.

It's important to be gentle with your dumpling wrappers. Their skin is thin and will tear easily. Touch them tenderly and with intention. Over-manipulation or too much direct heat will keep them from being able to do their job.

Pay attention to the details, but don't worry too much about each one. At least for me, the process here is at least as important as the finished product.

And use ginger. Lot's of ginger. It's good for you.


Ro said...

You make my world a little cooler every time I read one of your postings.

Lily said...

this looks yummy!