Thursday, July 3, 2008

What to do with Dried Shrimp

I think I must like them so much because essentially they’re Chinese pasta. Little bits of ravioli with a Chinese flare. Alright, I know it’s not that simple, but I do love dumplings. They’ve always been in that sort of ‘only-when-I-go-out-to-eat’ category; this is where they’re different than pasta. I can’t just make them at home…or can I?

You probably guessed that the answer is yes, I can. And you want to know how I came up with the idea to make them? Normally if I have a craving for dumplings, I go down the road to a handy Japanese place where there’s a whole section dedicated to steamed goods, but honestly, it’s the pan-fried dumplings that get me. I’m devoted to the standard, half-moon shaped goodies. So my idea did not stem from a craving. Instead, I still had dried shrimp leftover from making pad thai and it was just sitting in the back of my fridge, not doing anything but perhaps leaking a faint fishy smell. So onto my old standby, search for dried shrimp and dumplings pops up. I just wanted to glance at the recipe to see how intimidating it would be, but it got lots of good reviews and didn’t look too bad. I also think I have this unexplained prejudice against won-ton wrappers and pre-made store bought doughs, but this recipe called for you to mix together your own flour and water and that’s it. Very easy.

One thing I was lacking, though, was a steamer. I always eye the bamboo steamers in the Chinese shop, and think how I want one, but I’d only actually use it for tamales. So I went with the pan-frying method, which ended up being pretty much steamed except for a little crispy bit on the bottom. These turned out delicious and I would make them again, trying different fillings and sauces.

And a little side note: although I made these almost specifically because I had dried shrimp, I don’t think that’s an essential ingredient, and if you don’t have or can’t find, make them anyways.

Pork and Spring Onion Dumplings
Adapted from

2 c flour
1 c boiling water

2 tsp dried shrimp
2 tsp Chinese rice wine, or medium-dry Sherry (I used Sherry, I mean, I’m in Spain)
¼ medium head of cabbage, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
1 lb ground pork (I bought a package of pork sausages and just removed the casing)
3 green onions, green part only, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/8 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce (I didn’t have any so used fish sauce)
½ tsp sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp ground black pepper

dipping sauce
soy sauce
fish sauce
lime juice
green onion
fresh chilies

For the dough, mix the flour, water, and salt in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball, then knead on a floured surface until smooth and shiny, 6-8 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
While that’s resting, you can make the filling. What epicurious doesn’t mention is that for dried shrimp, you need to soak them for about 30 minutes in water until they get soft, then pat them dry and mince them up into tiny bits. You don’t really want to get a whole hunk of dried shrimp in a bite, just the flavor. So when everything for the filling is chopped and grated, mix it all together by hand until evenly distributed. Put in the fridge until you’re ready to fill the dumplings.
Now it’s time to make the wrappers. Epicurious suggest a gnocchi method: divide the dough into three, roll each piece into a log, and then cut of 1-inch sections and roll those into a flat circle for each dumpling. I tried this and found that I had irregular shaped circles and it didn’t work so well. So then I tried rolling it out, like normal pastry, but very thin, then I took a large glass and traced the edge, so all my circles were uniform. And after you trace each individual wrapper, I would stretch it out a bit, to make it even thinner, and it’s pretty elasticky dough so it should be ok. When you have all your wrappers ready, get a glass with water and dip your finger in it and trace the edge of the circle. You’ll see that if you put too much water it won’t close together, so just a quick brush on each half of the circle will do it. Then in the middle place a little scoop of the filling and close it to make a half circle, pressing along the edges to seal. Now, if you’re feeling creative, you can kind of pleat the edges over themselves and make little folds (epicurious tries to explain the method, but I thought it was confusing, and it’s just better to experiment a little with a few, folding the dough around and stuff). Now you’re ready to cook them. The key here is non-stick pan. I didn’t have one big enough because you’re going to need to fill it with water, and I only had a very shallow non-stick, so I used regular, which resulted in lots of the bottoms of dumplings being stuck to the pan. Sad smiley. Anyways, in a non-stick pan, heat up some oil until warm over medium-high heat. Add the dumplings, as many as will fit in the pan without touching and fry for a minute or two so that the bottoms get crispy and golden. Then pour cold water in to come half-way up the sides of the dumplings. Cover them and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, steaming the dumplings (probably 8-10 minutes). Remove with a spatula (you might want to test one first to make sure they’re done), I put on a plate with a paper towel just to get the excess water, and then serve and eat with the dumpling sauce.
Oh yeah, the sauce. I didn’t really mention how to make that, but instead listed ingredients. Dipping sauces are up to you, if you want spicy, throw in lots of fresh chili, if you like strictly soy sauce, go ahead. Those are just the ingredients I like to use in mine, so you can pick and choose as you please.

1 comment:

d anything said...

Pasta filled with pig. Fried then steamed. Could it get any better?

I think you are going to have to buy a bamboo steamer before too long though.