Plumpling Dumplings

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On our dumpling spirit journey, this encouraging soy bean man acted as our shaman.

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I was recently seized by the urge to make dumplings. The last time I made them I was at a Chinese New Year party, invited by my half-Oklahoman friend. The other half is Taiwanese, which I think explains the dumplings.

Dumplings are a good thing to make in a group, because they require lots of tedious folding, best done while drinking and making fun of the rice wrapper-folding incompetence of your neighbor. I haven’t yet formed a circle of people in Austin who I feel comfortable inviting over to handle raw meat, so Max and I put aside a couple hours and threw ourselves into it. I imagine that’s how the first pioneers felt when they finally arrived in Oklahoma, unloaded their wagon, built their little cabin, and set about making dumplings for the first time.

Filling:

1 lb ground pork

5 skinny scallions, just the white and very light green part, sliced thinly

1 minced FAT clove of garlic

1 minced chunk of ginger. Some people will say a teaspoon. Teaspoons have never satisfied me. I can’t tell you how much ginger I used. I measure things using only emotion.

Splash of soy sauce

Sprinkle of granulated sugar

Couple drops of sesame oil

Splash of chicken broth or water

Squish it up with your hands. Put a smallish dollop in the center of your rice wrapper. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and moisten the edge of the rice wrapper, all the way around. Fold it in half and firmly pinch it closed. Now moisten one side of the half crescent. Starting just a smidge from the corner of the dumpling, fold a little bit of the wrapper in front and little bit behind, like you’re making a fan. An ineffective, doughy fan,

Max at first acted like folding dumplings was a big deal. “Wait, how do you do this again?” Seconds later, he was folding the edges of his dumplings in the shape of waves crashing on a beach. “You’re like the White Men Can’t Jump of dumpling folding,” I said, which, frustratingly, did not get a laugh. Max was deep into the folds of his dumpling, and had no time for peasant jokes.

The camera failed to capture the quiet poetry of these elegant pork pockets.

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When we were done with the pork filling, there were four wrappers left over. Max got experimental, filling two with hummus, the others with honey and cocoa nibs.

The honey one was actually pretty good, if you don’t mind a gush of hot honey. The hummus dumpling tasted like a pierogi. Chinese + Middle Eastern = Polish.  Check the math on your own time if you don’t believe.

Dumplings folded, we dropped them into  a pot of boiling water. The magic of dumplings is that when they are done cooking, they float to the top, like puffy angels ascending into heaven.

I would like to point out that, for the first time, out of the three times I’ve made dumplings, not ONE of the dumplings exploded in the boiling water. Just goes to show, having friends around is a distraction and, ultimately, a disadvantage.

At this point, if you wanted to, you could strain the dumplings and eat them. That’s how my half-Oklahoman colleague likes to get down. Or you could make wonton soup, with a pot of chicken broth, nappa cabbage and more spring onion.

I like my dumplings crunchy, so I fried them in grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil is a self-conscious alternative to vegetable oil for people who care what other people think.

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I made a dipping sauce out of soy sauce, rice vinegar, two thinly sliced Thai chili peppers, the green parts of the scallions, some roasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, and a little bit of sugar. I also made a chilled, spicy cucumber salad.

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Ta da! I can die happy.

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