What to do when I'm away from my kitchen? Find another kitchen to cook in. In Beijing, I found Chunyi Zhou's kitchen hidden away in one of the old hutong neighborhoods. Finding is the key word here - finding her online is easy when you're looking for cooking classes in Beijing. Finding her kitchen is a bit more challenging, it's deep inside this maze of alleys:
The dumpling class was what was available on the one day I had, so dumplings it was. At first I wasn't very excited about it, but it was better than walking around in the heat all day. But it was worth it, and the first thing I made when I came back home yesterday was - you guessed it - dumplings.
You start off with chopping the veggies that go in the dumplings. Most everybody's favorite were the cabbage pork dumplings. For that you start with finely chopping 100g chinese cabbage, and then mixing in 1/2 teaspoon salt to pull the water out of the cabbage. Put it aside, and let it sit. For beef dumplings, mince 50g cilantro or spring onions.
Next make the dough: For 16 dumplings, use 120g bread or AP flour and 60ml water. (White whole wheat uses 80ml water. Of course Chinese would never do that but I actually liked the flavor). Slowly mix the water into the flour, then knead the dough until it comes together nicely and the gluten develops, about 5 to 10 minutes if kneading by hand. Form the dough into an egg and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
To make the filling, put 100g ground pork into a bowl. Add 1 tsp diced ginger, 1 tsp spring onion, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp rice wine, and 1 tsp sesame oil. Add vegetable water, and mix furiously until mixture thickens. Add squeezed vegetable and mix well.
For beef dumplings, if you have also add 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce. For lamb, also add some Sichuan peppers.
Back to the dough: Roll the dough into a log, 1" thick. Then cut in 16 pieces, about 1/2" wide. (At least that's what I was taught, I find that I get about 25 pieces, but I prefer my dumpling skins thin, and my dumplings on the smaller side.)
Push the pieces back into round globs, then press them into round flat discs with the palm of your hand. Next, use Asian rolling pin, about 1" diameter and 12" to 14" long, to roll out the dumpling skins. Rather than rolling over the entire dumpling use your right hand to roll the pin, and your left hand to rotate the skins by about 1/10 of a turn between rolls. Only roll to about the middle so that the middle stays a little thicker than the outside.
Now take the wrapper in your left hand (I'm a righty btw, switch the instructions if you're a leftie), then add some filling, then fold the dumpling shut by pinching a little of the dough, then pressing it onto the dumpling, then pinching the next bit and pressing it on the dough, until you run out of dough.
Here is how my dumplings look when they are done:
These dumplings either get steamed or boiled for 8-10 minutes. For fried dumplings, you can cheat with the wrapping, and just close them on the top of the half round, leaving the ends open. Now all the hard work is done and you're almost eating:
For pan frying, put them in the wok, fry until they are slightly browned, then add some water and close the lid. After the water has evaporated fry a little longer, to crisp them again, then serve.
Oh, we forgot the dipping sauce! It's basically a mixture of mashed up garlic, vinegar and soy sauce. I also like ginger in mine, but I think that's totally up to personal tastes. If you have a Chinese grocery store nearby, try to find at least 3 yr old Shanxi vinegar, it's nice and dark and sweet, a bit like a Chinese, not quite so sweet version of Balsamico.