Monday, May 23, 2011

Raviolis and Chinese Dumplings

When I was 15 years old I liked to make Italian type ravioli. Although it is time consuming they taste much better than the ready-made ones sold at the supermarket. Of course raviolis come in a variety of sizes and fillings. The famous ravioles de Romans (from Romans-sur-Isère, a town located at about 80km south of Lyons) are small squares filled with cheese. The Italian type might have fillings made with meat, seafood, spinach, mushrooms, or cheese.

The Italian ravioli dough is made of the same ingredients as for fresh pasta dough: flour, oil, eggs, and salt. During the time the dough stands (about 1 hour) you can prepare the filling (mixture of minced meat, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, eggs, and spices), then you divide the dough into 2 and roll each part into 2 very thin rectangles.  Then you divide the filling into small equal parts and spoon it onto one of the rectangle making small mounts and leaving enough spaces between each other. Afterwards you draw the outline of the ravioli with a brush dipped into milk. Then, you cover the mounts with the 2nd roll-out pastry and seal the 2 parts together by pressing with your fingers on the milk lines. Finally using a pastry wheel (see picture) you cut the dough along the lines to separate each ravioli. The pastry wheel makes nice jagged edges.

Pastry wheel for Italian type raviolis

Chinese cooking offers many types of ravioli. I love those that are steamed and served in bamboo baskets at Chinese restaurants. My favourite steamed dumpling is the Chiu-chow style called Chìuh-Jâu fán-gwó. The skin is made of wheat starch and it is filled with ficus tikaua / deih-gwâ (of the gourd family), pork meat, dried peanuts, dried shrimps, and scallion.  

Besides the steamed dumplings such as hâ-gáau (shrimp dumpling) or the Shanghainese style síu-lùhng-bâau filled with juicy minced pork, boiled dumplings: séui-gáau (literally means water dumplings) filled with pork and baahk choi and served with a meat broth, or wonton / wàhn-tân which are usually filled with shrimps, double-boiled dumplings such as gún-tông-gáau, and even deep-fried water dumplings / jâ-wàhn-tân are commonly found at Hong Kong restaurants. 

Gûn-tông-gáau (at Celestial Court)

At Hong Kong style café or chàh-châan-têng both séui-gáau and wàhn-tân are served in a meat broth either with or without noodles / mihn. If the dumplings are accompanied with noodles they are called séui-gáau-mihn and wàhn-tân-mihn respectively.

Soon after my husband and I moved on our own to Chi Fu Fa Yuen (back in 1986) I bought a series of Chinese cooking books (Chopsticks Recipes by Cecilia J. Au-Yeung). I found some recipes of steamed dumplings and wanted to make it.
I was quickly discouraged by my husband’s kind advice: “the kitchen is too hot – there is not enough space – it’s too difficult to make dim-sum - nobody makes dim-sum at home.” In other words: M`g sái gam màhfàahn” or “no need to get into such trouble” which I also interpreted as: “it’s better to eat dim-sum outside!”
However, I insisted and bought 2 medium-size bamboo baskets. I already had a large wok and other cooking utensils. One day, when I was on my own I got started with the recipe called Steamed Raviolis (in English) and sîn-hâ fán-gwó (in Chinese).

The consistency of the wheat starch mixed with water was so different than the wheat flour dough’s. What seemed like an easy pastry to make turned out to be a rather challenging experience. Was it because I put too much water in? Was the water temperature too hot? Anyway, I tried a few times and finally got discouraged. I was not proud when mentioning my experience to my husband. He was right!  I never tried to make again dumpling pastry.  And as of today I have yet to meet someone who is making dim-sum at home!  No wonder that it takes about 8-10 years to become a good dim sum chef, as reported by Susan Chung - SCMP of 19 May 2011. She also mentioned that “trainees needed to learn to make about seven types of dough, from fermented dough for steamed barbecue pork bun / châ-sîu-bâau to egg wrappers for water dumplings / séui-gáau.”   Each kind of dough has its own specificity. For instance, “shrimp dumplings must have a skin that is chewy and a shape uniform with a minimum of 9-10 pleats”.

Today, instead of making steamed dumplings I make water dumplings / séui-gáau with ready-made wrappers, which is much easier to prepare and that my husband love!  Let me share my recipe with you. This is an adapted version of a recipe given by Susan Chung in the Post Magazine of SCMP a few years ago.

Water dumplings / séui-gáau
Filling: for 4 persons / ~ 56 dumplings (14 pieces per person)
-         300 g minced pork
-         500 baahk-choi             
-         1 tbsp water
-         1 tsp cornstarch
-         1 tsp salt (coarse)
-         1 tbsp light soy sauce
-         1 tsp sugar
-         1 tsp sesame oil
-         2 cloves of garlic, thinly chopped
-         Salt and black pepper

1st part:
  1. Mix minced pork with marinade well and chill for 1 hour.
  2. Wash vegetables, drain, and pat dry with paper towel. Chop greens as thinly as possible.
  3. Put greens and minced pork in a mixing bowl; add seasoning together with garlic and blend well. Chill in fridge for 1 hour.
  4. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the centre of each round-shape wrapping.
  5. Moist the seams of the dough with water and fold so as to form a half-moon shape, and press the seams to seal.

2nd part:
  1. In a large pan bring 4 liters of water to a boil.
  2. Drop ½ of the dumplings (28 pieces) into the boiling water. Stir gently so they don't stick together.
  3. Cover. Bring the water to a boil.  Leave the lid on and cook for 5 minutes (after the water comes to a boil again). 
  4. Remove the lid. The dumplings should be floating and the dough translucent. Scoop the dumplings and some of the cooking water into a large bowl.

3rd part:
  1. Repeat with the remainder of the dumplings.
  2. Serve with dipping sauces such as light soy and the famous Guilin chili sauce / gwei-làhm laaht jìu jeung.

I usually serve the dumplings in the cooking water or in a homemade broth (or a remainder of pot-au-feu soup).
We bought ~ 560 g (a bit less than 1 catty) which had 66 dumpling wrappers – round-shape (thick). Cost: $9 (March 4, 2011).

1 comment:

  1. Yummy yummy. Shenme shihou keyi changchang ni de shouyi?