Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chinese Market Tour and Dumpling Fest

What a thing to do on a Sunday morning: tour an Asian market and learn to make Chinese dumplings.

When I saw that West Hartford Continuing Education offered an Asian market tour and dumpling workshop,  I had to sign up.  Not only am I crazy about dumplings--I've made them before, but always as taught by a cookbook, never by a native Chinese person--I'm also curious to learn about the exotica of a big Asian grocery store.

Asian Market Tour and Dumpling Workshop

Curious, overwhelmed or intimidated by Asian markets? Want to learn about popular Asian produce, products, and shortcut tips for making classic or creative Asian dishes at home? Enjoy new food, culture, travel and shopping? If so, this tour is for you. Join Ming Hua He, well-known Chinese culture and travel expert for this fun, unique, culinary and cultural experience. Begin the guided tour at A Dong Asian Supermarket, then drive to Yin Yang Tai Chi Academy for a dumpling cooking class. You will learn the secrets of making authentic home-style dumplings. Highlights include fresh Asian fruits and vegetables, "oodles of noodles," "mad about rice," "some like it hot spices," "Asian snack attack," dumpling lesson and the uses of kitchen tools and pantry essentials. Please bring you own apron and a cookie sheet or pizza pan to take leftovers home. 

We met our teacher, Ming Hua He, at the A Dong supermarket on New Britain Avenue in West Hartford:

Our teacher, Ming, took us around A Dong and showed us some high points.  Here:  Bitter melon.

 Cut bitter melon in half lengthwise, scoop out the insides, blend the inner part with pear or apple, drink.  Ming told us to Google it, and when I did, I learned that bitter melon has antimalarial, antiviral, cardio-protective, and anticancer uses.  (Is that all?)

Buns--Banh Bao in Vietnamese--packages of dough, like dumpling dough, wrapped around filling of eggs, sausage, and chestnuts.  "Best Asian thing," according to Ming.

Sesame balls--banh cam in Vietnamese--have sweet sticky rice and red beans inside.  No cooking required.

Bean curd threads, preserved duck eggs, long beans, five spice tofu, white rice cakes, green mung beans, black sesame powder, dried lychi, congee--Ming showed us all those, and more--and told us how to cook them.  I took 7 pages of notes.

After touring the highlights of A Dong, the class reconvened a few blocks away at Yin Yang Tai Chi Academy, where we learned to make dumplings from scratch.  

And by that I mean, with flour and water, hand-forming our own dumpling skins.  Until now, I've made dumplings with gyoza skins from Stop & Shop.  When I said that to Ming, she made it clear that using commercial dumpling skins puts the faux in faux pas.

Dumpling ingredients:  these amounts made enough for everyone in our class of 8 to make at least a dozen dumplings apiece:

4 cups unbleached flour, 2-1/2 cups water, mix with chopsticks:

Knead dough in bowl (use the heels of your hands, in a motion similar to that of kneading bread dough).  Wrap dough in plastic and let rest for half an hour while you make the dumpling stuffing:

Stuffing: 1-1/2 lbs ground pork, 1/2 c chicken broth with a raw egg mixed into it, mix with pork.  Then add these seasonings:  1 T ginger juice (made by pulsing peeled fresh ginger root in a food processor and adding a little water), 3 T soy sauce, 1 T oyster sauce (Ming recommends Lu Kim Kee Panda Brand), 1 T soybean oil, 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir in 1 direction (Ming says this is essential for flavor), then add 3-5 c chopped Chinese chives, a variety of chive that seems to be far more pungent than the kind I'm used to.

Then work on the dough.  

Using a handful-sized piece of dough, form it into a flat circle, then a doughnut.

Make the doughnut into a rope

Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of the rope

Then use a mini wooden rolling pin, called a dumpling roller, to roll the dough out into a circle.

Put about a tablespoon of filling into the center of the dumpling skin, then pinch the edges closed around the filling.  Ming showed us a special way to do the folding, better learned by seeing than reading.

And we each went home with a couple dozen dumplings!  To cook, put oil in a flat frying pan, then 1 c water.  Turn heat to high. When bottom of dumpling is brown, turn them over, cover, and finish on low heat.

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