Good Advice For Novice Dumpling Makers

Are you new to making dumplings and/or baozi and forgot to pick up a bamboo steamer to cook everything? Or do you live in a small apartment with a personal bad on extra kitchen items ? Try this tip! Thanks Epicurious. I wish I would have thought of pie pan hacking beforehand.

 

 

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When I Begin To Try Everything At Sugar Club

I might live too close to the Sugar Club.

Anything called Sugar Club might be a tough thing for yours truly to avoid. This is the name of a Thai-dessert-spot-slash-small-Thai-grocery located in Elmhurst, Queens. Although half of the space is dedicated to sit-down treats, I have yet to stay and eat their recommended Romeo Toast or a classic mango with sticky rice. What has made me happy so far is the craziness that is their to-go section. So. Many. Options. If you’re looking to try new Thai snacks, they have a massive array of homemade choices ranging from savory to sweet, from the familiar to the new (that is, if you’re not a Thai native or super-well-versed in Thai cuisine).

The first time I went into Sugar Club, I felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory reworked for tropical flavors. The grocery area was filled to the brim with take-home containers full of food. The flavors of taro, pandan, coconut, and tapioca were everywhere. I almost jumped for joy, ready to carry a tower of plastic boxes home for taste testing, but decided to practice some restraint. “I’ll come back soon,” I promised to myself, choosing a single container of black sticky rice for the road. “I will try to return every other week and pick up 3 new options to try.”

Of course it ended up that my take-home options for trip #2 were more limited in scope.  It seemed like they were awaiting a new batch of food on that day. I decided to bring home a container of Woon jelly- basically a Thai Jello- if only because it looked so pretty, as well as a Taro pudding and a coconut cake called Kanom Ba Bin.

The bite-sized jellies were basically what I expected: not too exciting flavor-wise, but pretty to look at. The Kanom Ba Bin were pretty tasty, but my favorite was the taro pudding which was soft and starchy, flavored with coconut, and felt like a very eggy bread custard. The black sticky rice dessert from my first trip, by the way, was also excellent.

I’ll be sure to post another round in a couple of weeks. (remember, practicing restraint…)

Sugar Club is located at 8118 Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens.

 

 

New Year, New Pineapple Cakes

I’m starting off 2017 by breaking open a special gift from the in-laws: a box of SunnyHills pineapple cakes from Taipei. If only I knew about this place when I visited Taiwan in ’14. (Or maybe it’s best that I didn’t, considering how many boxes I might have tried to bring back at once…)  Pineapple cakes aren’t for everyone, nor are they very consistent in quality, flavor, and texture across brands. You kind of have to do your own research to find out which versions you enjoy the most. To me, SunnyHills is one of the best I’ve tried so far. The cake is buttery and crumbly, the fruit filling not too sweet and fresh-tasting. Speaking of fresh-tasting: note that these cakes are preservative-free, making the shelf life extremely short. Works for me as I prefer my dessert not ready to last the ages, Twinkie-style.

SunnyHills ships stateside from Singapore and they even have a cute limited edition 2017 box adorned with chicks here.

Guo Tie (Pan Fried Dumpings)

Quality guo tie are easy to find in the frozen section, but I’m realizing that there is a certain taste to homemade versions that cannot be replicated. This was my first attempt at the Chinese potsticker or any Chinese dumpling, of which there are many varieties. (if you feel like nerding out on dumpling varieties, check out this Lucky Peach guide, complete with illustrations) So I learned during attempt #1 that making panfried dumplings is a definitely a process, as one can imagine, but so worth making if and when you have 2-3 hours to spare.

Being a fan of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s column on Serious Eats, I decided to go with his recipe over the ones in my home cookbooks. (sorry, Fuchsia Dunlop, sorry Ken Hom, I’ll try your versions next time)

Making the dough is as easy as can be. If you are used to pie crust and tortillas and such, you’ll have no problem here- only flour and boiling water are combined in a food processor and left to rest. The filling is a little more difficult to pinpoint. The salt and spice ratios are said to be starting points in the recipe. It calls for you to heat up a small bit of filling and taste, making salt and other adjustments here before moving on. I decided to simply go with the listed amounts, leaving me with a slightly under-salted and under-spiced batch. Nothing terrible, and a little vinegar and chili oil made up for flavor in the end.

After the dough is rested, it’s time to roll out the dumplings. This is where recipes tend to differ on the technique: some call for rolling out a log rope of dough and cutting pieces from there. This recipe calls for rolling out tablespoon-sized balls from hunks of dough. Seems to be a matter of preference.

Guo Tie01

The toughest part for me is the sealing off the dumpling edges. As you can see from the photos, I don’t have a perfect pleating technique down. This video from Anita Lo was super helpful and helped me struggle a little less mid-batch. Be nice and give me time, though- I think it’s only fair to get critical after the 3rd try.

The end result was a healthy amount of flavorful, super-fresh dumplings. They were perfect with a smashed cucumber salad on the side. (this one is courtesy of Fuchsia.) All I need to do next time is amp up the salt and spice blend- and practice my dumpling pleats, of course.

Guo Tie02Recipe Credit: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats

Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4. Flour, food processors, and raw pork equals a lot of clean-up.

Recommended For: Hungry dumpling fans on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Group Dinner Prep

Not Recommended For: Weeknight dinners.