Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Valiant Effort: A Guest Post from Jim

Chinese Dumplings

  A clear sign that you are talented at something is the ability to make it look easy.  However, this creates a problem as the rest of us watch this talented person and think, "Oh that looks simple enough, think I'll give it a try."  This was the statement that went through my naive brain on Tuesday as I, with the day off, decided to prepare something different, challenging, and hopefully delicious for Ashley, who was detained at work against her will.  The goal was to make something tasty while impressing her with creativity and undiscovered skill.  After all, I watch her effortlessly make amazing meal after meal on a nightly basis, why can't I make one?  The scene was set in my head, picturing her coming home from work with a ferocious hunger only to be stunned as she was met at the door by delectable aromas followed by the scene of me, unfazed and far from fatigued, standing triumphantly over a completed dinner.  Well, I came close.
   Somewhere in the afternoon I dug up the memories of my time in China and decided it would be fun and impressive to make Chinese dumplings.  Better yet, using the bamboo steamer we recently purchased, I would make steamed Chinese dumplings.  Realistically this is not that difficult to make for the experienced cook.  But, when you look at my cooking resume (In my single days I made an award winning chicken breast a-la-skillet and Kraft macaroni and cheese) I am far from experienced.  So you can imagine my perplexed look when facing an actual ginger root and wondering how in the world you go from that to "minced."  Nevertheless, I rolled my sleeves up at around 2:30 and thought how easily I could just knock this out in about an hour, refrigerate the dumplings, then pop them in the steamer 20 minutes before Ashley gets home and we are golden!

    I got off to a seemingly good start.  Step one, dough.  Ingredients: flour, water, a dash of salt.  Wow!  Easy day!  I mixed that all together, popped it in a bowl, covered it, and was ambitiously pushing on to step 2.   However, I will admit to some lost time having fun throwing the dough ball in the air and slapping it around a little.

   Step 2:  The filling.  Here is what the recipe told me.

  • 1 3/4 pounds ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 cups finely shredded Chinese cabbage

 OK, I wanted to follow the recipe exactly, but some changes were made either due to confusion or taste preferences.  First, I could only buy one pound of ground pork or two, so I just decided on two (I thought "I like meat") and threw it in the bowl.  Then we came face to face with the ginger root.  The questions were swarming my head.  How much ginger root do I buy to produce a tbsp of minced ginger root?  How do I mince ginger root?  Why is it $2.99 a pound?  How much root would actually weigh a pound?  Where did this ginger come from?  Who looked at this and thought "let's turn this into a soda?"  Needless to say I couldn't answer any of them, so I guessed at the store and consulted Youtube for the mincing problem. (Quick side rant: From time to time Ashley talks about needing new knives, to which I look over at our 64,323 knives and say we have plenty.  Here is a tip, if you need new knives and your significant other doesn't understand, have them mince, dice, or finely slice anything, they will change their minds)  In the end I didn't mince the ginger exactly right, but the job got done.
These cubes I started with aren't the best way to mince ginger, but it worked.

Finally, I saw 5 cups of Chinese cabbage.  I don't like Chinese cabbage, and dumplings are flexible, so I decided on 5 cups of Spinach.  Did I know that spinach condenses a lot when  finely chopped?  No.  So after a whole bag of spinach which merited 3 measly cups, I quit.  Here is the resulting mixture:

Doesn't look like a lot here, but this was way too much!

   By the way, this was way too much filling.  We are going to try to use more of it this coming week for other projects, but I didn't even make a dent in this stuff.

   Now that I had completed the dough and filling all that was left was creating the dumplings.  Sounds so easy.  At this point my "easy hour" had long passed, sweat was forming on my forehead, my body wanted to sit, and I was just beginning to realize what takes up the most time with this dish.

Apparently sleeping next to the garbage can was more interesting than my cooking

   I really want to tell you that I pushed through, made the dumplings and had the dinner ready as planned.  I intended to finish, but after my first three dumplings came out so hideously deformed they looked like the dough boy had an accident on my counter, I quit.  I put the dough and filling in the fridge and cleaned up just in time for Ashley to come home and be confused as to why she was smelling such wonderful scents in the kitchen.  I confessed my attempt, my subsequent retreat, and together we finished the process to create these.

The brown color is due to the whole wheat flour
     I can't take the credit, after all I was only a glorified mixer, but I can tell you they were delicious.  I would highly recommend trying to make these as they are a fun food item to make together, just make sure you know how much you want to make so you aren't freezing them like we will be doing.

I hope you enjoyed this terrible cooking story.

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The brown color is due to the whole wheat flour


  1. You forgot the part of the "single days" cooking where you cut and eat the chicken out of the pan bc you don't have a plate... Ha!

  2. Hahaha Jim and his famous "chicken a la skillet".

  3. I am crying from laughing so hard! Thanks Jim, you get high marks for the effort!

  4. Ash, I see why you are marrying this delightful young man.

  5. Thank you guys so much, I definitely feel very lucky. =)

  6. Jim, 你自己做了吗? 好不好吃? I was just at a "Chinese Party" here in Nome, myself and some others who had all spend some time in China. We had caribou dumplings! Good stuff. Good post! And I will definitely try this myself, but probably have to do a pan fry. Got any links for how you folded them just so? That would also be my downfall.

    Thanks again for the goodies.

  7. Oh yeah, and Jim, I literally learned this last weekend when I was making an Asian marinade: freeze the ginger and use a cheese grader. Bam! Fresh shredded ginger that won't stick to the grater like glue.


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