Tag Archives: dumplings

Chinese New Year dinner

Happy Chinese New Year! For family dinner on Tuesday, we made up an (early) Taiwanese-influenced dinner. Dumplings are symbolic of family reunion and so they’re always around at this time when families are reunited. Our recipe is from a friend of friend, learned at the ‘boys’ part’ of a baby shower. Thanks, Bosco.

It was a meal made in America, not in Taiwan, that’s for sure. Although we could find wrappers at the supermarket (the Chinese grocery was a long hike), they were wonton wrappers – thinner and square. They ended up working, more or less, though I wouldn’t recommend using them. Find the round ones.

The tomato eggs are one of my favourite foods in Taiwan. Chris learned them from a Taiwanese woman whose kids she was teaching. This was the first time we tried them, and while they were good, they need work. They were a little too scrambled – though I’ve had them like this before, usually they’re a little chunkier.

The ginger beans are easy and delicious. Simple as that, though we found them online while in Argentina. No Chinese New Year connection there, just a tasty side.

Finally, as I went to post this, a post on someone else’s CNY dinner on the other side of the world popped up. It’s worth a look – they also do pot-sticker dumplings, as well as beef noodles (representative of long life) and egg custard tarts (a recipe I’ll be trying out myself). Check it out!

Ginger Green Beans

2 lbs beans
3 inches ginger, peeled and julienned
3 tbsp butter/sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
soy sauce to taste

1. Cook beans until just tender. Drain, put in ice water, pat dry.
2. Cook ginger in butter/oil until golden, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the beans and cook for about 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, add zest and salt and soy sauce.

Tomato Eggs

4 small-medium tomatoes, cut into chunks (optional: blanche and skin them first)
5 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1/2 c green onion, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
2 tsp potato or corn starch, mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp sugar

1. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil and fry the ginger.
2. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft & juicy. Add a little water if it looks dry.
3. Add sugar, another pinch of salt, and the starch/water mixture. Mix together so things thicken.
4. Add the eggs, cook like scrambled eggs, but stir as little as possible.
5. When mostly done, add green onions.

Pot-sticker Dumplings

1/2 lb ground pork (can also use ground chicken, turkey, beef, or tofu)
2-3 stalks bok choy
8-10 straw mushrooms (aka needle mushrooms – thin mushrooms that are mostly stalk)
3-4 Chinese mushrooms (dehydrated)
1/2 tsp ginger, minced OR 1/4 tsp dried ginger
1 stalk green onion, chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg
1 package dumpling wrappers (3.5-4″ diameter), thawed (if bought frozen)

Soak Chinese mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes until soft and re-hydrated, discard stem. Chop up bok choy, mushrooms, and green onions into 1/4″ or smaller pieces.

In a large bowl, combine ground meat, chopped vegetables, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper and mix well.

Whip the egg in a small bowl. It’ll be used for holding the wrappers together.

To make the dumplings (and I apologize in advance – this is much easier shown than described), place one wrap flat on a plate or clean surface. Brush egg on the top 3/4 of the wrapping and spoon 1 to 1-1/2 tsp of mixture in the centre of the wrapping.

Rather than try and explain how to fold a dumpling, I’ll simply direct you to the Google search, full of explanations and videos that are much better than trying to follow my directions. Good luck!

The dumplings can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for considerably longer in an airtight container. I recommend freezing them separately on a floured plate first, then putting them in a bag or container. This prevents them from sticking together.

To cook the dumplings, put 1-2 tsp of oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Arrange the dumplings in a circle or two on the pan and cook until the bottom is light brown (2-3 minutes if fresh, 4-5 if cooking from frozen). Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water (depending on size of the pan and amount of dumplings you’re cooking) to cover the bottom the pan and put the lid on immediately. The steam in the frying pan will cook the top part of the dumpling. Check the dumpling when the steam stops or in 3-4 minutes. The dumpling should be done when the water is all evaporated. Be careful not to burn the dumplings – add more water if necessary.

Dipping sauce: the recipe I got recommended 2 parts dark soy sauce with 1 part Worchestershire sauce. In Taiwan, we would have a mix of soy sauce, chili paste, garlic, and vinegar. Here, we found a chili-garlic paste at the supermarket and brought out vinegar and soy sauce and let everyone make their own sauce. It worked out great!

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a taste of (two parts of) the world

While we were in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, we took a walk around Kensington Market, the well-known food and art section of town. I knew that there was a Latino community in Toronto and we figured that there might be empanadas to be had. We discovered some at Jumbo Empanadas, though at $4 apiece, we were expecting ENORMOUS empanadas (as they had been much cheaper in South America). The filling was Chilean all right – raisins, olives, egg, ground beef, spices – but the dough was a little disappointing and dry. The spicy tomato salsa you see on the side certainly helped perk things up, though. Overall, a mediocre empanada, but not terrible.

The tamales were quite good, though. I’m glad we each took half of the two dishes, as I wouldn’t have been satisfied with a single bite of this. Well-ground (or pureed) corn, good spices, cooked in corn husks – this tasted like we remembered it.

With the snow falling gently around us like a Christmas movie, our next stop was on Spadina at Mother’s Dumplings. The dumplings looked like the ones we had in Taiwan, and the jasmine tea was just so good that we had to order ten guo tie (fried dumplings). While not quite as awesome as our favourite place in Taiwan, these definitely held their own. The juices dripped out as we nibbled – always a good sign – and the meat was expertly spiced. The chef is from southern China, so it made sense that they tasted similar to the ones we had had in Taiwan. When our waitress found out that Chris spoke Mandarin, she immediately launched into a flowery history of the restaurant in Chinese. We got maybe half of it, but she was happy just to speak Mandarin, I think. We sat and sipped jasmine tea after that, watching business people and snow drift by on the street.

sesame sweets

A quick dessert at a Chinese bakery nearby got us a couple of these delicious rice flour-sesame seed-sticky buns, whatever they’re called. I love these with a passion. Sweet and delicate, yet a solid, filling rice flour centre, I could sit and eat them all afternoon.

Finally, we stopped into David’s Tea, which I was introduced to in Ottawa by the friends I was staying with. They have loose teas for basically everyone – Chris was elated to find a big selection of decaffeinated teas and ended up getting four. It’s trendy, sure, as tea is these days (is there a food that isn’t trendy now? Rutabagas?), but if someone you know is a tea lover, a quality cup of tea is something that relaxes and warms and makes a pretty waste-free gift.

Toronto is wonderful for this. It’s probably a good thing we don’t live there, as this could happen a lot.

Jumbo Empanadas
245 Augusta Ave.
Toronto, ON

Mother’s Dumplings
421 Spadina Ave.
Toronto, ON

David’s Tea
2389 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON

night market goodies

Two of our meals in our last few weeks in Taiwan were consumed completely at the night market, including our last dinner. There’s something fun about food you can carry with you. It’s like a buffet with hundreds of other people that you pay for every dish! OK, maybe that didn’t sound as awesome as it really is, but I still love it. Here is a list of the dishes we consumed in those night-time dining experiences.

The fry anything booth is both a constant joke, like Moe’s short-term restaurant in the Simpsons (I’m sure there’s a stand that can flash-fry a buffalo in 42 seconds), and a source of deep-fried pleasure. My favourites are the green beans and the yams, but you can get almost any kind of meat, organ meat, a few vegetables (for the health-conscious), french fries, yams, and more than I can think of right now. These are very popular and just may be the most plentiful type of food stand in Taiwan, and not only in markets.

Deep fried soft-shelled crab was something I had heard about and had been looking forward to trying for some time. It’s entirely edible, including the shell. It’s quite tasty and the shell’s not really off-putting, at least in my opinion. I’d give the legs a pass, though, and stick to the body.

Deep fried mushrooms are next. Mmm, healthy, right? These were really, really good, and they’re sold with basil leaves, making them extra tasty.

Shrimp cakes round out our deep fried category. Normally found in Thai restaurants, I’ve seen a couple of stands now where they just slap some shrimp punk in between some dough and drop it in the deep fryer. As this is basically what a shrimp cake in a Thai restaurant is, they’re pretty awesome, especially with the Thai sweet-spicy sauce served with them. No picture, however, due to the fact that the stand was really busy and the cakes really good.

The boil anything stand is similar to the fry anything booth, except that your selections are boiled in broth rather than fried in oil. The choices are a little different – still lots of meat and organ meat, but there are also necks, heads, and feet, in addition to blood cake and seaweed.

Octopus balls were introduced to me by my first manager here and are one of my favourite snacks, though I never seem to be around them when I want them. They’re actually a tiny bit of octopus in a big ball of dough, fried up and garnished with mayo, wasabi, and dried fish flakes. Trust me, they’re awesome, though the fish flakes can be smelled ten paces away – they’re really strong.

Everything balls are like octopus balls, except that they have everything in them. So it seems, anyway. Corn niblets, ham, octopus, squid, and some kind of fish or scallop are what I remember, and I’m sure there’s more, plus the dough that’s used to cement them all together. They’re so big that you only get two per order (as opposed to six octopus balls), topped with your choice of toppings: there were two types of brown sauce (not sure what they were), wasabi, mayo, and fish flakes. Filling, to say the least.

Fried quail egg balls were pretty tasty, especially if you love eggs. I like watching the vendor crack the wee eggs into the frying contraption – they’re pretty fast, though I suppose you have to be to stop anything from burning. And they’re served on a stick – lovely.

Dumplings are a necessary part of any night market, and these small ones were freshly made, cute, and delicious with a splash of soy sauce.

Green onion pancakes are my oldest favourite in Taiwan, so naturally I was elated when Christine learned how to make them. Fried up on a large round grill and served with a spicy sauce and a sweet sauce, they’re an awesome late afternoon snack when you’re in a hurry and hungry.

Stinky tofu is the subject of much derision in Taiwan, often even by the Taiwanese. The reason? Just look at the name. It smells, some say, like an open sewer. Some compare it to a stable, while others…I think you get the drift. It’s not the most pleasant thing you could smell (though there is a saying that says it smells like hell and tastes like heaven), and most foreigners avoid it like the plague. We tried it the first time we were in Taiwan, right before we left, and while it wasn’t heaven in my mouth, I found it much better than I thought I would, especially with the delicious pickled veggies served with it. This time around, I enjoyed it even more – it’s still not my favourite kind of tofu in the world, but I’d eat it again.

Barbequed anything. Well, pretty much anything. This was one of my favourites at the market. You take a basket, choose whatever meat (or vegetables) on a stick you want, and hand it to the guy behind the counter for cooking over coals. Along with the usual selection of organs and bits of meat, squid, and green beans, there were skewers of bacon with green onion and green pepper. This was amazingly good, especially with the sauce that is brushed on it after it’s finished cooking. This stand was visited on both visits to the night market.

I’m seriously going to miss night markets and their wide selection of deliciousness. In addition to what I’ve talked about here, there are sit down places serving hot pot, noodles, even the gravy-beef-egg combo we know so lovingly as Heart Attack Platter. This variety of deliciousness endears Taiwan to me, and always will.