Peanut gallery, where have you been? I love you guys. Without you this site is more awkward than hearing my own voicemail messages. I understand that last week was Thanksgiving so, as you should have, you spent your time in the kitchen and with family, as opposed to around the terminal. I'm fine with that. But the week before? And the week before that? There was some pretty cool stuff. Maybe I went a little over the top with the garam masala, but the sweet potato risotto is a great dish- honest! I plan to win you back, even if only temporarily. I've reduced the site load time tenfold, made a cool new banner, introduced the video gallery, and put a poll up on the navigation pane. Most importantly, I'm making something very delicious and very special to me.
Today I am sharing my most original, most pornographic dish to date. I'm ecstatic with how it turned out and I think presentation makes it good enough to be served in any restaurant, except [of course] Alinea. Back when I only had 10 unique readers that would constantly hit F5 to increase traffic I had a pasta post where I first introduced my avant garde technique of using carrot noodles. Yes, it is a simple technique, but it is different and out of the ordinary, which makes it avant garde, to me. Today it gets showcased.
I gathered inspiration for this dish in sevaral places. The first, and most important, was Chicago Gourmet [Day 2]. Arun Sampanthavivat (Arun's Thai Restaurant) made a won ton salad with chili dressing- which caused me severe brain damage. I've never been able to look at salads the same since. That day I vowed to make a dumpling salad.
To begin, I have a notepad dedicated to food. I make sketches, words, incomplete and complete thoughts on it. This braindump is very messy, but it's also where the beet carpaccio was birthed as well as the delicata squash recipe. By the end of a session most pages become incomprehensible blotches of ink with blurring water marks because the pad is first in line to be a coaster as well. After my gourmet adventure I doodled here.
I refuse to put these delicate pouches on top of boring greens or pasta and over-starch my consumers. I hate restricting the defining elements of a salad. The realization strikes that this is going to be the carrot noodle dish. Besides, those black lines look a lot like carrot to me. I can only describe feeling as something similar to what the Blues Brothers felt on their mission.
Enough foreplay, into the kitchen. This is one of the few dishes [of mine] where prep time exceeds execution time. Kind of sucks. Having said that, the reason is because without having all the mise prepared, execution is much more likely to fail. The hardest part, at least for non-Asians, is making the dumplings. Very thankful for my cutlerly, I slice and dice my way through the mise in a few minutes. Only sliced my finger on the carrots once. To recap, the carrots are prepared by cleaning, and then using a peeler to make long ribbons. Start from one end of the carrot and make sure to reach the other end so the noodle is lengthy.
This leaves me with plates of carrot ribbons, red and green chiles (for presentation), scallions on the bias (clearly the sexiest cut), minced ginger, minced garlic, and diced cilantro stems, which are incredibly potent. Time to roll up the sleeves and make some dumplings.
The first step is to make a filling. I decide to make a pork filling because it's classic, and very light. For every half pound of pork I add an egg yolk to act as a binder. I decided, for the first time, since it looks so easy on TV, to seperate the egg in my hands instead of the shell halves. Eggs are fricking slippery. The egg immediately slipped through my hands and onto the floor for take one. Take two is a success.
Next, add scallions, cilantro stems, ginger, garlic, chiles or sambal oelek, ponzu, rice wine vinegar, lime zest, sesame oil, and finally basic salt and pepper to taste. I mix with my right hand until a homogenous mixture is formed.
Non-Asians, it's perfectly acceptable to make simple triangle dumplings. The wrappers come pre-cut in rectangles and would require a single fold. Once that seemingly easy technique is mastered, bring the base ends of the triangle down and together to make a purse. Just remember, especially first timers, that the most important thing is to not add too much filling, and to have a tight seal so the filling doesn't leak.
I set my work space up with the bowl of mixture, a pile of wrappers, a small bowl (few oz) of water, a board to fill and fold the dumplings, and then a plate to place the finished dumplings. For the record, I did also do this so I could easily work in a clockwise manner as well.
Like a horribly tuned machine, I grab a wrapper, place a small amount of filling, wet two sides of the wrapper with my finger, fold to make a triangle, press to remove air, crimp to seal, then bring the base edges together into a purse, and place on my 'batch' plate. Like a horribly tuned machine, I grab a wrapper, place a small amount of filling, wet two sides of the wrapper with my finger, fold to make a triangle, press to remove air, crimp to seal, then bring the base edges together into a purse, and place on my 'batch' plate. And again. Rinse and repeat.
With a batch of dumplings done, I fire the saute pan to make the noodles. Oil, ginger, garlic, chiles, and carrots are all made 'to jump.' While that's going on carefully put the dumplings in a pot of boiling water. They sink. After 2-3 minutes they are cooked through, and float. As if planned, the pasta is also done.
I lay down the bed of sweet sauteed carrot noodles, making sure the other good bits they were sauted with make it on, place a light, delicate dumpling on top, garnish with sesame seeds and the sexy cuts of scallion.
Final thoughts on the dish- This can easily be made vegetarian if the pork dumpling was replaced with a cabbage or other vegetable one. As is, this is a great lunch, appetizer, or super light entree. It could easily be made heartier by replacing the dumpling with a piece of fish. I would love to make this dish again- if I have a dumpling helper present.
Dumpling and Carrot Salad*
- Won Ton Wrappers (usually come in packs of 60)
- 1/2 lb Ground Pork
- 1 lb Carrots, ribbons
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Bunch of Cilantro, stems chopped
- 1 Bunch of Scallions, cut on the bias
- Chiles or Sambal Oelek, to taste
- 1/4 Cup Ponzu
- 1 Lime, zested
- 3 TBL Sesame Oil
- Toasted Seasme Seeds
- 1 TBL Rice Wine Vinegar
- 5 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 2 Inches of Ginger, Minced
- Prepare all the mise by making the carrot noodles, dicing, and mincing other produce.
- Make the dumpling filling by mixing the pork, egg, ponzu, half the chiles, half the ginger, half the garlic, cilantro stems to taste , sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and lime zest.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- While the water is warming, construct a batch of dumplings by placing a conservative tablespoon of mixture into the won ton, wetting two touching sides, then folding into a triangle. Press out the air and crimp the edges. If desired, continute to bring the two base edges down and together to make a purse.
- Carefully place the dumplings in the [now] boiling water.
- Saute the carrot ribbons, remaining garlic, ginger, scallions, and chiles in a tablespoon of oil.
- Once the the dumplings have begun to float, strain the water.
- Make a bed of noodles on a plate, and top with dumplings.
- Garnish with sesame seeds.
*Measurements may not always be accurate and will not hold in a court of law.