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food for thought: dumpling day!

Wow. The semester’s really over. Is this forreals?

I have gone to my last class, done my last homework assignment and am just about ready to pack up and go home.

It’s just that there are these little things called FINALS in the way.

Eep.

The panic is starting to set in. I don’t have any classes, but just thinking about all the stuff I have to study is overwhelming. Just a little.

So I blog.

Is this procrastination? No, no, OF COURSE NOT. It’s a coping method. :D

Alright, ’nuff venting. Let’s get on to the FOOD.

So, as our last “workshop” of the semester, my Food for Thought professor organized one more cooking session with the McEwen chefs. Like the crepes, they wanted this to be a real hands-on experience where everyone could participate and have fun making food.

So, what to make?

the cooking station: a fryer, a pot of water, and a steamer

So, let’s wrack our brains. What’s a food that is ubiquitous to every culture? That regardless of when it was first made, what it ingredients it uses, or how it’s cooked, is found in almost every country in every region of the world? That has a long tradition of being passed down from generation to generation and is eaten as easily in celebratory feasts as it is in a humble, everyday meal?

Hmm…

How about… the DUMPLING?

Whether you call them pierogies, jiaozi, empanadas, gyoza, ravioli, or mandoo; eat them steamed, fried, boiled, baked, by themselves, in a soup, or with a sauce, nearly every country has developed a “dumpling” of some sort. And many countries actually have more than one type of dumpling dish.

Somehow, people all over the world discovered that when flattened pieces of dough stuffed with fillings (be it sweet or savory) are  sealed closed and cooked, they make perfect, conveniently-packaged bites of deliciousness.

And darned right they were. Dumplings, in my opinion, are one of the best dishes out there. Because no matter what kind you eat, LOOK! SO UNASSUMING, YET ITS INSIDES ARE FILLED WITH SUCH DELICIOUSNESSSS. And when you pick them up, nothing falls out – so convenient! So cute! So easy! (Dangerously easy to eat, actually).

But yup, our Food for Thought class decided to travel the world with dumplings – namely steamed Chinese baozi, fried Spanish empanadas, and boiled Siberian dumplings (which I looked up and think are called vareniki).

Let’s start with the baozi, shall we?

Since we only had a little over an hour to get our dumplings made, cooked, and consumed, the McEwen chefs had already prepped and made the fillings and doughs for us.

pork and vegetable filling, with carrots, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms

vegetarian filling - same thing as the regular filling, just minus the pork

poofy, yeasted baozi dough

The lovely thing with making baozi, or dumplings of any sort, is that they’re so EASY to make. Granted, it gets a little tedious because you usually make a lot in one batch, but all you really do is:

Get a piece of dough.

(Dough-rolling is optional).

Most of us just smooshed the dough flat with our hands.

Add the filling, vegetarian or otherwise.

Make sure the filling is securely placed in the dough by squishing down with your spoon,

or your fingers/dough.

Then pinch the edges together to close them!

(The fancy pleating methods used by Asian mothers and grandmothers are not necessary. Apparently it takes years of baozi-making experience to hone this skill. I will get it down one day!)

Everyone was soon hard at work making Chinese dumplings.

Even the professor.

And soon, we had a veritable army of both vegetarian and pork-veggie baozi:

That were ready to go into the steamer.

Which they did.

a sauna awaits

Since we had some leftover filling, the chef took out some wonton wrappers and we tried our hand making wontons. It’s a similar process to making the baozi, except since the wrappers are drier than the dough, you have to moisten the edges with water to keep them sealed.

moisten!

fill!

fold!

and fold again!

Sadly, these little guys weren’t nearly as successful as their bigger, poofier cousins.

wonton carnage..

Only one of them ever made it into the fryer, and none followed. It was a sad, sad day for wontons everywhere.

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND…

The empanadas were extremely successful – in fact, they were the hit of the afternoon.

We started with an untraditional dough. Traditional empanadas are usually just made with a dough cornmeal and water, but the chef used wheat flour here, and butter and cilantro as well.

cilantro-flecked empanada dough

To be filled with:

a cilantro and mixed cheese filling (ricotta, mozzarella, chevre) for the vegetarians

a pork, potato and rice filling for everyone else

We rolled,

Cut,

and filled.

Then dabbed the edges with an egg wash and folded over, sealing the empanadas with a fork.

And soon, the empanadas were ready to go into the fryer,

crispifying

While the baozi were ready to come out of the steamer.

steamed to perfection!

veggie baozi, fresh out of the steamer

Everyone dug in, making sure to enjoy them with the sauce that the chef had whipped up.

soy sauce, ginger, onions, jalapenos

A cross-section of the poofers:

innards

Doesn’t it look good? Personally, I felt that the doughy outside was a little too dense – it wasn’t as light and fluffy and sweet as the Korean steamed buns I’m used to. I also like a higher filling-to-dough ratio, but these were still pretty good and I enjoyed feasting on the fruits of our our labor.

Then, the empanadas were ready to come out of the bubbling, golden oil.

golden. crispy. DELICIOUSNESS.

hot and fresh out of the oil

The empanadas were so good! But I mean come on, how can anything deep-fried be bad?

melty, ooey-gooey cheesiness

There was salsa and sour cream to dollop on top of each fried bite o’ goodness.

We also had some Siberian dumplings, (which I somehow forgot to take a picture of, probably because I was so busy gorging on empanadas and baozi), but they were a lot like the jiaozi I tried in China. They were smaller than Korean mandoo, with a thicker, chewier skin and a delicious mushroom filling.

So as you can imagine, everyone was stuffed after our dumpling-ing. And there was still empandas and baozi left over, so a bunch of students took some to their dorms. It was a great way to (almost) end our semester, talking with our friends, the professor, and the chefs while eating the food that we had made. I think this is what people mean when they say that eating is more than just the act of consuming food – it’s a time to socialize as you prepare the food and cook it amongst good company.

And sadly enough, this marks the last Food for Thought post… ever. :(

It was a great class to take, and I learned so much through this class – knowledge that I’m going to carry with me from here on out whether I’m at home, the supermarket, or a restaurant. Where does my food come from? How did it get here? What did this vegetable/animal have to go through for me to be able to eat it?

Deep stuff man, deep stuff.

But hopefully you guys enjoyed all my posts about this class, and I’m truly grateful to the professor and the chefs for putting all these events together for us.

Now lunch (and studying…) beckons, so I gotta get moving. Hopefully, the next time I post will be from the comfort of my home and I’ll be writing about my mom’s delicious cooking.

5 days, 3 finals, and 1 essay until I’m free!!!!!!!

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “food for thought: dumpling day!

  1. just wondering – where do you o to school!?

    Posted by Kelly | December 15, 2010, 7:56 pm

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