Beginner soup dumplings plenty plump and moist

The Whole Dish podcast: Prepared wonton wrappers an essential dumpling shortcut

Invited to a fellow foodie’s house for dinner, I expected a delicious meal. I didn’t expect that she and her husband would have labored half the day over homemade ravioli.

And these weren’t in the same league as my idea of homemade, which henceforth should be called “semi-homemade.” They started by making and rolling out their own pasta from scratch, before filling with a mixture of cheese, kale and peppers, then bathing them in a creamy, lemony sauce.

Yes, suffice it to say, they met — and far exceeded — my pasta standards.

Lacking both hand-cranked pasta machine and attachment for KitchenAid mixers, I’ve made do with prepared pasta wrappers, blogging for the past decade about the ease of filling wonton and/or eggroll skins with all manner of ingredients, from cheese and meat to fruit and squash. They can be shaped as ravioli, tortellini, potstickers or even little cups to cradle crab or compotes.

Stocked in most grocers’ cooler sections, these have practically become a staple in my refrigerator. And when the end product is plump and moist and rich and savory, does anyone notice that the pasta was premade? Not in my experience. I was so enamored of a duck dumpling that I made two holidays past that I proclaimed it one of the 2016′s best recipes from my kitchen.

Turns out, I’m not the only fan of packaged wonton wrappers. They are a key ingredient in “beginner” soup dumplings recently featured in the Chicago Tribune. The real thing — fodder for so many food-travel television segments — starts with homemade broth and hand-rolled wrappers.

And we’re not talking just any broth. It’s got to be so full of collagen that it chills to gelatin. I do achieve this texture from time to time in my homemade stocks, usually without any intention. For broth that’s on the thin side, this shortcut using powdered gelatin verges on genius. Note that the dumplings cannot be immersed in simmering water; they must be steamed.

And while these aren’t the 18-pleat round dumplings of soup-dumpling fame, according to writer Leah Eskin, they’re an imitation with plenty of merit.

Tribune News Service photo

Beginner Soup Dumplings

1 teaspoon gelatin

1/2 cup pork, beef or chicken broth

4 ounces ground pork

1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated, fresh ginger

1 teaspoon finely chopped scallions

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon Chinese rice wine

1 pinch each: salt and white (or black) pepper

16 wonton wrappers (4 ounces total)

Drop 1 tablespoon cold water into a glass measuring cup. Sprinkle with the gelatin. Bring the broth to a boil; pour over gelatin, whisking to dissolve. Pour into a small baking pan and chill until jiggly, for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile stir together the pork, ginger, scallions, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and salt and pepper. When broth is set, cut into tiny cubes or scramble to bits with a fork. Stir cubes into pork filling.

Set 4 wrappers on a work surface; brush edges with water. Settle 1 tablespoon filling in center of each. Bring 4 points of each wrapper up to meet in middle, forming 4 pyramid-shaped dumplings. Firmly press seams together. Fill remaining dumplings.

Line a steamer basket with parchment paper or a few leaves of bok choy or lettuce. Settle in dumplings. Steam over boiling water until dumplings are cooked through, for about 6 minutes.

Set 1 dumpling on a big spoon. Nibble or poke a small hole into it. Slurp out soup. Drizzle dumpling with sauce and down it. Makes 16 dumplings.

DUMPLING SAUCE: Pour 1/4 cup dark (chinkiang) vinegar into a bowl. Scatter with fine shards of peeled, fresh ginger.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from Imperial Lamian Restaurant in Chicago.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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