Sunday, November 2, 2008

Better than the Cooking Channel

My family has a tradition of cooking Chinese food when we get together; I think it started when my oldest brother, Bill, came home from college at some point with a wok and a Chinese cookbook. Of course, we use a Sunset Magazine Chinese cookbook, so my guess is that it's not traditional Chinese food, but it's always been tasty.

Yesterday, though, I had the opportunity to learn to cook some REAL Chinese food, as Lizhu came over and taught Katie and me to make dumplings -- or potstickers as they're often called. Lizhu is from the city of Lanzhou, which is the capital of the Gansu province in the northwest part of China. She definitely knows how to cook real Chinese food, and shared her secrets with us, which I'll reveal here.

First, we learned that we were not supposed to use this type of ground pork. Silly Americans. Katie had to go back to the store and when she couldn't find plain old ground pork, we settled for ground turkey. (Lizhu said we could use ground pork, turkey, or chicken.)Next, Lizhu cut some Napa cabbage (milder than regular cabbage) and put it in a bowl. She sprinkled a bunch of salt on it and let it sit. The salt draws water out of the cabbage. After it sat for awhile, we squeezed the water out of it -- and there was a bunch!
We added the water-free cabbage to the ground turkey in another bowl. No, that's not all the cabbage. It's just one fistful from squeezing the water out.
Then Lizhu mixed up the cabbage along with about a tablespoon of ginger and about 3 chopped scallions.
Then she taught us how to wrap! We used small round wonton skins. You put a ball of the filling in the middle, fold the skin over and hold it up like a taco, pinching the top middle part of the skin together. Then, working from first one outside edge and then the other, you pinch the two sides together in little pleats until it's closed. It's harder than it looks (and sounds), and there was a significant difference between the aesthetic appeal of the dumplings made by the newbies (Katie and me) and Lizhu!
Lizhu did the one on the far right, and I think we did the other ones. Ours looked more like apple turnovers than potstickers...
Once they were all folded, Lizhu started frying them while Sophie looked on. She coated a fry pan with a little oil, letting them brown on one side and then the other. To make sure the insides were cooked, she put a bit of water in the pan and then covered it; they were finished when the water had cooked away.
And voila! (Is there a Chinese equivalent of "voila"?) Homemade authentic potstickers!
Of course, the best part was eating them!

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