I'm going to declare something that I'm sure you all know - steamed wontons are addictive. And very, very easy to make. Loved by a nation of Sunday yum-cha goers, these little pockets of gently gingered pork are the staple in any Chinese restaurant. A little morsel of goodness to be dipped in some salty soy sauce and popped in the mouth.
Proof of the obsession with these delights was at the Night Noodle Markets in Sydney last month. The line for the Din Tai Fung dumpling stall was enough to make me and my growling stomach run towards the kofte stand (good choice though, very juicy lamb kebabs in the softest Lebanese bread I've ever had). However, I decided to make them myself the next weekend because the lure of a lightly steamed dumpling is just too strong...
Steamed Pork Wontons
Recipe adapted from Neil Perry's 'Simply Asian'
500g pork mince
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small knob of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
30 or so wonton wrappers*
In a bowl mix together the pork, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, pepper and spring onion with your hand. Really work the mixture so the ingredients are completely incorporated and the mixture becomes a sticky mess that holds itself together well.
Put a teaspoon of the pork mixture into the centre of a circular wonton skin. Brush the outer edges with some water, fold into a triangle and then fold the left side of the skin over to the right and pinch. I kept experimenting with mine until I got the right shape so feel free to do them whichever way works best for you. Continue until all skins are filled.
When you have assembled the dumplings, spread them out on a plate with a slightly damp paper towel under and over them so as not to dry them out and to stop them sticking to each other or the plate.
When ready to cook, you can either boil them in a large pot of boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes OR you can steam them over boiling water in a Chinese bamboo steamer (so cheap - pick them up from Asian stores for about 3 bucks each!). I prefer steaming mine because it lessens the chances of water coming into the dumpling through any holes and spoiling the meat.
Serve dumplings drizzled with a chilli oil - fresh or dried chilli steeped in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 2 teaspoon soy sauce.
*Wonton wrappers can be bought from most supermarkets or asian specialty stores. I had a stack of frozen ones in my freezer and left them out to thaw a little bit and I found it much easier to handle the half frozen wrappers than the ones that had fully defrosted.
I served these dumplings with a side of warm, spicy, salty, peppery, garlicky braised eggplant which is a delicious dish on its own!
Recipe from Kylie Kwong's 'My China: A Feast for All the Senses'
3 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 tablespoons peanut oil
5cm piece ginger, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup Shao Xing wine
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice or white rice vinegar
2 large red chillis, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of Sichuan pepper, roasted with 1 teaspoon salt and ground up roughly in a mortar and pestle
1 large red chilli, finely sliced on the diagonal to serve
You have to salt the eggplant to get any of the bitterness out before cooking. Cut eggplants into 2cm slices, then cut each slice into 2.5cm strips. Place the eggplant chunks in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse eggplant in a colander under cold running water, then drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Heat oil in a hot wok until surface shimmers slightly. Add ginger, garlic and eggplant and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add sugar and allow to caramelise for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to prevent eggplant from burning. Add the wine and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the water and cook for 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, vinegar and chopped chilli and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and salt, and garnished with sliced chilli.