Living close to the city means that there are an abundance of choices of cuisine at your fingertips.
If you are after tasty, quick and affordable, it is hard to go past Chinatown and a particular favourite of mine is dumplings. Whether you are a Hutong or Shanghai loyalist, it doesn’t matter, as either way you are able to stuff yourself full of pan-fried pork dumplings, Xiao Long Bao (those delicious soup filled dumplings), wantons, prawn, beef, the list goes on….
Apart from the tasty food, BYO wine and cheap prices, one of the things that I love about going out for dumplings is being able to see into the kitchen as all the dumplings are prepared in a production line, often by Chinese men and women who have been making the recipes for generations.
So I was curious to know, how do you make a really good Chinese dumpling? What are the pressure points? The dumpling wrapper? The filling? The flavours? The chef? We did some research here at Trading Plates to see what the story was.
Ex-Masterchef Australia contestant and celebrity chef, Adam Liaw, thinks that the perfect dumpling all comes down to the texture of the filling.
“The filling should be firm, consistent and springy,” writes Liaw on his website.
“Too many homemade dumplings suffer from fillings that are separate and grainy and which do not offer sufficient resistance to the teeth.
“To make a delicious, springy dumpling we need to look at a chemical process called thermogelling. In a nutshell, muscle fibres in meat and fish contain myofibrillary proteins known as actin and myosin. In solution, these proteins form a gel, which when heated, traps water, fat and starch creating a springy and tender texture.
“Creating a strong gel depends on a number of factors, including the concentration of these proteins, the temperature of the solution, its acidity and its salt content. It’s all about creating the right environment for the formation of the gel, and ensuring that your filling has the right amount of water, fat and starch to create the right texture.”
Food and beverage director at Hutong Dumplings, Eric Chew, told Eastrestaurant.com.au that “when it comes to dumplings, it’s a matter of not fixing what isn’t broke”.
“Handmade soup dumplings, or those fragrant and almost translucent steamed garlic chive and prawn dumplings need no improvement.
“[At Hutong] we’ve brought in a lot of Chinese chefs, who bring in their expertise making the dumplings.
“We’re still sponsoring a lot of chefs from mainland China,” says Chew.
Cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen, says that freshly made Asian dumpling wrappers make all the difference to the final dumpling, compared to a store-bought version.
“They are easier to fold and shape, do not require water to seal as they are super soft and moist, they taste a lot better than store bought ones, and do not involve a special trip to an Asian supermarket!”
So over to you Trading Platers! What dumpling making (or eating?) tips do you have for us?