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Wanton abandonment

One of the things I enjoy about living in London is the easy availability of ingredients from all over the planet. Just off Leicester Square is Chinatown, home to a fantastic supermarket with three floors of Asian delights. If I'm in the area, usually at one of the independent cinemas or National Portrait Gallery, I'll pop into the supermarket and browse with a mix of intrigue and bafflement at the range of ingredients from Japanese carrot milk to Thai galangal to wanton wrappers.

Chinese New Year 2011
Chinese New Year 2011, London

In summer 2011 I went on holiday to China. Our fantastic hostel in the hutongs north of the Forbidden City in Beijing held a dumpling night which was free for guests, where they demonstrated how to make dumplings/gyoza/wantons. We mucked in and after a few messy attempts were proficiently wrapping parcels of veg, egg and pork for the meat eaters.

Dumplings

 See the look of concentration on my friend's faces.

 Dumplings

I had a go at this when I returned home but making the pastry was tricky, so the next time I was in Chinatown I picked up a pack of wrappers in the freezer section.

Gyoza experiment

Tonight I had a go at making wantons. I'd been sprouting mung beans (yes, I'm that sort of person) so I minced some of those in the food processor along with some ginger, garlic, cavolo nero leaves from the allotment (again, just think of me in the Good Life) and quorn pieces which I'd stir fried for a few min before chopping.

Gyoza experiment

Taking my wrappers out of the freezer it dawned on me that I didn't know how to prepare them from frozen.  Trying to prise them apart with a knife shattered them and the instructions on the back of the packet were in German, so I had to improvise - yes I could have googled it but where would the fun be in that? I poured some freshly boiled water into a dish and let the wrappers sit for a about 20 seconds which enabled me to peel off the bottom few wrappers, repeating the process until I had enough. I popped the rest back in the freezer for further experimentation.

Gyoza experiment

Stuffing them was fairly easy, though I found it hard to get the edges to stick compared with fresh dough. Keeping my fingers and the wrappers wet helped and stopped them from sticking to everything else.

Gyoza experiment

After some fiddling I decided to chance it and boil the gyoza without worry if they fell apart or not. It worked! Sort of. Some did fall apart, partly due to my lack of patience when I was fishing them out of the water.

Gyoza experiment

Here's the worst of it

Gyoza experiment

and the best of it.

Gyoza experiment

The stuff drizzled over them is my improvised teryaki sauce which is dead easy to make - see the end of this post for details.

So, the important part, nevermind how they looked, how did they taste? Pretty good, seeing as we gobbled them down in a matter of seconds.

Will I make them again? Well the prepration to eating-time ratio is pretty high so maybe in another six months I'll have another go. In the meantime, Chinatown also sells frozen Korean kim chee gyoza, which are pretty excellent and only take a few minutes to boil. Sorted!

Teriyaki-esque sauce

This is a variation from a recipe in Yo Sushi: the Japanese Cookbook

I didn't have any sake (a shame, I know) or mirin.

3 tbsp low salt soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar (a wine vinegar with gentle flavour will work well)

Boil ingredients, adding a small amount of water if the sauce gets thick to quickly. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is the consistency desired. That's it. Told you it was easy. Keeps any leftover sauce in the fridge.

Dumplings
Hostess with the mostess dumplings



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