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Recipe: Dumplings in Spicy (Sichuan) Sauce

To those of us that love food, Dominion Road in Auckland is synonymous with a variety of excellent Asian cuisines – in particular, Chinese cuisines. One who has never driven down the ‘Dom’ (as it is affectionately known by some) will be entranced by the sheer number of restaurants, kiosk windows and takeaway shops brightly lining the part of the street between New North and Mt Albert Roads, most claiming to specialise in dumplings and/or noodles. How can there be so many operators serving the same food? The answer is that there are just as many variations of dumplings as there are steps if you were to walk the length of the strip.

There is one often-sung hero of the strip, serving authentic and top quality dishes from the Sichuan province in China. Their Dan Dan Noodles served ‘hot’ could blow you right out of the strip, but it is their ‘Dumplings in Spicy Sauce’ that pops up most frequently on the recommendations that I read around town. They are exceptionally delicious – the sauce is hot with chilli, slightly numbing with musty Sichuan pepper, salty with soy sauce and fragrant with coriander and spring onion. The umami of the combination makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

This recipe includes instructions on how to make simple pork and prawn dumplings from scratch. However, if you are stretched for time or fear that you lack the skills, you can buy very good quality dumplings from the freezer at most Asian supermarkets in Auckland, or even at the dumpling shops themselves.

Simply steam the dumplings in your Steam Oven, toss with the sauce and serve with chopsticks and a napkin for each guest. What an impressive entrée for your dinner guests!

Recipe :

Makes 32 dumplings / Serves 6 as a starter

200g free range NZ pork mince

200g shelled prawns, chopped

1 tbsp neutral oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or sherry

3cm knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped

small bunch Chinese or garlic chives, trimmed and finely sliced

32 large dumpling wrappers

Sichuan Sauce

2 tbsp Chinese chilli in oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground

2 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp black vinegar

2 tbsp neutral oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp sugar

1 spring onion, trimmed and finely sliced

Small handful coriander, leaves and stems chopped

Method:

To make the dumping filling, mix the pork, prawns, both oils, soy, rice wine, ginger and chives in a bowl with your hands as you would meatballs. To develop the flavours, cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients (except a handful of coriander leaves and spring onion for garnish) for the sauce in a bowl. Season to taste, adding more soy or chilli.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lightly dust with flour. Hold the wrapper in a cupped hand, floured side facing inward if applicable. Put a small tablespoon of pork and prawn mix towards the upper half of the wrapper. Make sure there is a good centimetre of wrapper clear on all sides. Dip a finger of your other hand in a cup of water and run it around the inside edge of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the wrapper over, pleat and press to enclose the filling to create a half moon shape. Place the dumpling on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining wrappers. Space the dumplings apart on the baking sheet so they don’t stick. Once the dumpling are finished, cover with a damp tea towel and they can be refrigerated for a few hours.

To cook the dumplings heat the steam oven to 100 degrees Celsius. While the oven is heating, place the dumplings on the perforated steamer tray, leaving a gap between each so they don’t stick together. When the oven reaches temperature, place the dumplings on the tray and steam for fifteen minutes.

Carefully transfer the dumplings to a warm serving bowl and toss gently with plenty of sauce. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves and spring onion and serve piping hot.

Recipe notes and tips: •

Chinese chilli is now widely available at Asian shops and supermarkets. You will find it in the International section with a red label

Dumpling wrappers are usually frozen, so defrost before using

Try peeling ginger with a teaspoon!

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