Dumplings are easily one of my favourite foods. There’s something about their chewy skins and juicy insides that makes my knees wobble with unfettered anticipation. Thankfully for me (and every other die-hard dumpling aficionado) these little pockets of joy make a show in practically every major cuisine around the world in some way or another; Afghans do mantu, Arabs have shish barak, Japanese do gyoza and the Italians have ravioli. A few nights ago, I was treated to the Chinese kind (by a Korean chef!) and boy did they live up to expectations.
Chinaman Dumpling may have opened only a couple of months ago in the heart of leafy Cremorne but with Head Chef Alex Lee (formerly from Mr Wong) and Artisan Dumping Maker “Gong”, they’ve already done a fine job of earning their place as an up-and-coming Chinese food powerhouse. And to prove it, they were gracious enough to open their doors and demonstrate the art of dumpling-making to a small group of the uninitiated.
Kenny Lee, serial food entrepreneur, spoke to us of his undying passion for dumplings as the aroma of hoisin and sesame oil wafted out of the prawn-squid-scallop filling he was preparing whilst we respectfully drooled on. Meanwhile, our dumpling instructor Mary Lee broke off small bits of firm dumpling dough and rolled them into perfect little circles with the mastery of someone who had clearly been doing it for a very long time.
They made it look so easy. So easy in fact that I was already mentally planning my next three dumpling dinner parties. And then it was my turn to try; five attempts and three hexagonal dumpling skins later I officially gave up. Dumpling making is wickedly deceptive, but thanks to the Chinaman Dumpling team, here’s the Seafood Jiaozi recipe if you want to give it a go:
- Dumpling pastry wrappers
- 2 cups Unbleached all purpose flour
- ¾ cup Just boiled water (set aside 2 mins to cool before using)
- Dumpling filling
- 200g Prawn (cut into small pieces)
- 200g Squid (cut into small pieces)
- 100g Scallop (cut into small pieces)
- White Pepper (pinch)
- 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
- ½ teaspoon Sesame Oil
- ½ teaspoon Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- Dumpling wrappers
- Put the flour in the bowl and make a well in the center. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour while you add the water gradually, aim to evenly moisten the flour.
- Once all the water has been added, you will be left with lumpy bits. In the bowl, knead the dough to bring all the lumps into one heap. If the dough is not coming together effortlessly, add more water.
- Flour a wooden chopping board or surface and knead the dough with the palm of your hand for about one minute. The result should be smooth and somewhat elastic, the dough should slowly bounce back when you press on it.
- Set dough aside for at least 15 minutes to “rest” and expel excess air.
- After resting, the dough can be used right away or can be refrigerated overnight. The dough must be at room temperature to form dumplings wrappers.
- Dumpling filling
- Combine Prawn, Squid, Scallop and drain any excess water. Mix in the White Pepper, Oyster Sauce, Sesame Oil, Ginger and Sugar in a bowl. Season with Salt.
- Place 1 teaspoon mixture into the centre of one dumpling wrapper. Brush edges with egg white and water. Fold the dumpling wrapper over to form a triangle. Bring base corners of triangle together and press firmly to join.
- Line base of a large steamer basket with baking paper. Place dumplings singularly into the basket. Pour water into a wok until one-quarter full and bring to the boil. Place steamer over the wok, ensuring that the base does not touch water. Steam dumplings for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and cooked through.
- Serve with sauce of choice.
- Store-bought dumpling wrappers can be used to save time
Our imperfect dumplings were sent to the kitchen and eight minutes later, brought back hot in little bamboo steamers. Now I’m not a seafood person but these were reallllly good. The hoisin and sesame created a flavour explosion that were simply incredible with the accompanying sauce of soy sauce and chives. Next up was a Pork & Prawn Shumai, typically a type of traditional Chinese Dumpling served as a Dim Sum and filled with pork, prawn, chestnuts and salt and pepper.
But then came the duck fried rice. Perfectly separated grains of rice with just a tiny bite slathered with a deep smokiness that can only be described as earth-shattering. I’ve had alot of really good fried rice in my time (and make a semi-decent one myself ;)) but this was truly the best Ive had and my co-dumplingers enthusiastically agreed. If you come to Chinaman and order nothing else, make sure you get the fried rice because it will blow your taste buds, guaranteed.
With hanging birdcages swaying above, cosy wooden tables, the edgy modern atmosphere is a wonderful accompaniment to a Friday night on the town. With a simple yet fulfilling menu, Chinaman seamlessly traverses the track between the traditional and modern, serving up Chinese street food at its very best.
Photo credit: Supplied by 6dc
I Ate My Way Through dined as a guest of Chinaman Dumpling