I love dumplings. I’d order so many dumplings for my last supper meal that the executioner would get bored waiting for me to finish and go home. Yes, that’s right, dumplings can save lives.
You can also travel around the world on dumplings. In Australia, where my deep, deep, deep love affair began, an awesome ritual involved breakfast with friends at one of our favourite yum cha restaurants in Sydney’s Chinatown. I loved the hunched old ladies and their carts stacked high with steaming bamboo pots, each containing a clutch of delicious morsels. Prawn, Pork, Chicken. Onto our table they’d arrive, alongside steaming cups of jasmine tea and hair-of-the-dog Tsing Taos. Culinary carnage, to be sure. The aftermath was a spectacle – soya, hoisin and chilli stained tablecloths; plates and bowls and chopsticks akimbo; full bellies and clatter and silence. Good times.
In Japan, I cursed on TV, by mistake (I guess the censors over there don’t have an ear for English profanity), while making gyoza. In Singapore, a retired surgeon insisted that the best dumplings could be found beneath a grimy shopping mall on Orchard Road. Rich with oily pork and spring onions, we dunked them in a mini saucer overflowing with soy, vinegar and matchsticks of fresh ginger before shovelling them whole into our mouths. They were undeniably good, but I preferred the spicy concoctions served on an alleyway parallel to Bugis market. Each to their own.
Samosas were the go-to in Delhi, while in Nepal I ate steaming hot momos from a street hawker in the Bhaktapur, a UNESCO world heritage site. But it’s not all roses – last year I travelled all the way to Tobago and didn’t get a chance to sample the legendary crab and dumpling. Ah well, it looks like I’ll have to get myself back over there.
On the home front, things aren’t too shabby . London is a dumpling Mecca. Just last week I introduced Jen cafe, on the cusp of Chinatown and Soho, to an out-of-towner. Beijing dumplings, made fresh on site, and a mug of cha keeps everyone happy on these grey winter days. Frying up apple and pork Vietnamese nem for a New Year wassail is also treat (and whole other story). I could go on and on and on, but I think it’s time I got to the point.
For all my proclamations, I’ve never tried to make dumplings from scratch. Ravioli, yes. Gyoza and nem using store-bought wrappers, sure. But that’s it. Looking back, it seems so silly now. There’s been many a dark time that I’ve lived in a dumpling-less black hole with no means of escape. Why didn’t I think of making them myself? Maybe because they always seemed so exotic. Well, now I’m afraid no more!
Yesterday, I challenged myself to my first batch of wonton wrappers and were surprised by how easy they were. After much internet dabbling, I came up with the following recipe. Now all I have to do is think about what I want to put in them. I reckon I’ll start with prawn and chives. Or pork, ginger and spring onions. Or a vegetable medley. Steamed? Boiled? Deep fried? The possibilities are endless. One thing’s for certain, though. Whatever I choose, I’ll be sure to update you with how I get on.
250g 00 plain flour
Pinch of salt
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Whisk the egg and water together.
Make a well in the flour and add the egg/water mixture.
Bring the dough together with your hands then drop it onto a floured surface.
Knead until the dough is silky smooth.
Cover with cling film and rest the dough for at least 30 mins.
On a floured surface, roll the dough out as thinly as you can and cut into squares or circles. I used a 4-inch cookie cutter for mine.
Dust each wrapper with cornflour to stop them from sticking to each other.
Use as desired – can be frozen too.
Makes around 40 wonton wrappers.