Life is pretty good right now.
Work has been relaxing, but productive. Summer is approaching and I'm not getting anxious about it. I'm still cooking, but I'm doing it for fun--planning out one dish at a time, going to the grocery store four times a week, buying just the amount that I need, and not worrying about how much money I'm spending.
I planned to write a post like three weeks ago, but I bought a new laptop, and I had to put that together, and then I had to figure out how to move over all the code for this blog onto the new laptop.
But I did it! And now I have some food photos to share (:
I was at Aldi and I saw that their ground pork had $1 OFF stickers on them, and I learned that seafood and ice cream are not the only things I impulsively buy. It was one pound, so I used a tiny amount of it for some stir fry and saved the rest for dumplings.
It had been a while since I made dumplings, so I wanted to put my not-yet-published dumpling recipe to the test. I decided to buy thicker wrappers this time so I could try using the leftovers for scallion pancakes. I think I prefer the thinner ones though. And it turns out I pretty much used exactly one pack of dumpling wrappers for this, so I really could have just bought one pack of thin wrappers and one pack of thick wrappers.
...but I'll get back to the wrappers later. I think I spent about two hours prepping and wrapping and cooking, and probably another hour eating and cleaning. Yup. That was a Tuesday night. You may think that three hours spent on dinner is way too much time, but it was relaxing and it was delicious.
A few days later, I made the scallion pancakes at my friend's house. My original plan was to make them with her, but she was busy with work, so I did basically everything except make the dumpling sauce. Not quite as time consuming as dumplings, but still pretty time consuming. I really enjoyed it though. There is something so nice about working with your hands and being in motion and not having to think or stare at screens. And then I have something I can eat as a result!
The thicker dumpling wrappers were definitely a good choice for these. I thought they were delicious, and my friend thought they tasted pretty good too. I'll have to make these more often.
If I had the time and energy, I think I'd spend three hours cooking every day.
My sister left a strange looking bag of something in the freezer that happened to be soup dumpling mixture. (Sorry, I don't have a picture of that) I'm not good at wrapping soup dumplings, but I decided to throw some extra ground pork that I had in the freezer into the soup dumpling mixture to make somewhat soupy dumplings.
I know, they just look like regular dumplings.
And I don't have anything interesting to say about them.
But they're so good.
During this past year's Christmas, my family celebrated what we like to call "Dipmas". Everyone had to make a dip, so I decided to make dumplings (and dipping sauce to go with it). One of my aunts made shumai, so this ended up turning into "Dip and Dumpmas". Okay, maybe that name doesn't sound as good.
I really like ordering shumai when I get dimsum, and for some reason I figured that everything I order from dimsum places must be way above my cooking level. But I saw my aunt's shumai, and it was really good, and I thought "I can totally make this."
I asked her for the recipe, and she actually sent me a screenshot from allrecipes, but I thought, "This is fine, I can search for it."
...No I can't. There is no "shumai" recipe in allrecipes. I even tried various spellings of the word like "siu mai". I eventually decided to google "allrecipes shumai" and I found a very shumai-looking recipe called "Hawaiian Pork Hash". Of course Google knows what I'm looking for. Apparently this is Hawaii's version of shumai.
I had never folded shumai before. It took me a few tries before finding a method I liked. At first, I just kind of scrunched it all together, but that looked kind of ugly. Soon I realized that I just needed to make little folds in a spiral pattern.
Hey, I'm really happy with my improvement just from my first to second batch.
The other part of this that was a little scary to me was steaming the dumplings because I had never used a bamboo steamer before. I looked up youtube videos to learn how to do this and there is a lot of conflicting advice. Do I place the steamer in water or not? Do I wait for it to boil, then put the steamer in, or just put it in at the start? Do I need another contraption to keep the steamer baskets up higher?
Plus, I hate watching videos to learn things. Most of these youtube videos are kind of obnoxious. I ended up going to my most trusted source for Asian cooking, The Woks of Life. I took out my largest pan, filled it up with some water, brough it to a boil, and then placed the steamer basket in and let it cook for 12 minutes.
This was a lot easier than I expected.
Great, easy recipe, but there are things I think should be tweaked:
Well, maybe I'll just use the Woks of Life recipe next time.
But I am very happy with my first attempt at shumai and I am definitely making this again at some point.
Since I didn't go and see my family on Thanksgiving, my friend invited me over for a (very small) Friendsgiving. Small in the number of people, but definitely not in the amount of food. I offered to bring dumplings, which ended up being a huge hit. I had fish tacos during Chinese New Year last year, so I figured dumplings for Thanksgiving was appropriate.
I actually already had dumplings in my freezer, because of course I did, but I decided to make more because you can never have too many dumplings. At this point, I don't really even use a recipe anymore. This is what I put in the filling this time:
And for the sauce (No measurements, because who knows how much of everything I added):
Of course, the key to making good dumplings is to just microwave a small bit of filling and try it, and if it needs something, add it.
I also had to buy a new non-stick pan because my last one was ruined when we brought it on our last camping trip. This is the first time I attempted to arrange the dumplings in a fancy circle. It did not end up that fancy. I don't know how my sister makes it look so nice.
But as always, it was delicious.
Look at the bottom of that dumpling! You don't want to know how many times I attempted to take a close-up picture of one.
Day 30 (Friday): I don't know what it is, but work is starting to exhaust me. I'm trying to find more easy meals to make. So I decide on some Sesame Chicken.
The original recipe doesn't call for broccoli, but I figured we should have some vegetables. And contrary to the comments on Budget Bytes for this, I think there is plenty of sauce. Maybe even too much sauce. We boiled the broccoli for a few minutes before mixing it in with the chicken, but now I'm wondering if it would have been better if we roasted the broccoli first. I'll try that next time. Overall, this still tasted good.
Day 31 (Saturday): I had a virtual game night on Saturday, so I wanted to do something easy. We've had dumplings in the freezer, so this seemed like a good time to cook some of those. We also had some iceberg lettuce in the fridge, along with other various veggies, so it seemed like a good idea to make some salad. When I think of how to use iceberg, my mind immediately jumps to those salads you get at Hibachi restaurants.
Yes, we had dumplings from two different batches. Look at that color contrast.
Day 32 (Sunday): Another thought about using up lettuce is to put it in soup. So we figured, let's make some noodle soup! We were thinking we might want to make Pho since we're stuck at home all day, but that requires way too many herbs and spices that I don't currently have, so we're making Teochew Noodle Soup 粿条汤 instead.
This made me realize I don't have those large Asian bowls. We still made it work with smaller ones.
We actually never ended up putting lettuce in this. But it doesn't matter, noodle soup is always a good idea.