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How To Make a Vegetarian Taiwanese Dumpling Lesson

April 09, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 180

I hadn't been back to Taipei since my childhood. I decided to take a course on dumpling making with a lady named Jodie at Jodie's Kitchen. I found her cooking class online. Preparing for my trip and several emails later, I had my 4-hour session of delicious dumpling making with the delightful Jodie Tsao.

In her modest kitchen, just midway up the mountains that circle the perimeter of Taipei, I was taught, one on one, to make the most delicious vegetable dumplings out of freshly cut pumpkin, shiitake mushrooms and fragrant deep green spring onions.

She explained, blow by blow, on how to achieve the right consistency for the dumpling dough. Pinch. Prod. Sniff. Knead, fold and knead some more. Actually, I was in for a treat because she taught me not one, but two types of Taiwan's favourite dumplings - one steamed and the other pan-fried. I was in cooking heaven.

We chatted a lot between prepping our ingredients on her long but wide wooden dining table; dusting it with flour then mixing with our bare hands and rolling out dough like professional bakers, smelling the dough to see if it was ok, and then letting it rest in a cloth covered bowl.

For quick breaks, we'd have fresh tea. Jodie taught me how to drink tea the way they do in Taiwan. She asked me what tea I liked. Jodie pulled out two pots and after the kettle boiled, poured hot water into both to warm them. Using real leaves, not the common tea bag, she measured the Pu-Erh into a small teapot and poured in freshly boiled water, and let it steep quickly.

Then the contents were poured into another spouted pot and covered. Gently, Jodie poured with silent reverence into two small tea bowls, one that she offered to me with both hands. I acknowledged respectfully and began to sip my brew. It was delicious. The Pu-Erh you get outside of a tea growing country tastes totally different. Two ladies, appreciating a high quality tea, having conversation while doing the cooking. What a joy to celebrate womanhood!

As if Jodie and I had known each other for eons and were separated by years only to come together because I was searching to learn how to make a proper dumpling.

It could well have been a short film of two ladies, who had never met, of totally opposite backgrounds but who openly shared strong opinions about being women in Asia, working, relationships, local customs, children, family, etc. We could have gone on forever. But the dumplings had to be rolled again, after proofing, and stuffed and formed and then steamed.

We mixed the prepped diced pumpkins with the chopped shiitake and green spring onions. Jodie sprinkled the cut vegetable mixture with pink Himalayan salt, white pepper powder and flecked good quality sesame oil for more flavour. The mingling of smells was starting to form into the filling of our steamed dumplings.

We had set aside some green onions - Jodie seasoned them similarly but with the addition of tea oil. This was the mixture for our fried dumpling, not quite a pot sticker, but shaped round and flat like a prata, and fried on a griddle.

I had never heard of tea oil - they are made from the pressing of the seeds of the tea bush, which grow in abundance all over Taiwan and are sold in the market place. There are the commercial variety and the ones that are made in smaller quantities, but with quality. She poured out a teaspoonful for me to taste - it was clean, surprisingly non-greasy, and with the parfum of a nutty tea. The oil went down the hatch quite well and Jodie said that a tablespoon a day is loaded with anti-oxidants, since it was pure and first pressed. No additives, so the shelf life of the 600 ml bottle is relatively short. The Chinese also use tea oil in their cooking - something new to me that day.

I learned so much from that afternoon - not only how to make the best vegetarian dumplings but improving my skills in the kitchen.

Dina Abdullah Enriquez is a chef and an authority on Asian Cuisine, particularly South East Asian - she has a website on her food, travels and recipes at

Source: EzineArticles
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Vegetarian Taiwanese Dumpling

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