Those three words let me know that I was in for a real treat.
Our friend Tim Ho is a lover of food and a smart boy who watched his mama cook growing up and paid close attention. Born in Taiwan and a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen, his mom likes to utilize fresh ingredients straight out of her garden, and- lucky for Tim- he can go over to her house and load up on the good stuff whenever he likes. He has spent a lot of time cooking for friends, preparing dishes inspired by his travels in Taiwan, China, Europe, and Latin America.
To me, he’s a perfect candidate for owning and operating a Taiwanese Street Food Truck. Some his most beloved dishes are pork belly steamed buns,
and Asian style grilled turkey wings flavored by his famous “Asian Kitchen Sink Marinade”. You should really check out his Facebook page and keep your eyes peeled for T Ho’s Snack Shack sweeping the nation!
Every time I see Tim we end up chatting at length about food. Surprise, surprise! And at a recent gathering, he tempted me to a dumpling lesson. When I saw “dumplings r us” in the subject line of Tim’s email, I rubbed my hands together in eager anticipation.
I have so much to learn about food and cooking techniques and such a thirst for the discovery of it all. Of course I took Tim up on his offer!
When he arrived at our house, he had already ground his own pork shoulder and seasoned it beautifully with sugar, soy sauce, lots of minced ginger, chopped green onions, tons of chopped Chinese chives—available in most grocery stores—and sesame oil.
He also brought dumpling wrappers and Chinese water spinach from his mom’s garden for our side dish. I just provided some homemade broth. This is my kind of guest.
I was a little intimidated by the concept of preparing dumplings- concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make them look pretty enough or, well, perfect. My excellent teacher quelled those fears immediately. We wrapped our pork mixture all kinds of ways!
I felt super comfortable making triangles and rectangles and sealing the edges by rubbing water around the perimeter. I’ve made apple turnovers and raviolis before- same idea. The ones that look like purses aren’t so tricky either. We just pinched in the middle of the rectangle and then sort of rippled the wrapper out to one end, slid back to the middle and rippled the other side. Soon enough, we had a pile of dumplings ready to cook.
The cooking process was straightforward. A dunk in gently boiling water for a few minutes,
and then straight into a hot pan with a little peanut oil.
We browned them over medium heat, allowing some beautiful brown color to spread across each dumpling.
And then we removed them to a paper towel lined plate.
Adam and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to incorporate the coconut peanut butter we bought from Grace’s Goodness at the farmer’s market.
We combined these simple ingredients in a food processor, along with a little lime juice (which apparently I love to leave out of photos). About a tablespoon of the tamari, vinegar, and sesame oil About 3 tablespoons of that wonderful peanut butter, a pinch of sugar, a nice chunk of ginger, the juice of one lime, and 1/2 teaspoon of chili paste.
Obviously, we had to taste test a few dumplings from the first batch just to make sure they were satisfactory before cooking the second batch. Deeeelectable! So, we considered ourselves to have a green light to crank out batch number two, and we hooked up the water spinach as well.
The greens were simple to prepare.
Several cloves of garlic and The Real Deal fish sauce from Tim’s mom’s house sauteed in a bit of EVOO. Then we added the stems and a touch of chicken broth so they could get a head start on the leaves.
Finally, we added the leaves and allowed them to wilt.
That’s all she wrote, my friends.
And I’ll be honest. We stuffed ourselves so full of scrumptious dumplings while we cooked and chatted that we never sat down at the actual dinner table. We passed chop sticks to enjoy some salty greens, and we dipped and devoured and let Mmmming sounds fly. The insides of the dumplings were so soft and full of flavor, and there was just a touch of chew, and that crisped, caramelized outside was fab.
And I will have you know that the leftover dumplings, straight out of the fridge in the morning, made the most exciting breakfast! Yum!
So, thanks to Tim Ho, the dumpling process has been demystified. Simple and f-u-n. The icing on the cake was that we had marinated pork belly leftover. So we created a whole ‘nother delicious meal.
Adam added cornstarch, egg, and breadcrumbs to the pork belly mixture and rolled up some pork meatballs! Yeah!! My contribution was a fresh coconut tomato sauce made from our delicious Turtle Bend tomatoes, coconut milk, lemongrass, garlic and lime.
I nestled those little babies in my sauce and let them simmer away, imparting their spicy, savory, succulent loveliness to the bright, sweet orange pool. Some magic happened in there.
I quickly boiled up a bunch of whole wheat Udon noodles and made a nest of them in the bottom of my bowl. Then meatballs, sauce, and a little cilantro.
Call it Asian meatballs and spaghetti if you want. Call it crazy. But call it delicious! Woah! A party in my mouth. I tasted the spiciness of the ginger, paired with heat, sweetness, tang, and smooth coconut…I tasted love.
The next time you’re feeling an itch to experiment with a new type of cuisine or a new process, don’t be scared! Call on a friend, watch a video, look at pictures. Try it out. You may find that it is even easier and more fabulous than you ever imagined it could be. We’re striving for excellence after all, not perfection, right? It’s a very tasty journey, that quest for excellence. And I, for one, am staying on that path.
Happy cooking and eating to you,