Today in class we made pans of pot stickers, stacks of spring rolls, generous piles of mu shu chicken, and platters of summer rolls and shao mai. Sounds like a Chinese take-out order doesn’t it. I certainly worked up a hunger preparing fillings, folding them into dumplings and rolls, and whisking together dipping sauces. Armed with chop sticks and a small plate (not big enough for my appetite) I joined my classmates in sampling all of the varieties for taste, texture, and yumminess. My favorite was the mu shu chicken (there must really be something to that breath-of-the-wok stuff, since I find I almost always prefer the foods that have been cooked in very hot woks). Mu shu is not wrapped before cooking, but served with large, flat, pancake that you fill with the mu shu chicken like a Chinese taco. Yum!
All of the dumplings were relatively easy to prepare. Anyone can make them at home. The preparation includes mixing the filling, cooking it (if you are making summer rolls, which are not fried or steamed), rolling your preferred wrapper around your filling, and then steaming, frying, or serving cold. Simple! You buy the wrappers frozen and you can whisk together a simple dipping sauce (Dim Sum Sauce is equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with sugar to taste and a drop of sesame oil) or buy a bottled one, like hoisin sauce. The work you are responsible for is the tasty filling.
The filling should follow a few simple rules:
- Ingredients should be finely chopped, chiffonade, or ground in a food processor.
- Flavors should be balanced and complimentary.
- Include contrasting textures such as crisp carrots, chewy ground pork, crunchy bean sprouts, and rich peanut butter or peanuts
- Use raw meats and fish (unless the final product is not steamed or fried).
The thing that most amazed me was the ease of preparation. However I was not crazy about our recipes for fillings. I hope to try these at home with some of my own filling ideas. One thing I found essential was to have a yummy dipping sauce on hand. Remember to be careful with sodium content of dipping sauces. Use them in moderation. Just one tablespoon of hoisin sauce has about 250 mg sodium.
From a nutrition standpoint, steaming the rolls and dumplings saves calories and fat. Fried spring rolls and dumplings contribute extra calores from fat. An even more healthful choice is a Chinese summer roll. If the summer roll is made traditionally, the filling is simply mixed salad greens and various shredded vegetables or cooked shrimp. The wrapper used is extremely thin and perhaps lower in calories and carbohydrates than the thicker wheat wrapper used for spring rolls. Dumplings and rolls have the potential to be healthy. If only I had a really good filling recipe…