My partner introduced me to dim sum and so he was naturally pleased to find out my recipe this week was for prawn dumplings, especially when only last week I made congee. This is my very first Daring Cooks challenge so I have to admit that I had the recipe before the painting. If my food budget was a little higher I would have splurged and made lobster dumplings but I opted to work with prawns and to save my pennies for a visit home. The dumplings are a bit fussy to make and very time consuming. I had leftover filling and made it into a hot and sour soup (recipe at the bottom of this post).

Utagawa Hiroshige, Lobster and Gray Prawn (from the series A Variety of Fish),
Edo Period 19th Century, colour woodcut, 25.2 x 36.7 cm, Tokyo National Museum

Utagawa Hiroshige was one of the best later artists of the Japanese ukiyo-e tradition. Ukiyo-e translated means “pictures of the floating world” and it is the common genre for Japanese woodblock paintings. This art form was very popular in Edo (the former name of the city Tokyo). To make ukiyo-e paintings first the master would paint a work in ink. The painting would be traced and placed on a wood block where the white areas would be cut away. The result would be a reverse woodcut of the original image which would then be made into a relief print (1). Hiroshige was celebrated for his composition and colours and he was the dominating artist in landscape prints (2).

Chinese and Japanese dumplings usually contain some type of minced seafood or meat along with vegetables. They can be steamed, boiled, fried, and deep fried. In Japan they are commonly made with a dough made of rice flour and served with green tea. The Chinese serve the little dumplings for breakfast at dim sum (meaning “a bite of heart”). A collection of light dishes of very small portions are served along with tea and the whole experience including the tea-drinking is called Yum Cha. Traditionally food was not served with tea but when the digestive properties of tea were discovered teahouse owners began serving light snacks at breakfast (3).

{Prawn Dumplings}

These little dumplings are best served immediately, as the dough becomes quite soggy when reheated. Traditionally served at brunch, the dumplings also make for a light appetizer. Adapted from Use Real Butter.

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
1 cup water chestnuts, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 tablespoons flour

double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup warm water

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp wasabi paste
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 stalk green onion, sliced

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (can be made up to a day in advance, but preferably used within an hour or two).

Mix flour with 1/4 cup of water in a large bowl and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. A firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch is desired.

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

Place dumplings in a single layer in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes. Combine the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and serve with the dumplings.

These little dumplings were not easy to make (very time consuming) and I found that the rest of the filling makes a great additive to hot and sour soup. Simply place 3 c vegetable stock, with 1 TB dark soy sauce, 1 TB light soy sauce, 1 TB balsamic vinegar, 1 TB white wine vinegar, 1 tsp dried chili flakes, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, and the remaining filling in a pot, bring to a boil and add 2 packages of ramen noodles. In no time there is a quick and tasty dinner with almost no fuss.