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Sunday, September 6, 2009


One of the difficulties of moving to a new area is finding go-to restaurants that offer great food, ambiance, and price. Dawn and I had been in Columbus for eight or nine months and tried several Chinese carry outs , none of which appealed to our cravings, before we happened on a tiny Chinese joint a couple miles down the street from us called Ying’s Teahouse and Yum Yum. The first thing I tried were the San Xian dumplings. San Xian is a three stringed Chinese instrument reminiscent of a lute comparable to the three-sided dumpling. I thought somehow I had died and my soul had been transported to heaven. The pork was succulent and rich with herb notes from the green onions. Once dipped in the provided broth, the dumpling skins melt in your mouth and create a paradise between chopsticks. Now you know where my muse came from for this dish; they most likely use ginger and other spices, but ideas for meals must begin somewhere and those dumplings are where mine originated.

I contemplated making my own dumpling skins but opted for the skins from the Asain market. If you have ever made a batch of dumplings, you sympathize with the amount of time that goes into stuffing them and assuring the right ration of mixture goes into each small edible triangle. Triangles that in my case were drizzled with a spicier broth than the dumplings at Ying’s.

The ground pork used in the dumplings should be nice and fatty so as to emit plenty of liquid for the broth as well as added richness. A nice spritely bunch of green onions and several plump cloves of garlic transform the ground pork into something sublime. A sublimity that only becomes more layered goodness when the chili paste is added to the broth. Something as simple in appearance as a dumpling can become a kitchen epiphany after you realize that take-out may be your best option only as inspiration.

San Xian Dumplings
1 # ground pork
20 dumpling skins
1 bunch green onions finely chopped (only using white and light green section)
3 cloves garlic
3 T. canola oil
1 T. chili paste
1 C. water for sealing dumplings plus water for boiling dumplings

Sauté garlic and onions in skillet with oil until tender. Add ground pork and chili paste and cook until pork is partially cooked. Allow mixture to fall to room temperature. Add 1 ½ teaspoon mixture to each skin. Wet edges of skins and seal pressing all air out of dumplings folding to form triangle shapes. Boil dumplings in batches for three minutes and remove to drain.

Juice from cooked ground pork
2 T. chili paste
3 green onions finely chopped (only using white and light green section)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat broth until flavors meld. Drizzle on top of dumplings or toss dumplings in broth after dumplings are cooked.

Optional: if ground pork does not render enough juice, beef broth can be added.


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