Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I am in a dumpling sweatshop

I was asked to visit my parents the day after my birthday, a little sore in the brain and the body and climbing over the four close-to-corpses in my bed. We had the kind of party where the only preparation was making sure all three fridges were plugged in, had empty boxes for bottles, the alcohol got delivered and that the speakers were working. Actually, we didn’t even have speakers until five minutes before the first person arrived.

I smell like ice that’s on fire. I check the time and it has only been a couple of hours since the party has ended, but the real world is now functioning.

My house looks like a brewery has thrown up on it and I open the garage door to steal two recycling wheelie bins from outside…but I put my sunglasses on first. This is how Nosferatu must feel when he takes out the trash. I drag the bins through the house and head to my room, which fills one bin alone. No one in the bed wakes up despite all the crashing glass. Both of the bins are full, but I have only taken care of downstairs.

Fuck it.

I am not sure if I was stealthy in putting the bins back, but I am just glad I didn’t throw up in the process. I shower and leave after spending thirty minutes looking for a shoe.

The kids are still asleep.

I sneak out of my own house after realizing my wallet has been stolen from my own party. My friend who decided to lock off the upstairs lounge and balcony after 3am for his own sleepy times takes pity on me and the fact I have to see my family and buys me a train ticket and a litre of water to chug on the way.

Yes, I looked that bad.

I walk through my parent’s house and the first thing they say to me is, “Oh, thank god you’re here, now we can start the dumplings.”


I suck in some air and try not to heave out a night’s worth of booze.

Imagine my father, mother, sister, her husband and I around a table, How-to-Make-an-American-Quilt-style, but with dumplings. Apparently my sister and her husband were really craving sui mai (prawn and pork dumplings that you would see at yum cha) and my parents were more than happy to oblige them. However, they needed an extra pair of hands to speed up the process.

Normal people usually make enough to feed the people who are in the room. But Asians, like most foreigners who have a passion for food or endless hunger due to a sweep of communism, feel the need to make enough food to last till the next Y2K-scare…which would technically be Y3K. But, that is just semantics.

This means, that instead of working by the hundreds of grams, they go for kilos of ingredients. Though basic, they roughly had five kilograms of pork meat and two kilos of cabbage. Normal people would say, oh, it roughly made around thirty dumplings, but they purchased four kilos of won ton skins. You get the idea.

At the Ho Family Sweatshop, at least they feed you at the end of it.

Sui Mai

This is my tweaked variation of my parent’s recipe, where there are significantly less quantities, different flavours and technique…and I don’t have a jar of MSG sitting at home. I observed my father and mother throwing the mixture after they mixed everything…very hard into a vessel. Apparently it gets rid of the air bubbles in the mince so it doesn’t fall apart when you steam it. This really didn’t appeal to me because my sister called it their “repressed violence” coming out after I moved out. I rectified this by using egg-whites. Go figure.

200g pork, whole or minced

100g raw prawns, shells removed, deveined and roughly chopped

6 spring onions, finely sliced, white part only

100g finely shredded cabbage

10 dried shitake mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water and diced

6 water chestnuts, diced

50g black fungus mushrooms, shredded

1 inch length knob of ginger, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tbs soy

1/2 tsp finely ground white pepper

1 tbs rice wine

2 tsp sesame oil

1-2 egg whites, depending on texture

30 won ton skins

If your pork is already minced, skip this step. If not, mince it in the food processor. Mix all of the other ingredients into a bowl, very well. If you’re paranoid about the flavour, cook some off in a pan and adjust seasonings.

Take your won ton skins and place a damp tea towel over them to prevent from sticking. Make a circle with your index finger and your thumb facing upward and sit a skin over it. Take a spoon or a fork and place a generous amount of the mixture where the hole is in your hand. This will help shape the dumpling. Remember, these don’t close over at the top. Now, using your fist, move it around in your hand till you form a stubby cylindrical shape and fold over the excess skins over the top of the meat with the thumb of the same hand, but don’t enclose it. They should be about 2-3 cm in diameter and 3-4 cm in height. Keep doing this till you use up all the mixture. If you’re my brother in law, this may take you three hours because you’re too busy playing origami with the skins. Don’t do that or I will hit you and tell you about over handling food stuffs in the kitchen, you grot. If you decide to do this in bulk, grab someone of the opposite sex, make babies, wait for 20 or so years and force them to make dumplings with you.

Now, place them on the bottom of a steamer which you have greased. Steam for 13-15 minutes and you can either eat them, or allow to cool completely to freeze for a rainy day.

Eat with chili oil and soy, if need be.


maybelles parents said...

interesting post. any suggestions for vegetarian version?

bunchesmcginty said...

well, in asian shops, you can get wheat gluten, which has the same texture as meat. however, if you are aiming for flavour, probably go for marinated tofu and TVP (textured vegetable protein) which you can get from health food stores. I was a vegetarian for about 6 and a half years, so...

also, you can also shape it together with bean thread noodles and egg white.