A visit to Shanghai is just not complete until you have tried xiaolongbao or soup dumplings. One of the best places to eat them is the Huxinting Teahouse, right next to the famous Yuyuan gardens, one of Shanghai's most popular attractions. Constructed in the middle of a lake and standing on stilts, the teahouse is approached by a zigzagging pathway and is a gorgeous sight. Our anticipation built up as we walked to this charming old-world
restaurant through crowded, narrow streets, lined with food vendors
selling interesting looking fare. The soup dumplings more than lived up to our expectations with a delicate wrapper enclosing rich, flavourful soup and moist, perfectly seasoned pork inside. We could easily have eaten a hundred of them!
Dumpling banquets were another delightful discovery we made when we strolled into a crowded restaurant where no one spoke English. Since we had no idea what to order our server took matters into her own hands and began to bring out course upon course of different dumplings. Our only clue as to what we were eating was the shape of the dumplings, fashioned to resemble their filling. We worked our way through little chickens, rabbits, ducks and frogs, reveling in the unexpected flavours. It was an unforgettable experience!
Dumplings are popular in India too, since Chinese cuisine was first introduced nearly two centuries ago by Chinese traders who sailed regularly on ships from Hong Kong and Shanghai to Calcutta. Many of the Hakka Chinese, as they are commonly known, eventually settled in Calcutta and opened restaurants. Hakka restaurants spiced up Chinese dishes by using a lot of fresh coriander, ginger, and chilies, to suit their Indian clientele and over the years created a unique hybrid cuisine.
Hakka style dumplings are very popular in most restaurants and are served either steamed or pan fried. In my recipe here, fresh herbs and spices add zest to the dumplings, making them the perfect Indian Chinese fusion!
Hakka Chicken Dumplings
These dumplings are also known as potstickers. If desired, they can be steamed instead. Feel free to use ground pork or lamb instead of the chicken. A simple dipping sauce of soy, vinegar and chili sauce works well on the side. Follow this appetizer of delicious dumplings with a platter of grilled Lamb Skewers, Hakka style!
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch piece ginger
1 hot green chili, stemmed
1/2 cup each: fresh coriander, fresh mint leaves
1/2 lb ground chicken
1 tsp Hakka Spice Blend
1 tbsp each: lemon juice, soy sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 pkg dumpling wrappers
Sesame oil as needed
Mince onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, fresh coriander and mint together in food processor. Add ground chicken, spices, lemon juice, soy and half the beaten egg (discard remainder). Process until well combined. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Place a dumpling wrapper on work surface; add 1 tsp chicken mixture to its center. Lightly moisten edges of wrapper with water. Fold over both sides to completely enclose filling, pressing or pleating edges to seal well. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers.
Warm a large non stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil, swirl to coat pan. Place dumplings in single layer, as many as pan can hold without crowding. Pour 1/4 cup water around edges of dumplings, cover pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium low and cook 10 mins or until water has been absorbed. Turn heat to medium high and lightly brown bottoms of dumplings, another 2-3 mins. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining dumplings.
Makes up to 25 dumplings