Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dumpling sweatshop

The easiest way for one person to get a lot of dumplings made quickly is, of course, to have a party and have your guests make dumplings for you. It's amazing how quickly 300 dumplings can be made, even with amateur dumpling makers.

It's the Year of the Pig, which meant porky dumplings were even more appropriate than usual. One of the co-hosts is Chinese-American, but since I was in charge of the food, I hijacked the dumplings for the Korean New Year tradition of dumpling and rice cake soup. It's everyday food, the kind of thing my mom made for dinner when she was tired or busy, but it's so satisfying and obviously lucky, since Koreans eat it every year on New Year's without fail.

The broth was made by simmering a 3-lb. piece of brisket for about 2 hours, being sure to skim off the brown foam as it started to boil. Then seasoned with a little soy sauce (not too much, as it would turn it brown) and salt. I then let the brisket cool, shredded it, and mixed it with chopped garlic, scallions, a little soy sauce, and a little sesame seed oil. With little diamonds of pan-fried eggs and crumpled up seaweed, the beef was set aside to be added for last-minute garnish and flavor.

I prepped two kinds of dumpling filling: a vegetarian, tofu-and-kimchi filling, and a truly porky filling adulterated only by minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped scallions, soy sauce, and sesame seed oil. Koreans traditionally like to put strained, crumbled tofu in their meat dumplings, but I've decided that until I start making my own dumpling skins, the thick, doughy kind that I love the best, I'll go with the more Chinese, meaty style for store-bought wonton skins.

The rice cakes just came from the big Korean grocery store on 32nd Street--I've never known anyone who made her own--but they fascinated more than a few guests, including one who insisted on seeing the bag and noting where they were bought.

So the upshot: 4.5 lbs. of ground pork + 2 lbs. of firm tofu + 3 lbs. of brisket + 300 dumpling skins + 50 guests = mighty fine eating.

And for dessert, since it was the Year of the Red Pig, I made a red velvet pig-shaped cake!

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