Many many months ago, Michelle and I got it into our heads that we wanted to make soup dumplings. I’d read a recipe for them, but had never actually tasted them (sensing a theme here?) and Michelle had eaten them, but couldn’t find a good recipe. We had all of these visions of how we would do a mini-cooking demonstration in her huge kitchen and post it here and become famous for our soup dumplings and end up on Good Morning America and Top Chef (ok, maybe that last part was more my vision than hers, but whatever). Between the time we decided to try this (sometime last October) and the time we actually did it (sometime in April), I actually did get to try some dumplings, and even though they were prepackaged ones, they were tasty enough to get me hooked. In the time since Michelle and I created our own version and now (let’s forget that two seasons have come and gone and that we’re well into a third), neither of us have tried the recipe again. But we totally want you to, because it was yummy and fairly easy and totally impressive (and it wasn’t the bottle and a half of wine we drank while cooking that made us think that).
We ended up using two recipes, one from Saveur and one from some random website I found when I googled “soup dumpling recipe.” We like to believe that we are fairly good cooks (or in my case, a fairly good recipe follower), but we were stopped cold by the Saveur recipe, mainly because it made little sense to us, especially the first step of making gelatin out of pork skin. What now? Luckily, the second recipe said we could use gelatin packets, which we did. The pork belly turned out to be the easiest of all of this, as Whole Foods had some on hand (call first) and I bet any big grocery store carries it (I was nervous about finding it, because it always seems so exclusive on menus, but there it was hanging out next to the pork loin). Michelle found all of the other ingredients at a local Asian market and her grocery store and we decided to use pre-packaged wonton wrappers (they worked only ok. They tore easily and we had to double wrap some of the dumplings, so we’d make our own next time [or how about you make some and tell us how it worked?]).
The other part of the recipe that we really didn’t get was where the soup part of the “soup dumplings” came in. We knew that something would have to melt or dissolve and become a liquid, but we really couldn’t figure out what it was. Michelle had the grand idea of freezing some soup first in a tiny star shaped ice cube tray (no particular reason for the stars, other than they were cute). It wasn’t until we read the directions from the second recipe that we understood that it was the gelatin that would dissolve and give us our delicious soupiness (and maybe you all saw that one coming, but we–with 5 degrees between us–were completely bewildered). We ended up doing two (ok, about 16) batches of dumplings, some with the frozen soup cubes and some with the gelatin. The soup cubes were a lot faster, but the gelatin ones held together better.
If you’ve clicked on the Saveur link above (you can go ahead and do it now, I’ll wait), you’ve seen that the recipe has a lot of steps and as much as I’m committed to this whole blogging thing, I really don’t think you need me to retype it here. But! I will give you our tweaks to each step in the recipe, so that you can run out, get the ingredients and impress your family or latest crush tonight…
1. We are all for finding shortcuts to recipes to make the time between cooking and eating a little shorter. We highly recommend using 2 packets of unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1-1/2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce rather than all this crazy talk about boiling and leaching pork skin.
2. We never really figured out why you needed to blanch the cabbage leaves, but we also didn’t figure out an alternative, so go ahead and do it. We also didn’t have a bamboo steamer, so we used a colander (or the steam basket from a double pot) set over boiling water.
3. This step is easy. Go for it!
4. This is the step where you break out the wine. Really? If you’re one of the people who just happens to have a meat grinder sitting in your kitchen, have me over; otherwise a food processor will do.
5. We totally skipped this step and used premade wonton wrappers. I think it would be worth trying to make your own wrappers, but make sure there is more wine somewhere.
6. I highly recommend watching the little video that Saveur provides, because you think you know how to fold a dumpling (I mean, don’t we all think that?) until you read these directions and you realize that either you are illiterate or they make no sense. We watched the video 3 days before we tried this, and ended up folding them any which way, but you aim high and do it right, ok?
7. Don’t fall for the temptation of splitting one open to see if they are cooked, because all the soup will come out. Not that we did that or anything. Trust the timing directions here. Totally worth the wait…