Whenever I travel I learn nifty new tricks of the trade. Last week I flew from Beijing to Chengdu in Sichuan province. I'd been keen on Chengdu for years, after having read and cooked from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty and meeting uber Sichuan Chef Yu Bo at the 2009 Sydney International Food Festival.
My friends Karen Shinto, Lillian Chou and I met up with writer Robyn Eckhardt and photographer David Hagerman. After a good night's sleep, we headed to Robyn and Dave’s favorite markets. They lived in Sichuan years ago and have posted on Chengdu many times at their site, Eating Asia.
The Chengdu market experiences weren’t like my adventure to Walmart in Beijing. Quite the opposite – we got to interact with the local vendors, who got a kick out of our showing up with cameras and innumerable questions.
I had my Flip video camera and capture the footage in the video below. Note that you can buy freshly made dumplings at these Chengdu markets. Additionally, there is usually a noodle maker at the market who rolls out dough for noodles as well as dumpling skins. The skins that these two dumpling makers used were precut and very soft. Convenient, huh?!
When watching the video, check out the following:
1) The man rolls his out a bit to lend a handmade effect. It’s a short cut to the technique that I use for rolling out basic dumpling wrappers.
2) The woman uses a bamboo spatula to place and neaten up her filling. That’s the tool of choice for the professionals. You can use a fork, spoon or dinner knife.
3) The woman folds a half moon and then pushes in the two sides to scrunch them up. The result is a slightly dimpled dumpling. It’s a cute shape that is fast and simple.
4) The man has a towel filled with flour to efficiently sprinkle on his finished dumplings and prevent sticking.
What I took away: If you have soft, freshly skins (think of thick, fresh pasta sheets), roll them with the dowel rolling pin. Try making the little dimpled dumpling shape! The towel flour trick works well when you're making a large quantity, which is what these Chengdu professional dumplings makers do everyday.
Previous Asian dumpling video how-tos and hints are posted at AsianDumplingTips.com