Last night I took my second cooking class at The Brooklyn Kitchen thebrooklynkitchen.com in Williamsburg, which also happens to be a fantastic store for kitchenware and features a butcher, The Meat Hook themeathook.com, that supports only local farmers. My criteria for selecting the classes is to learn how to cook things with which I'd never experiment on my own. I took a gnocchi class in the spring, and now ... Chinese dumplings.
Our instructor was Diana Kuan, who's also a food writer www.appetiteforchina.com . Her dishes are a combination of family favorites, recipes she picked up while living and teaching in China and her own fresh takes on classics. We learned the techniques of stuffing, pinching, pleating and cooking -- steaming and pan frying -- these little pockets of goodness.
My neighborhood is Chinatown adjacent. But I find the bustling markets so loud, packed and intimidating that I've never really explored them. With Diana's recommendations of resources and a shopping list for building a Chinese pantry, I will now dive in with confidence. Here's a basic filling that we worked with and that lends itself to lots of variations. Serve with the spicy version of Soy & Vinegar Dipping Sauce.
VEGETABLE DUMPLING AND WONTON FILLING
(from "The Chinese Takeout Cookbook" by Diana Kuan)
8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 lbs baby spinach
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Discard the stems and finely chop the mushroom caps.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the spinach for 1-2 minutes, or until wilted but still bright green. Strain the spinach in a colander, rinse under cold water and strain again. Shake out the excess water and wring the spinach with your hands. Finely chop the spinach.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the mushrooms, spinach scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper.