I have Taiwan to thank for many things, but one thing in particular it has given me is a love for good food. There's nothing like homemade noodles with soup during wintertime, and fresh oolong tea for breakfast. But even in Taiwan there were great differences between good food and great food. Chicken broth soup sold in the university cafeteria was good, but marinated squid sold at the night-market... now, that was exquisite. I've been trying to figure out for a long time what makes food taste incredible as opposed to merely good. And I think I have found the answer.
Incredible food, in my humble opinion, has as much to do with nostalgia, as it does with ingredients. To anyone else, my grandmother's elk stew is probably not the best in the world. But it's the best elk stew to me, because of the memories I associate with them and because it's my grandmother's. Granted, she does use fresh vegetables grown in her garden, and the elk is shot by my uncle, so the ingredients are top notch. But even if you don't have fresh ingredients available, your dishes can still taste like cracking good food, if the limitations are overcome by nostalgia.
Pork dumplings, or jiaozi in Chinese, is my favourite Chinese dish. Partly because they taste so yummy, especially with soy sauce. But I sincerely think that it has just as much to do with nostalgia. Dumplings were a staple in my childhood, both at home and in school. Every Friday, the two lovely school cooks would make dumplings for all the students, and as you may have deducted, we were so spoiled rotten. So when I moved to Norway, I was so disappointed to find out that Chinese restaurants over here never serve dumplings. There was nothing for me to do, but start making them myself. Basta.
I looked high and low for the perfect jiaozi to make. They usually ended up tasting somewhat mediocre, and certainly far from the dumplings I gobbled up every Friday. Finally, I found this recipe on a Taiwanese blog (well, of course they'd taste better then!) and – I kid you not – they taste exactly the same. I hope you like them as much as I do :)
Recipe by Anjelikuh*
500 g. ground pork
115 g. spring onions, chopped
250 g. cabbage, chopped
115 g. shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped (optional)
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. rice wine
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
300 g. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
188 ml boiling water
1.Filling: Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chopped cabbage to drain out the water. Squeeze dry (important!) Mix the ground pork, spring onions, cabbage, ground ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken bouillon, wine, sesame oil, salt, and pepper together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2.Wrappers: Mix the flour + salt and add in the boiling water. Mix and knead until it forms a smooth ball. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Roll the dough into a long rod and cut it into 35 pieces.
3.Roll out the dough into circles and stuff it with ground pork. Moisten the edges and pinch to seal the dumpling. Steam the dumplings for 10-15 minutes, or until they ''look ready''. Serve with soy sauce (you can also add chopped garlic / chili peppers / spring onions in soy sauce).
4.To store the dumplings, generously flour a plate and each dumpling. Leave them in the freezer until completely frozen. Once the dumplings are hard, you can transfer them into a plastic bag. Dumplings can be stored for a long time in the freezer, just boil it in its frozen state when you'd like to eat them.