Monday, October 12, 2009

Kneading and rolling

I went to church this Sunday, for Thanksgiving service. Oh boy. I may or may not have said a little lie to my pastor's face. Sorry. Didn't mean to, just trying to be polite. Did not count on the good man recognizing me and remembering my name. I feel a bit weird at church. It's a bit like going to family gatherings in Shanghai. You get swarmed by a lot of people you don't know and everyone tells you how big you look, that you've grown a bit taller, and wonders (aloud) why you still don't have a girlfriend. Good times!

We went to a friend's house afterwards for lunch - she's my mother's favourite person in church. The family's from the north of China, one of the northeast provinces. Northern Chinese cuisine, of course, features a lot of wheat products. Flatbreads, dumplings, buns...stuff like that. I'm fascinated with their dumplings. I'm southern Chinese, a Shanghai man - we eat dumplings, but have no clue how to make the wrapping. And that's what I wanted to learn from our host. And well, because I love northern Chinese people.

She let me into her kitchen, where she went through how she puts the dough together. You knead it until it's pillowy soft and well rounded in shape. You punch a hole in the middle with your fingers, and shape it until it's almost as narrow as a bicycle tire. Cut into the circle, and slowly knead the dough to the correct diameter. Our friend showed me how to cut the dough into small chunks, turning the dough a quarter turn to make sure that it can easily be shaped and pressed into a perfect little round circle. Pat with dry flour, and you're ready to shape.

The wrapping is supposed to be quite thin, in a perfect circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. You hold the dough with your left hand, a rolling pin in your right. Slowly work the rolling pin up halfway into the dough whilst turning the dough clockwise with your left hand. Shape the dough as round as you can, maintaining the proper thickness.

Of course, this is impossible to fully explain using just words. But I performed quite well, impressing my host to no end. Yes, I'll try to keep the ego in check. But apparently I can now make dumpling wrappers fresh by hand as well as any northern Chinese. All joking aside, I was so impressed with how fast this friend could make them. She made about 5 in the time I managed one. Just extraordinary.


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