Is it just me, or does every day this (work) week feel like the worst of the worst Mondays? Maybe it’s because we had a nice long weekend full of cooking, cleaning, hawaiian food eating, and a minor almost breakdown in the home goods section of Target (I don’t want to talk about… I was EXTREMELY hangry). Or maybe it’s because Reuben and I are going up to Tahoe this weekend and I can’t wait to just sit and admire the snowy nature while Reuben glides all over it. What I do know is that I. AM. SO. OVER. THIS. WEEK. and all the annoying “design comments” I’m receiving at work. I’m trying to be as productive as I can be and squeeze out every last bit of motivation and design inspiration that no longer exists. But every once in a while I take a little mental break when a funny recipe idea pops into my head and I immediately scribble it down in my note book. Today I jotted down sweet potato oreos, sticky rice WAFFLES, chili oil popcorn, bok choy dumplings that look like little heads of bok choy, and lemon cupcakes topped with a toasted meringue flower piped on. That last one needs a catchier name, but we will work that out. But, OMG, doesn’t that all sound so good?!!!!! I just dream of the day when I can cook all day everyday without being homeless and the only people I have to verbally communicate with is Reuben and my mom. I’ll talk to you too if you drop by and help me eat the million of lemon meringue cupcakes I just whipped up. Oh that name works. ONE DAY.
Anyways, you didn’t come here to listen to me whine about my lack of interest at work. You came here for dumps! Or doomps, as Reuben and I typically refer to them! These Cumin Lamb Dumplings might have just taken the crown as THE BEST DUMPLING TO HAVE COME OUT OF CHO KITCHEN. They were so juicy, tender, perfectly fatty, spicy, earthy, and chewy. A near perfect dumpling. What would make it perfect is if I didn’t have to make them and they would just keep reappearing in my freezer when I wasn’t looking.
The flavors of these dumplings brought me straight back to the summer of 2013, when I was living and bopping around in Beijing. Work was fun and I spent most of my free time and money tasting all the weird and new Chinese food I had never had before. I ate a scorpion! My family is from Hong Kong, so we ate primarily Cantonese food, which isn’t typically spicy. It focuses more on salty soy sauce or oyster sauce and sticky sweet glazes. Lots of dim sum and rice. However, when I got to Beijing I learned that a lot of people had never had dim sum! WHAT?!!!!! Is there a life without dim sum?! And it turns out that Northern China focuses more on noodles than rice. A lot of the meals I had there did not automatically come with a bowl of rice. Very different than what I was used to. I discovered a whole new world of Islamic Chinese food and quickly fell in love with it. That meant food that was heavy on the lamb, beef, cumin, thick noodles, and funky vegetables. I don’t know how many nights I spent eating lamb skewers heavily encrusted in red chili flakes and cumin in a narrow alley somewhere with motor bikes barely missing me as they sped by. I definitely burned my tongue slurping down a big bowl of soup mixed with pickled vegetables, beef, and hand torn noodles on a bunch of occasions. Ah good times.
If you haven’t been to Northern China before, these dumplings might not transport you straight to Beijing, but they will definitely make your tastes buds super happy and you might want to buy a plane ticket to China! The style of this dumpling fold is called a “braided dumpling”. I ended up watching one of Lisa Lin’s tutorials about a million times. You can also watch this video to get an idea of how to get the braided look, go to 1:55. No matter how you fold it though, it’s still going to taste good! An ugly dumpling is still a tasty dumpling! And don’t forget that Chinese New Year is a little less than 2 weeks away, which is plenty of time to work on your folding!
Cumin Lamb Dumplings
makes 32 small dumplings
10 oz AP flour
pinch of salt
3/4 cup just boiled water
1/2 cup red onion - finely chopped
2 carrots - finely chopped
4 cloves garlic - minced
1 lb ground lamb
1 tbsp whole cumin (ground cumin works too)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp red chili flake
1 tsp dark soy
2 tsp oil
oil for cooking
water for cooking
make dumpling dough:
Add flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and slowly pour in just boiled water. Mix dough together with your finger tips or a wooden spoon if the mixture feels too hot. Mix until water is absorbed and the dough is just combine. Knead for 2-3 minutes until dough is round and smooth. Place dough in a medium ziplock bag, seal, and allow to rest and hydrate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can rest for up to 2 hours before being used.
Heat about 2 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add in red onion, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes until vegetables are slightly tender and fragrant. Scoop in a bowl and set aside to cool.
Lightly grind the whole cumin seeds to help release the flavors. Finely ground cumin works too, but I prefer the flavor of whole cumin seeds.
In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, cumin, salt, white pepper, red chili flake, egg, dark soy, and oil until combined. You can either use your hands or a large spoon or spatula. Set filling aside.
Lightly flour your work surface. Remove dough from the ziplock bag. Cut dough in half and keep one half in the bag. Roll out one half of your dough into a 1” thick rope. Cut into 18 equal pieces. Place pieces of dough in the ziplock bag to prevent drying out. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 3”-3.5” disc with a small rolling pin or a tortilla press if you have one. Place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center of your round dumpling wrapper, avoid over filling. Fold according to desired shape. For the braided dumpling shown, watch this video a million times. Repeat with remaining dumplings and place dumplings on a lightly floured baking tray until ready to be cooked.
To cook your dumplings, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add a single layer of dumplings, about 6-8 depending on how large your pan is. Sear on the flat side for 3 minutes until the side is toasted and golden brown. Add 3-4 tbsp of water to the pan and cover with a lid. Allow to cook until the water has evaporated, about 4-5 minutes. Add a bit more water if the water evaporates before the time is up. Remove the lid and allow any remaining liquid to cook off and for the bottoms to crisp up again. Repeat with remaining dumplings.
Serve immediately with chili oil and/or soy sauce!