Hometown sweet and savory rice dumplings (家乡咸水角) – memories of my grandfather’s village at ZhongShan (中山)
These dumplings are distinctively Cantonese- sweet & savory, gentle and tasty. Someone told me that it was originated from the Zhongshan region (中山) where my grandfather was born.
My grandfather’s family lived in a village called Yunhan (云汉村) in a town called Shaxi (沙溪镇). The town was well known for its connection to overseas Chinese – nearly every family had some relatives overseas.
My childhood memory of the village where our relatives lived was picturesque – peaceful lychee trees growing alongside a small river, laden with juicy purple-red fruits. The houses in the village were the traditional terrace houses with beautiful classic wooden furniture called red Suanzhi, translated as the red sour-wood (酸枝), one of the most expensive furniture hardwood in southern China. At the back of each house, there was a courtyard with a sand filter. Water was carried home from a nearby well, commonly in two wooden buckets on a pole, then filtered to drinking water in a sand filter. Most courtyards were lined with stones. The stoves were also made of stones where straws and sticks were burned to cook food. A well-off region with fertile farm land and money from offshore relations, hospitality at the village was always warm and welcoming.
These savory dumplings are wonderfully interesting – glutinous rice skin that tastes a little like a doughnut, with extremely tasty fillings. They are time-consuming to make, but very worthwhile.
Recipe is as follows:
- 1 Chinese sausage, steamed for 15 minutes, finely chopped
- 1 rash of bacon, finely chopped
- 200g ground pork
- 1/2 leek, white only, finely chopped
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 tin of bamboo shoot (say 30g), finely chopped
- a few stalks of coriander (say 10g), finely chopped
- a few garlic chives (say 20g), finely chopped
- a few scallions (say 10g), finely choppped
- 1 tbsp fried shallot, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- small amount of white pepper powder (optional)
- 1 tbsp oil for pan frying
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour (extra flour for dusting)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup fine sugar
- 1 cup water (you may need more, or less, depending on the brand of flour you use)
- 500ml oil for deep frying
- Bring a frying pan to medium heat; add 1tbsp oil, onion, leek, bacon, pan fry for 2 minutes. Add ground pork, five spice power, white pepper and fried shallot, pan fry until the pork slightly cooked. Add hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil, mix well. Add Chinese sausage, bamboo shoot, scallion, garlic chive and coriander, stir well; remove from heat, leave aside to cool.
Dumpling skin & dumpling
- Mix well the glutinous rice flour and baking powder in a large container. Boil water and sugar until dissolved. Pull 2/3 of the liquid over the flour mix. Use a spoon (or your hand) to mix the flour with water to form a dough. If too wet, add some more flour, if too dry, add some more liquid. Kneel quickly to form a smooth dough.
- Roll the dough into a long roll, cut out a small portion (size doesn’t matter, as long as can cover the filling you put in the dumpling, and they are all about the same size). Cover the remaining dough with a damp towel. Work the small dough with the palm of your hand, press into a disc with fair thickness, say 1/2 cm. Put some filing in the middle of the disc, close it up to roll into a round or oval shape. If you are like me, not very good to working the glutinous rice dough, I will get a small piece of glad wrap, put the round dumpling inside the glad wrap, tighten the glad wrap to firm up the dumpling and push it into shape.
- Bring 500ml oil to hot (190c) in a pot. Deep fry the dumplings by small batches. When the dumplings float to the top of the oil, it is generally cooked. I prefer to cook them for further 2 minutes to get some extra color.
- Remove the dumplings using a tong. Put onto a few paper towels briefly (say 30 seconds) before transferring onto a wire rack to cool. Dumplings are not stackable, can easily lose their shapes while warm.
- Serve warm.