I’ve been feeling rather stuck lately…
Career going nowhere. Check.
Relationship woes. Check.
Feeling lost. Check.
Feeling bloated. Check.
Questioning the point of my existence. Check.
Okay I may have exaggerated on that last part. But whenever I’m feeling like this, what does the mature, independent woman inside of me want to do?
I just wanna go home
Of course it is not possible to simply go home to mommy, whenever I’m feeling emotionally unstable. At 24 years old, I think it’s safe to say that I am a grown-up. Therefore, I usually satisfy my nostalgia for home in the form of food…such as dumplings. Back at home, my mom always keeps the freezer stocked with plump little handmade dumplings that she gets from the dumpling lady who makes them out of her house somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley (where the best dumplings come from).
So I decided to satisfy my yearning for some much-needed comfort food by making dumplings for myself. Geez, it’s been years since I’ve wrapped a dumpling. How do are you supposed to do it again? Whatever… maybe my muscle memory will come into play.
For the filling, I decided to go vegetarian. I don’t know why, but I’ve recently decided to shun meat. I think since moving here to San Francisco, I’m slowly transforming into a vegetarian. Meat just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Of course I get the occasional craving for some sizzly strips of bacon, and a juicy grass-fed beef cheeseburger, but the thing is, I just don’t enjoy cooking meat at home anymore. Maybe its because I have a fridge the size of a hotel mini-bar, with a single freezer shelf that can’t even keep ice cream solid. It’s a bittersweet relationship. Anytime I buy meat, it just goes bad. So I’ve just about given up on eating meat at home. #tinystudioproblems
I recently bought a small tub of homemade kimchi from Duc Loi Market in the Mission, on the corner of 18th and Mission St. If 99 Ranch and Bi-Rite Market had a child, this would be it. From Gai-lan and Bok Choy, to heirloom tomatoes and organic dandelion greens, this place houses a weird hodge podge selection of cheap Asian produce, and the fancy organic stuff.
The dairy section is certainly an area that elicits even more question marks. On the shelves you will see Strauss family organic yogurts next to bundles of hand-made Chinese noodles. In fact, it was amongst the cold pressed HPP coconut water and the organic vegan nut cheeses that I found a glorious red tub of house-made kimchi. And no it was not one of those pricey organic kimchis that come in a trendy cute jar at Whole Foods. This kimchi tasted like the kind you get from a real Korean market.
I swear small independent markets can be such telling indicators of gentrification.
I love kimchi and I love the fact that it can go with everything. So I decided to put it into dumplings! The problem with using tofu and kimchi as a dumpling filling is that both these ingredients contain a lot of liquid. So the key here is to get rid of as much liquid as possible. Before beginning the recipe, drain the tofu. This can be done either by pressing a heavy object on top of it over a layer of cloth. I, on the otherhand, did it the faster way by simply breaking it up into pieces, and squeezing the tofu to remove the excess water. I sliced the kimchi into very thin strips, and did the same, taking a handful and squeezing out all the kimchi juice (save this precious liquid for another use…)
After mixing all the ingredients together, I realized that the mixture seemed a little bit dry. So I decided to throw in a few spoonfuls of that kimchi-juice (there we go) into the mix until the desired moistness. Ain’t nobody got time for some dry dumplings!
It took a few tries for me to remember how to fold these things as a child, as my fingers aren’t as small and nimble anymore. Yay for muscle memory! I’m sure the method I used in this recipe is not the most traditional, but my dumplings still turned out nice and pretty.
I hope you enjoy these dumplings as much as I do. I found that wrapping dumplings can be rather therapeutic, so don’t be surprised when you suddenly end up with more dumplings than you can eat. Give them away to friends, feed your neighbor, or become the beloved dumpling giver at the office.
As for my emotional state, I’m feeling much better. Sometimes I just need to remember to take a step back and realize that I have it pretty good here in San Francisco. Just because a few things are out of place, doesn’t mean that my life is ruined, and that I need to run away again to Europe. Life is journey. In the meantime, I will keep writing my recipes and taking way too many pictures of food until I figure it out.
Kimchi Tofu Dumplings
Yield: About 30 dumplings
½ cup packed Kimchi (packed and thinly-sliced)
½ block of firm tofu, drained
2 sprigs green onion, sliced thinly
1/8 tsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp sesame oil
Pinch of salt
1 pack of dumpling or gyoza wrappers
1. Breakup tofu into a bowl. Take handfuls and squeeze out the water. The goal here is to remove as much excess liquid as possible. Then, take sliced kimchi and squeeze out excess liquid as well. In a medium sized bowl, combine tofu, kimchi, green onion, grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and egg. Mix with chopsticks in a clockwise motion, about 20 turns.
2. Prepare dumpling wrapping station. Have a bowl of water ready, as well as a platter lightly dusted with flour. Take one dumpling wrapper in the palm of your hand, add a dollop of kimchi-tofu filling. Make sure to not overfill. Dip finger in water, and wet halfway along the edge of the dumpling wrapper. With your index finger and thumb, start on one side of the dumpling and bring together the two sides of the wrapper. Take one side of the wrapper, and pleat along the edge, squeezing the two sides of the wrapper together as you go. I like to make 5 pleats.
To make potstickers:
Take a skillet and add 1 tsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add dumplings, be sure not to overcrowd the pan. Once you hear the sizzle, add about 2-3 tbsp of water, then immediately cover with a lid. Allow potstickers to steam for about 4-6 minutes. Remove and drain over a paper towel-lined plate.
To make dumplings:
Boil a pot of water, and drop dumplings in. Once dumplings float to the top, they are ready; about 6-8 minutes.
Enjoy with your favorite ponzu or dipping sauce. I personally like mixing soy sauce, vinegar, and chunky sriracha sauce together for an easy dipping sauce.
To store these dumplings, I recommend freezing them. If you can’t freeze them (like me), try eating them within 24 hours as the dumplings will start to get soggy.