New year’s resolutions are something I like the idea of, although I’ve never been inclined to depend on a 1/1/20xx date to start new positive habits, or stop old negative ones.
Nevertheless, by a carefully considered combination of masochism and sheer terror, I have been dragging myself to the gym regularly for the past few weeks, starting on that most memorable of dates, the 24th of January.
Anyhow, it was in this spirit of “watch less telly, do more cool stuff” that I hastily typed “Yesssssss Dumplings!!!” and hit ‘send’ as fast as I could in response to an email from esteemed blogger and compulsive shutterbug TikiChris. A last minute cancellation meant that there was an opportunity to take part in a Qype event involving the making and eating of these delectable Chinese delicacies.
So, a mere 2 hours later I’ve arrived to fill the space at one of London’s newer wooden trestle tables for Mushu’s Dumpling workshop – ready to be filled to bursting, much like the dumplings we ended up constructing.
Set deceptively close to both Great Portland Street and Warren Street Tube stations, this is a relaxed open-kitchen gem of a place that not only serves dumplings (made on site!) but also has a spot of sushi and the sort of atmosphere a solo diner wouldn’t feel out of place in.
Thus began our workshop, where (after we washed our hands) we were introduced to “Da jiě” (Big Sister) the Dumpling Deity, who simultaneously encouraged and corrected us while effortlessly making thirty or so dumplings at lightning speed. We watched, hypnotised, before commencing our own slightly slower efforts. Of course it was impossible for us to duplicate the dumpling dexterity on display, but still fun – and we were prepared to eat the results, no matter what they looked like.
We found out that dumplings needed to be squished from the ends a bit after we crimped them to make them look like fat purses filled with money – all eight of us thoroughly enjoyed this activity and knew they didn’t look quite right – not that we minded.
During the workshop, we were given enough information to feel quite confident about attempting to make our own dumplings. I’ve reproduced an attempt at the recipe below – but can make no guarantees about accuracy, or what you want to fill them with, sadly. Any thoughts, please reply in the comments 🙂
I’ll also upload some pictures to Flickr (edit: link here) which should also help anyone who actually wants to have a go at cooking them.
So, once we were sufficiently covered in flour, Big Sister boiled our questionable bundles while the friendly owner told us they’d settled on boiling rather than steaming those particular ones to keep the dumplings moist and juicy. We were so eager for our first taste, our experimental parcels had already disappeared into our bellies by the time they’d brought us the dipping sauce. Oh well. We’d managed to take pictures first, though (as most of the attendees were that way inclined).
After the workshop, we were treated to a selection of dishes from the menu including other meaty dumplings that I didn’t try, but the biggest surprise of the evening went to a miso-slicked roasted aubergine which I proclaimed “Auber-genius” among the obligatory groans.
I would definitely return here on a paying visit and take the opportunity to try more of the veggie-friendly dishes on offer. And if there’s any moral to this strange story, perhaps it’s that saying “yes” to a cryptic email ends up with being dumped in the right place at the right time a few hours after a spontaneous reply. I found myself in great company, and smiled and laughed a lot more that evening than if I went home and watched the telly. I’m even going to try making dumplings the next weekend I find myself in the kitchen (although I may have to prepare for the session Dexter-style).
So, even if I don’t manage to watch less TV, I’ll definitely aim to go out with good people more – if this is how the Year of the Rabbit’s set to continue, I’m resolving to make the most of it.
ROUGH GUIDE TO DUMPLINGS AT HOME
– LESS A RECIPE, MORE A FREE-FOR-ALL
Make the filling first. For the dough, mix together normal flour in a 2:1 ratio with water, leave to rest for 1 hour, roll out in small circles with a dimple in the middle, stuff in filling, crimp the edges, then boil gently in a big pan of water until dumpling floats to top. That sounds a lot easier than it’s going to be, however, and I’m pretty sure that when I try it, my kitchen will look like I’ve attempted to cover every possible surface in dumpling elements.
If you are a dumpling filling expert, please leave some mini-recipes in the comments- thanks!
Expanded upon from my restaurant review on Qype – Mushu – Fitzrovia