Playing with Asian Flavors – Part I: Dumplings and Moet

I have never been very good at “creating” Asian dishes, unlike Italian or French cooking, I struggle to get the balance of flavors right.  That perfect mix of sweet, salty sour and spicy.  It’s hard to get it right, but I think it will come with practice.  I have really only just started playing with Asian flavors in the last couple of years, yet another thing that Joe has inspired me to do.  I can master the chinese dumpling, fried rice, lemon chicken …. and that’s about as far as it goes.  For everything else I need a recipe to follow, and I don’t generally stray far from that.

Recently I have been out to the same restaurant in town (twice, I liked it so much), the Yakitori Sake Bar on Courtney Place.  LOVE IT!  It’s an amazing place, the environment is very “Wellington”, much like the clientele, and the food is crazy good.  If you are lucky enough to get a seat at the bar, you can watch the Japanese Chefs cooking the Yakitori on the grill, which is an art form in itself.  The food there inspired me to have branch out and expand my repertoire in the Asian food area.

As I mentioned yesterday, we had some friends over for dinner on Saturday night.  I often find this a good time to try new recipes, and generally the participants are mostly willing to be experimented on.  Most of the time it works out well, occasionally I fall flat on my face, however it’s always good to get a cross-section of feedback, and generally makes for lively conversation over the dinner table.

Over the next week I’ll ramble a bit about some of the new dishes we tried out, most of them seemed to work, one or two needed a bit of tweaking.  But that is part of the journey right?  It’s how I learn.

I have recently got right into dumplings, and when I see them on the menu, I like to order them, give them  go, see if it’s something that I can try to recreate at home.  And lets face it, sometimes a great dumpling will be the highlight of the meal.  While at the Yakitori Sake Bar, we ordered some Gyōza, and I have to say they are probably some of the best I have ever had.  They had that wonderful crispy bottom and were beautifully steamed, and most importantly not dripping in fat (they were cooked perfectly).   It inspired me to attempt these myself at home.  Essentially they are similar to making the chinese steamed dumplings that I already make.  The main difference is that the filling is slightly sweeter and they are cooked in a pot (fried off lightly on one side and then steamed) and not in a steamer, the english term for them is PotStickers, as they often stick to the pot at the end of the cooking process.  How hard can it be right?

We had these with two dipping sauces, one spicy and a soy style sauce

I gave it a go.  It was quite entertaining, I was running a little late, so we had a little group dumpling making session over a glass or two of bubbles.  The four of us made quick work of 80 dumplings, half were bagged and put in the freezer for next time.  The cooking process was relatively easy.  They were actually REALLY yum.  The first batch was a bit hit and miss, the second was much better, and once I played around with the cooking times, we were away laughing.  Next time I might try a slightly spicier recipe, just for giggles.

I used this recipe for the Gyoza.

So Part 1 – the Gyoza,  was a success, I’m sure they will get better as I practice more.  I may even buy a better pan for next time..

Feeling hungry yet?

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