Life’s a Feast: Dumplings with Szechwan chilli oil

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SERVES: 5-7 people

MAKES: Approx 60

PREP & ROLL TIME: 50 mins

If you are planning a trip to Asia or Australia any time soon, make sure you search out Din Tai Fung.

Some of the Taiwanese chain’s branches are Michelin-starred (but not reflected in the price), while others have been ranked by The New York Timesin the top 10 restaurants in the world.

It is a must-visit for all dumpling fans. Silky thin dumpling skins (a key trait to an excellent dumpling), unique fillings (including their infamous xiaolongbao or pork soup dumplings) and also home to one of my favourite style of dumpling served with a Szechwan chilli oil sauce (also called Sichuan).

In the recipe below, I have tried to recreate this magnificent dish, which bathes the dumplings in an aromatic sauce combined with the one-two punch of ‘ma’ (the numbing effect of Szechwan peppercorns) and ‘la’ (the intense heat of dried chillies). Enjoy this glorious taste of Asia!

Ingredients

Dumplings

500g pork mince

2-3 spring onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic shoots, cut into slices

2 good handfuls chopped coriander

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon shao xing cooking wine

1 teaspoon salt

1 thumb-size ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 can water chestnuts chopped[New World has these in internationalsection]

2 packs pre-made dumpling wrappers(from Asian Food Mart – don’t getthe wonton wrappers)

Szechwan chilli oil

4 to 8 whole hot Chinese dried chillies

2 teaspoons Szechwan peppercorns

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar(all Asian supermarkets have this, see photo)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2.5 teaspoons sugar

1 clove garlic, minced(about 3 medium cloves)

Method

1.Place chillies and Szechwan peppercorns in a dry pan and toast until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, or a food processor, and crush until it’s about the texture of chilli flakes. Transfer to a small saucepan.

2.Heat oil in a small pan over medium-heat until shimmering. Immediately pour hot oil over chilli/peppercorn mixture (it should sizzle). Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a medium bowl. Add sesame oil and set aside.

3.Combine sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add chilli oil mixture. Set aside until ready to use (sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks).

4.Next start the dumplings. Combine all the ingredients for the filling mix and thoroughly combine with your hands.

5.To fold the dumplings, take one teaspoon of filling mix and place in the middle of one of the wrappers. Dampen the edges of the wrapper.

6.For the simplest of techniques, fold one side of the wrapper over to the other, ensuring to get all the air out of the dumpling when you push to seal it. If you leave too much air in it, it will burst if you boil these. So, you will now have a half moon-shaped dumpling. You can simply leave it like this or bring the two bottom corners together and press together just at the overlap.

7.You can either steam or boil the dumplings. To steam, pour about 10cm water into a pot that fits your steamer on top and bring to boil. Line your steamer with baking paper that has slits all through it to allow steam through. Once the water is boiling, place dumplings in steamer with lid on and place over the pot and steam for 4-5 mins.

8.If boiling, bring a large pot of water to boil, tip in your dumplings, giving a gentle stir to ensure they do no stick. Boil for about 4 mins or until they float to the top.

9.To serve, divide evenly amongst your plates or bowls, pour over generous amount of the Szechwan sauce and sprinkle with some spring onion if you like. Serve immediately.