So. Many. Dumplings.
plus other news + intel
Life is like a dumpling—it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
-Emily, food blogger
Sorry, I just really wanted to open with a deep quote about dumplings because *all I’ve done* this week is write about, read about, and eat…dumplings. I know what you’re thinking: Emily, how is that different from any other week of your life? To which I say…fair point. But things have been extra dumpling-y around here lately.
This week’s Dumpling Diaries (my new weekly dumpling series) is dedicated to Vietnamese banh bot loc - incredibly chewy tapioca starch dumplings filled with dried shrimp and pork belly. And this week’s recipe is *also* a dumpling because after several failed attempts to incorporate squid ink into a dish, I’ve finally come up with these squid ink pork, chive & shrimp dumplings and I have to say, I am exorbitantly proud of my dumpling babies (recipe below). So, yeah - lots of dumplings.
In other non-dumpling-related news, I interviewed Adam Richman this week! We talked about everything from the obvious (his time on Man v. Food, his favorite eating challenges) to more in-depth things like learning how to deal with public perception. The interview is out tomorrow and will be available to paid Substack subscribers so, you know, do that! Interviews will happen 1-2 times a month and paid subscribers with *also* get to join monthly live Zoom cook-a-longs with me - I’ll be sharing the first cook-a-long date + recipe next week.
Have a great week and let the dumpling games begin!! (I literally never know how to properly end this intro paragraph but this feels more or less okay/on brand).
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Where I’m Eating
As opposed to other varieties of Asian dumplings, Vietnamese dumplings don’t really get the hype they deserve. In fact, I didn’t even realize Vietnamese dumplings existed until fairly recently (embarrassing but honest). Banh Bot Loc are steamed tapioca dumplings normally filled with shrimp and pork belly and I found (what I believe to be) a truly excellent version at Banh Mi Co Ut on Elizabeth Street. “Filled” might not actually be the correct term for it - more like suspended within an opaque, chewy tapioca nugget that comes wrapped in a banana leaf.
Banh Mi Co Ut is a carryout-only Vietnamese counter spot known for their Banh Mi (as the name suggests). The menu is diverse and includes a lot of less common gems including the banh bot loc I tried.
These dumplings are a textural masterpiece: the tapioca starch “wrapper” is chewy and bouncy and the dried shrimp are crunchy but also chewy…there’s just a lot going on in the best possible way. The banh bot loc come served with a fish sauce dressing which is one of my single favorite things about Vietnamese food. Actually, the fish sauce usage *in general* is my favorite because fish sauce is the QUEEN of umami.
What I’m Cooking
It’s a double dumpling day! I’ve been messing around with squid ink for quite some time now. Like, I have made a concerning amount of squid ink dough lately and utilized it for a wide gamut of dishes like dishes like shrimp, pork & ‘nduja ravioli and shrimp pasta. What can I say? When I get an idea in my head I usually don’t let it go until I am fully satisfied and have squeezed every last ounce of life from it. There’s definitely something to be said here about my obsessive personality and need for perfection but I don’t feel like having a psychological conversation about dumplings today. Sounds like a fun topic for the future, though.
Anyways - my obsessive squid ink testing resulted in these pork & shrimp-filled dumplings with squid ink wrappers. They’re beautiful, they’re delicious, and I’d say they’re another win for my obsessive personality disorder. Enjoy!
Squid ink shrimp & pork dumplings
WHAT YOU NEED
1 lb pork
1 cup chives, chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
Salt to taste
1 lb 21-30 count shrimp (we’re using one per dumpling), peeled except for tails and deveined
Squid ink wrappers:
2 cups flour
3 tsp cuttlefish ink
Dumpling sauce (optional):
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp black vinegar
WHAT YOU DO
Let’s make some dumplings!
Start by making the dumpling wrappers. (And by the way, you could totally just buy premade dumpling wrappers and make your life easier but they won’t be squid ink..either way, they’ll taste awesome). I followed the basic principles for pasta-dough making for these - you can learn more about that here. ESSENTIALLY:
Add 2 cups of flour to a bowl. Add eggs and cuttlefish ink and whisk together with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Dump the mixture on a clean counter and knead until a smooth ball forms. Wrap the dough ball in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pork filling: add all the filling ingredients (besides shrimp) to a bowl and mix. Fry a small patty to taste for seasoning and adjust. You can also take this time to make dumpling sauce: Add garlic and sugar to a bowl. Add warm water and stir until it dissolves. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, black vinegar, and sesame seeds. Stir and set aside until ready to use.
Work with 1/3 of the dough ball at a time: run it through a pasta machine or hand crank until it’s thin but not transparent: a level 6 on my KitchenAid attachment. Use a round object to make cutouts in the dough (about 3 inches across) - these are your dumpling wrappers! Make sure to keep the resulting rounds covered under a damp cloth or paper towel so they don’t dry out. You can stack the dumpling wrappers as long as you make sure to sprinkle flour or starch between each layer so they don’t stick together. I like to make about 10-12 wrappers at a time so they don’t dry out.
Set up your workstation with a bowl of pork filling and a spoon for scooping, a bowl of cleaned shrimp, a small bowl of water, the covered dumpling wrappers, and a floured plate/sheet pan for finished dumplings.
Add 1-2 tsp of pork and chive filling to the center of a dumpling wrapper. Add a shrimp on top with the tail end sticking out, line the edge of the wrapper with some water, and pleat the dumpling however you’d like. The simplest way would be to simply pinch it shut into a half moon shape but you can get fancy with the pleats like I did. Place the finished dumplings on a floured sheet pan or plate. Cover the finished dumplings with a damp cloth or towel.
Repeat the dough-rolling/dumpling wrapper process for another ⅓ of the dough ball. Make more dumplings, and keep the process going until you run out of something.
Steam the dumplings in a steamer tray. If you don’t have one, here’s some guidance. Serve with dumpling sauce and chili oil if you’d like.
What I’m Drinking
My local wine shop just got some gorgeous new wine in from Emilia Romagna: the Casé Casébianco, a blend of malvasia, marsanne, sauvy b and moscato. I can smell a malvasia from a mile away. It’s been my favorite grape since I first had the pleasure of sipping on the Vej Malvasia out of Slovenia two summers ago. True to form, this wine is floral and perfumey with notes of honeysuckle and peach. And I’m gonna drink the sh*t out of it until the very last warm breeze of summer kisses my face.