Advertisements

myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “March, 2015”

“I am the Emperor, and I Want Dumplings”

Eastern European Dumplings

Eastern European Dumplings

So said Ferdinand I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th Century.

And, so does myMEGusta, and just about everyone else in the world.

 

There is an old Japanese proverb:  Luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth.

Dumplings range from ravioli to the doughy treats that come in chicken stews (“chicken and dumplings”), to Polish pierogi to Eastern European kreplach to Russian pelmeni to German knoedel to sadza, the national dish of Zimbabwe. If you think about it, empanadas, those Latin American treats, are also a variation on the dough covered treat theme. Then there is the whole category of dessert dumplings.

But today, we are in the mood to travel to the Far East and contemplate the delicious stuffed noodle skins that are the heart of dim sum brunches. Many of us got introduced to the concept through the ubiquitous won ton soup of our youth (when chicken chow mein was considered “normal” Chinese food).

Pork Soup Dumplings

Pork Soup Dumplings

Poor Old Ferdinand probably never enjoyed an Asian dumpling.

Chinese Vinegar and Ginger

Chinese Vinegar and Ginger

Pork Soup Dumplings

Pork Soup Dumplings

He never got to savor a pork soup dumpling, made by stuffing the noodle with jelled or frozen broth and a little meat, so luscious that they are eaten from a spoon to catch the steamy juices as they spurt out when you bite in.  Hint:  Put on a few drops of Chinese vinegar/ginger for an extra tasty treat.

His chefs never made classic Chinese Jao-Tse, aka Pot Stickers, the deceptively simple pork dumplings which can range from the humdrum to heavenly, depending on the care with which chef chooses quality ingredients.  Ambitious readers should consult Eileen Yin-Fei Lo’s excellent Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking (Chronicle Books) for step-by-step directions which worked fabulously in myMEGusta’s kitchen.

Making Pot Stickers

Making Pot Stickers

This type dumpling can be steamed or deep fried, but the tastiest results come from steam frying. A little complicated, this involves cooking the dumplings in a mixture of oil and water, allowing the latter to evaporate as the steaming is completed, and letting the cooked dumplings crisp up in the remaining oil.

Gyoza, a familiar appetizer in stateside Japanese restaurants, are a close relative.

Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers

Another standard which can be either just OK or heavenly is the Har Gow, the essence of simplicity depending totally on the freshness of the shrimp and delicacy of the seasonings.

Xian, China, famous for the terra cotta warriors, is also considered the dumpling capital of China, particularly due to one restaurant where all tourists “must” dine because they, supposedly, have the greatest variety in the world. Unfortunately, most of them sampled by myMEGusta were just gimmicky (fancy shapes and food colors), doughy and not particularly interesting to eat.

What a shame to have wasted a meal on mediocrity with the vast array of wonderful dumplings out there!

Szechuan Dumplings

Szechuan Dumplings

For really light steamed dumplings in a spicy sauce, seek out Szechuan places, particularly in cities like New York where authenticity rules. These cuties in a spicy red oil sauce are one of myMEGusta’s favorite appetizers in the world to share at the start of a feast.

Advertisements

In Spring,Thoughts Turn to Sunny Bevvies

And, what’s more sparkly and refreshing than a Mojito?

Mojito Time!

Mojito Time!

Yes, myMEGusta is totally jumping the gun here, but the Connecticut thaw is making her think of seasonal pleasures ahead.

For the uninitiated, a Mojito is simple, IF you have the right ingredients: white rum, sugar (or simple syrup), lime juice, seltzer water and fresh mint, over ice. There are only two tricks: finding the good mint, and crushing the leaves just enough to release the aromatic oils, but not enough to macerate it and make a mess. It’s a tall drink, and the sipper can vary the strength by adding more, or less, water.

Here’s a link to a recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/The-Real-Mojito.  If you’re curious about variations, even on the classic formula, you can check any major rum company website, and you’ll find some, of course with their brands. Mojitos are also made with other fruit juices and purees, in addition to (or substituting for) the lime juice. They are also available pre-mixed, but myMEGusta has not gone there, and probably won’t unless a reader give them a really high endorsement.

Invented in Cuba, the Mojito was a favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway, and his number one place to enjoy one was La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, reputedly a big tourist destination now as a result of this. World traveler readers, care to comment on that?

Mojitos at the Market Bar in Madrid

Mojitos at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid

But it’s not just a libation for the Americas.

According to an October 2014 “Mixed Drinks Report” (source: CGA Strategy), the Mojito has become Britain’s Number One mixed drink. (We will refrain from making a “limey” joke here.)

Mojito Stand at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid

Mojito Stand at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid

And, when you visit the Mercado de San Miguel in Spain, you find Mojitos among other fruity refreshers prominently featured at the main bar, and a rainbow array on the other end of the building on a stand devoted entirely to Mojitos made with various fruits and spirits. Unfortunately, myMEGusta’s market visit was too early in the day to allow for sampling.

Fresh Mint

Fresh Mint

Here’s a hint on the mint as you prepare for a summer’s worth of delicious Mojitos:  Freshly harvested mint is often one of the first herbs to appear at farmers markets in the spring.  Purchase a bunch, enjoy your first Mojito of the season with a few sprigs, and put the rest in a glass of water to further develop the roots (or just buy a little plant). Once they look lively, growing a little bit, plant the mint in a shady place, and enjoy it all season. If you are lucky, it may even spread, and be a handy resource for years to come, both for delicious cocktail hours and for fresh mint tea anytime.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: