Chinese New Year is in a few days' time! Growing up, that was the day we all looked forward to and got excited about. It's when we have festive cheesy music, new clothes, huge family gatherings with relatives you never knew you had, and of course, lots and lots of food. See why I never was that excited about Christmas? This is our "Christmas".
That's one thing that's keeping me cheerful. My laptop's been taken away for a repair, and it's not only costing a hell lot, it's smack before portfolio submission, and will take about a week. It's not just withdrawal symptoms I'm suffering from, it's the flu symptoms too.
I've got here a slight twist on traditional dim-sum, using cabbage leaves instead of gyoza/potsticker wrappers or wonton skins. It's a lot lighter and fresher, and makes for a welcome change from the indulgent treats around this period, especially if you, like me, are feeling under the weather lately.
Steamed Cabbage Dim-Sum Dumplings
Makes 10 cabbage rolls
5 large cabbage leaves (I used a January King, wrinkly savoy would be pretty too)
300g free-range british pork mince
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1/2" piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
generous dash of white pepper
2 tbsp good soy sauce
2 tbsp black rice vinegar
(opt, not for the s) chilli oil
1. In a large bowl, mix the ginger, soy sauce, pepper and sesame oil with the pork, stirring vigorously in one direction till the mixture comes together. Gather the ball of mixture and slap it back down into the bowl repeatedly. These tips are important! They will result in a better springier texture.
Stir in the spring onions after that or they get mushed up (I realised this from experience) then leave to marinade.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and blanch the cabbage leaves so they become more flexible and easy to work with. Refresh in cold water and pat dry. Slice each leaf into half, removing the hard stalk in the meanwhile (don't waste, just pop into your mouth;)
3. To wrap, place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the leaf wrapper. Bring the bottom up, the sides together, and then roll away from you, till you get a nice tight cabbage roll.
4. Arrange the cabbage dumplings on a lined bamboo steamer, or you can simply use a plate set over a steaming rack. Steam for 8-10 min till cooked.
5. Serve warm with the soy-vinegar dipping sauce.
I think the savoy cabbage really just begs to be stuffed, its large, beautifully wrinkled leaves serving as the perfect wrap, but you can use any cabbage really. The leaves become really soft and delicate after steaming, so you can easily bite through into the savoury, juicy pork-and-spring-onion filling. And the super simple vinegar soy dipping sauce just adds that bit of acidity which complements each bite really well, I think it'd be nicer with shreds of ginger in it too actually.
You can of course stuff it with your filling of choice. Prawns, maybe water chestnuts or something crunchy, and if you want to use chicken, make sure it's kind of fatty, i.e. not breast meat. I've done something similar before in spring with collard greens, "pseudo-lmades"; they're larger so I stuffed them with rice, toasted nuts, sweet raisins and lots of fresh herbs, but anyway, this is just so you know you can really stuff these cabbage dumplings with whatever you want!
Happy Chinese New Year, may it be filled with food, prosperity (definitely need a bit of this after the laptop repair), health, happiness, and more food (:
I'm also happy to add that this recipe appears in this month's Flavour magazine!