Friday, 1 February 2013

Soon Kueh -- Steamed Turnip (Gluten-free) Dumplings



Chinese New Year is round the corner, actually no more than a week away, but this is when it's most exciting. The couple of weeks before Chinese New Year is when the new clothes get shopped for, the garish lanterns go up, the tacky music floods the radio stations, and when tubs and tins and jars and packets of goodies start piling up on the living room table. That was until 4 years ago though, when I moved to London.

They say Chinese New Year is about the people and not so much the clothes/lantern/music/goodies, and in a sense I guess you are right, because it is pretty much the only time in the year when I meet some of my relatives. But because it's the only time in the year when I meet some of these relatives, these meetings unfortunately usually look like this: A hot and crowded living room, a row of blank faces staring at the tv pretending there's something interesting going on, and maybe a cluster of people bravely attempting to strike conversation. There never was that heartwarming scene of people folding dumplings together. (We still all love one another though k.)

But I thought I would start getting this dumpling business down. I got some friends over for a premature Chinese New Year dinner, and instead of having food ready on the table, I made them work for their food. We made 2 sorts. There was a gluten-free girl, so none of your usual potstickers or shortcut wanton wrappers. We did steamed cabbage dumplings, using cabbage leaves to wrap a juicy pork-and-scallion filling, and one of my favourite dumplings, soon kueh, turnip dumplings. They have  a slippery smooth thin wrapper made of tapioca and rice flour that I absolutely love, and that isn't used in any other dumpling except soon kueh. The filling is actually made from bamboo shoots ("soon") and jicama (yam bean), not a turnip per se, but I've done it before with a British turnip from the farmer's market and though it's not the same, it's not half bad at all. I also skipped the bamboo shoots (taste-wise it doesn't affect much) but then I don't know if you should call it soon kueh. Hmm.



SOON KUEH (STEAMED TURNIP DUMPLINGS)
Recipe thanks to Kitchen Tigress who tried 6 recipes, before settling on Rose's Kitchen's ratios so thank her too.
makes 16 pieces

Ingredients
Skin
150g rice flour
50g tapioca flour (starch) + more to dust
1 tbsp groundnut oil
big pinch of unrefined sea salt
300ml boiling water

Filling
500g turnip (jicama or yam bean, though British turnip can work)
1 small carrot 
1 small chilli (optional. I just like chilli, a lot.)
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp dried shrimps
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp unrefined cane sugar
1-2 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally fermented)
1/2 tsp white pepper
a drizzle of sesame oil
1 tbsp groundnut oil or lard from happy pigs

To serve
fried shallots + fried shallot oil
thick dark sweet soy sauce (can make by mixing equal ratios of good soy sauce to blackstrap molasses)
sambal chilli

Method
To make the dough,
1. Mix rice flour, tapioca starch and salt. Pour the boiling water evenly over the mixture and stir immediately to mix. It will be extremely hot to handle, but handle it when it's just cool enough. Knead to make a smooth sticky dough, then dust with more tapioca starch and continue kneading, till it's not sticky but kind of tacky. Cover and let dough rest for 10 min- a few hours.

To make the filling,
2. Soak the dried shrimps and shiitake mushrooms in some warm water till soft, about 10 min and 40 min respectively. Reserve the soaking liquid, it's the most amazing quick stock.
3. Chop garlic. Peel and slice the turnip and carrots into matchsticks, or you can use a very coarse grater (make sure it doesn't turn into mush). Then when the mushrooms are rehydrated, also slice the mushrooms into thin shreds.
4. Over high heat, fry the dried shrimps and garlic in the oil/lard till fragrant, and then the mushrooms, till all are nicely golden. Then add the shredded turnip and carrots with the soy sauce, sugar, pepper and sesame oil and continue to stir-fry till the liquid dries up. Add the soaking liquid and simmer till the liquid almost dries up again and the turnip and carrots have softened.

To wrap dumplings,
5. Roll dough into a log and cut into 16 roughly even blobs. Roll each blob out into a thin circle, dusting with tapioca flour. It doesn't have to look perfectly circle but if you want to be anal, you can use a rice bowl to cut off the edges.
6. Place 1 tbsp of filling into the centre of the wrapper, fold the bottom half up, bring the edges together and press to seal. Repeat 15 times. Note: Turnip at the end gets a bit wet/soggy so you might have to drain off the liquid.

7. Place soon kuehs on greased steaming trays and steam over high heat for 10 minutes, till puffed up. Remove onto greased plates (these will stick if you don't) and brush with shallot oil. Serve with crispy fried shallots sprinkled over, sweet dark soy sauce and a dollop of shit-hot sambal.





The soon kueh we made were, well, rustic. The skin was slippery, smooth and soft, but frankly not very pretty, I already chose the best ones to photograph. But within the ugly shapeless wrapper is a wonderful burst of flavour from the stewed turnips and mushrooms that are plump with sweet juices from the dried shrimps. And anyway, homemade dumplings aren't meant to be exquisite works of art; they're meant to be imperfect, delicious, and an excuse for you to get messy with your favourite people.

Happy chinese new year! If you're in London, come wish for prosperity and/or Ryan Gosling with us at the next supperclub!

See also:
Steamed cabbage dim-sum dumplings (as published in Flavour magazine)

40 comments:

  1. Fantastic to see gluten free dumplings! The filling sounds delicious, I might have to be brave enough to attempt these. I love the diagram of how to fold a dumpling. :) Happy Chinese New Year, I hope you enjoy your celebrations.

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    1. Caz, it isn't difficult at all if a bunch of us can randomly get together to make these. anyway liek i said, they don't have to be pretty, just yummy ;)

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  2. Gluten, vegan, vegetarian ... feh! Give me people who eat meat, all sea food, and drink hard likker.

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    1. Heh, don't worry, got more than a handful of those sort of friends too ;)

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  3. Can I have both these AND Ryan? That would be Heaven! =) I think they're very pretty!! I bet the filling is wonderful too.

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  4. Oh wow that sounds scrumptious, I want to make it! I should make friends come over and work for their food too. If they complain, I'll blame it on you ;-)

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    1. hee hee. my mum always said there's no such thing as free food.

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  5. they look so good Shu... I adore any kind of steamed dumpling or anything wrapped in anything really!... I'm very tempted to come to your supperclub... Ryan Gosling or not (although of course I wouldn't say no!) Fab post and Xin Nian Kuai Le x

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    1. 新年快乐!I'm so excited for you for your first supperclub too! Can't wait to see how it goes. I'm sure chicken thighs will feature, they HAVE to.

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  6. Hi SH! Nice soon kueh! Can you use the same skin for 水晶包? If so, you can make the sweet version (yam) which is my favourite!

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    1. No idea if they use the same skin, ooo now I'm intrigued! I love those too!!

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  7. S-N-A-P !

    We both wrote about the same thing in our latest posts AGAIN partner! Woop! Woop! :)

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    1. I KNOW!!! haha hi five :) yours much prettier though. we made a total mess.

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  8. Hi Shu Han, delicious soon kueh. Yours look awesome, wish I can have some now.
    You wrap it very neat and tidy. :)

    Have a nice week ahead,regards.

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    1. haha you have no idea how bad the bad ones look.

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  9. Hi Shuhan, these look great and I actually have some rice flour I've been wondering what I can do with sitting in my cupboard. I think I'll surprise my wife with these on the weekend or something! I don't really have any steaming implement though - major bummer, but I'm sure I can improvide, somehow. Any ideas what I could use? Maybe I could line a sieve with... something and place that over a pan of water?

    Your dough looks so creamy and smooth... I love how certain pictures really make you want to get stuck in with your hands and just make something, you know? By the way, not sure if they do the same there but Chinese restaurants here always serve dumplings on a lettuce leaf instead of just a plate - makes it look really pretty with a splash of colour and avoids the sticking problem too!

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    1. (Shuhan, I hope you don't mind my answer...) Charles, you can buy wooden steaming baskets in many places now (not to mention Chinese/Asian grocery shops). I think I even saw them once in Monoprix. Metal steaming bowls are also quite popular even in some supermarkets.

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    2. hey no prob sissi! thatnks for answering for me! I don't even use a proper steamer, I've always just used a steaming basket set over a wok of boilign water, or if you can find a little metal rack, just place a plate over boiling water! :)

      p.s. good idea on that lettuce leaf! will do that next time!

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  10. Something tells me I would love these dumplings, both the filling and the pastry. It looks a bit chewy and elastic... the texture I go crazy for! Is is a bit similar to the transparent pastry? I did it maybe twice, it was delicious but difficult to prepare and I have never managed to roll it out thin... I bet your friends have enjoyed them!

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    1. it is similar to transparent pastry, but it's a bit more opaque than transparent, and is slightly elastic but soft with a little bit of bite to it as well. This is proibably MUCH easier than transparent pastry so you should give this a try. hee hee they did, it's so much fun to do these with friends:)

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  11. I love the look of these dumplings (I think they're very white and pretty!) and your clear instructions along with a folding diagram...wonderful! Steamed dumplings are my fave.

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    1. aw thanks ! I lvoe steamed dumpligns too, or fried ones. heh. dumplings fullstop.

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  12. I love that you made them work for dinner! Making dumplings is one of the favorite things my daughters and I like to do together. After living in KL and Singapore for more than 10 years, we can't do without for very long! I'm going to give your filling a try the next time.

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    1. Haha no pain no gain ;) Funny, in singapore, I never mde my own dumplings. My mum always thought we would make too much of a mess in the kitchen! It's only after I moved from sg, and started missing all these traditional treats that I started learning how to :) chuffed you and your daghters will be making my dumplings ahhhh! let me know when you do try the filling! :)

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  13. Eventhough they look not pretty but they are homemade and made from the scratch, clap clap!! well done !
    I hope you have a wonderful CNY and Huat Ah!

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    1. yay! thanks for the encouragement! hee hee. I always say you can tell homemade dumplings by how imperfect they look anyway ;)

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  14. What a brilliant idea to turn this traditional Chinese dumpling dish to gluten-free! I've never tried the turnip stuffing so I'd love to try this at home as I am trying to be more healthier this year. I wonder if I can also use rice paper to make the gluten-free version. Thank for sharing!

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    1. haha thanks yi, but this is actually not my brlliant idea! this dumpling is actually a traditional chiense dumpling where I grew up, I think it's part of the teochew culture :) do try this! not sure rice paper will work with the steaming.. they prob work better as wraps or rolls with pre-cooked ingredients or raw salads.

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  15. Hi Shu Han, happy new year to you. Gong Xi Fa Cai.

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  16. Happy new year Shu Han and a wonderful , instructive recipe for one of my favourite dishes. I am inspired to make dumplings.

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  17. I saw some of the Chinese New Year festivities in Trafalgar Square this weekend, I wish I'd been able to stay! I love dumplings but I've never tried to make them before, I'm going to have to try to make these!

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    1. haha I didn';t even make it to trafalgar square for chinese new year, so you win extra chineser points over me ;) let me know if you make these, fellow dumpling- lover :)

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  18. happy year of the snake!
    our new year was a quiet affair, i was too lazy to drive the hour it would've taken to meet up with family and tho i prepared food in advance so there'd be no cooking, it was actually not CNY food, or even asian food.
    it was a passing thought to make dumplings tho and i wish i had ventured to this space on friday for the inspiration.

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  19. Can these dumplings be boiled in water if you dont have a steamer? or is there another alternative to the steameer you used? Thanks

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    1. These have to be steamed, think they might disintegrate in water...

      I don't own a proper steamer (I lost it) so what I do is set a little metal rack over a wok (or just a big pot) of boiling water, then place a steamproof (ceramic or metal, not plastic) plate over the rack, cover and let steam! Let me know if I'm confusing you.

      And good luck!! Let me know how this goes, drop a comment here or on fb or sth, I always get excited when people try my recipes :)

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  20. Hi there, I tried your recipe but it was very very wet and I had to add at least double the amount of tapioca in order to get it to tacky doughy stage. I checked your recipe against the png kweh recipe (http://nasilemaklover.blogspot.com/2012/05/teochew-glutinous-rice-kueh.html) and notice that much less hot water was used in the latter recipe. I wonder if I should reduce the amount of hot water for your soon kueh recipe? Will try and let you know.. Linda

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    1. Hi Linda! Hmm the proportions worked for me and the hot water helps to cook the dough so it comes together and is easy to knead. I haven't tried the in a while though... I'll give it a try again and let you know- though not anytime too soon. Let me know too, I'm curious! x

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  21. nice food
    thank you for the recipe

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  22. Just made this! It turned out super good, tastes like my childhood :) I absolutely love your blog! Thanks for the recipe :)

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