November 11, 2009

Eggplant Shu Mai Dumplings & Chili Sauce

Eggplant Shu Mai Dumplings & Chili Sauce

This may be THE best Asian dish I've ever made! And yes, this is one of the dishes you'll want to make when you're trying to show off your kitchen skills. Meat lovers will swoon over these chewy steamed dumplings, filled with a salty, savory mixture of hearty eggplant, fragrant ginger, spicy garlic, and tangy cilantro. These dumplings are time consuming and a might not be the best beginner recipe, but if you can manage, they are well worth the trouble.

There's a lot of prep work with chopping and mincing of garlic, ginger, and eggplant. For those who are afraid to try eggplant (or think you don't like it), you MUST try this recipe. One problem I think a lot of people have with eggplant is how it's prepared: usually cut in large pieces, and cooked in a way that makes it soggy and mushy. But not this time! The eggplant is chopped fine, then sauteed with the ginger and garlic. Soy sauce, black bean sauce (which is very salty), sesame oil, and cilantro are added to the mixture in the end, which is then set aside to cool.

In the meantime, you may need to prepare the skins. I couldn't find gyoza wrappers as the recipe suggested (which are basically a round, thinner version of your standard wonton skins), so I used the wontons. I cut them with a cup (which just happened to be 3 inches...the size of gyoza wrappers), about 24 and you'll have enough. Next, place about two teaspoons of the filling in the center of each wrapper, and pull up the sides to form a sort of pouch. Don't worry, they won't fall apart (as I thought they would do)...I'm starting to love the versatility and ease of working with wontons! Once all of the dumplings are formed, you'll need to steam them. I simply used a metal steamer basket in a pot of boiling water. Make sure the steamer is lightly oiled, or the dumplings will stick. Eight minutes, and they're done!

Oh yes, and don't forget the sauce! Simply mix soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, lemon juice, grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, and a sliced mini pepper (like serrano or Thai). Surprisingly, that little pepper adds a lot of heat to the dish! At first, I thought the sauce would be too salty and not go well with the salty dumplings...but they're actually a perfect complement for each other. I even thought maybe a sweet and sour dipping sauce would work here, but once you start dipping, you'll be addicted!

Make again? No questions asked!!! Perfect, no changes needed...other than doubling the recipe! This is by far as good (or better) than dumplings you'd get in a restaurant.

Eggplant Shu Mai Dumplings & Chili Sauce
Vegetarian Times, February 2006

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