recipe

Credit: EARL CARTER

Prawn and chicken dumplings with spiced vinegar

I think I’ve said before that you can’t trust someone who doesn’t like dumplings. I’m yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like a good dumpling. Most European or Asian countries have their own variation on the theme.

I’ve been making these dumplings for a while now. The recipe has been tested, developed and workshopped – more than most of the recipes I cook – and it is a recipe of which I am really proud. I was quite particular about how I wanted it to taste and how I wanted the texture. 

The vision was to have a dumpling that had a subtly flavoured chicken filling studded with large pieces of sweet and crunchy prawn. 

It’s not just the combination of flavours that I’m proud of here but also the development of the technique of making the dumpling filling. The main factor is how we work the minced chicken to develop a firm texture. The other element that contributes to this mouth feel is the size of the dice on the prawn meat. Too small and it gets broken down and indistinguishable. One of the best things about prawn meat is its texture, and I think that is really apparent in this dish.

There are traditional and regional versions of this dish. Prawn dumplings with garlic chives is an obvious one, and was a favourite of mine when I lived in China.

One of the influences of the balance of flavour in this dish is a need to accommodate the complex vinegar that we serve with it. The vinegar we use is a brown rice vinegar called Chinkiang. It has a lovely yellow label but more importantly it has a unique flavour and sweetness, which is great with dumplings. The famous xiaolongbao is served with this on the side, flavoured with shredded ginger.

Handmade and hand-rolled wonton skins are great, but I quite like store-bought skins for this recipe. When boiled and served immediately the flavour and texture of the wanton skin is almost superfluous.

 

Prawn and chicken dumplings with spiced vinegar

Makes about 20 dumplings

– 250g peeled, raw prawns, de-veined

– 1 tsp egg white

– ½ tsp salt

– ½ tsp tapioca starch

– ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

– 1 tsp grapeseed oil

– 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic chives

– 250g minced (ground) chicken

– ¼ tsp sesame oil

– pinch of sugar

– ¼ tsp fish sauce

– 1½ tsp soy sauce

– pinch of ground white pepper

– 1 packet yellow wonton wrappers

 

Spiced vinegar

– 1 star anise

– ¼ tsp coriander seeds

– ½ cinnamon stick

– 2 cloves

– 200ml water

– 70ml Chinese black vinegar

– 70ml soy sauce

– 1½ tbsp sugar

– 30g thinly sliced spring onion 

– 125ml chilli crisp sauce (we use Lao Gan Ma brand)

 

In a bowl, combine the prawns with egg white, half the salt, the tapioca and bicarbonate of soda and place in the refrigerator to marinate for one hour.

To make the spiced vinegar, toast the spices in a small, dry frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add 200 millilitres of water and bring to the boil. Boil until reduced by half. Set aside to cool. When cool, strain and discard the spices. Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook the garlic chives for one minute then scrape them into a bowl to cool. Take the prawns from the refrigerator and coarsely dice one-third of them. Finely chop the remainder of the prawns into a mince. Mix the prawn and chicken mince together and combine them by repeatedly throwing the mixture against the inside of the mixing bowl. It will become a sticky, cohesive mass. (This strengthens the protein to give the mixture a firmer texture.) Finally, add the cooked garlic chives, sesame oil, sugar, remaining salt, and the fish sauce, soy sauce and white pepper. Thoroughly mix these ingredients through the mince.

To make the dumplings, place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the centre of a wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half towards you, to enclose the filling. Press to seal. Fold the sealed edge of the wonton back on itself then lightly moisten one corner of the folded edge with water. Finally, taking the two ends in your fingers, bring them together with a twisting action, and press them firmly to join. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.

Cook the dumplings in batches for four minutes in a large saucepan of boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Serve immediately with some spiced vinegar spooned over the top.

 

Wine pairing:

2016 Somos by Juguette barbera rosé, McLaren Vale ($30) – Leanne Altmann, wine buyer, Supernormal and Meatsmith

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 3, 2017 as "Prawn again dumplings". Subscribe here.

Andrew McConnell
is the executive chef and co-owner of Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc.