Beyond Wonton’s & Momo’s

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I am a self confessed dumpling freak!

I kid you not, i can eat dumplings of all kinds and at any time of the day or night. Until a few years back, the only kind of dumplings i was exposed to was the humble Tibetan Momo and the Chinese HunTun (Wanton) and Shao Mai ( popular in India as Shu Mai). As i got more familiar with cooking and cultures, i discovered the Gnocchi, followed by the heartwarming American Chicken Dumpling, the Jewish Kreplach, Knodel, the Chinese Har Gow. As i enjoyed every kind with every mouthful, it set me thinking about its origins. A dumpling is a part of every culture. In some form of the other every country has their own version. They seemed to have originated in peasant homes, possibly to feed hungry stomachs, and add richness to stews alongside. In India itself, we have the Gatte ki sabji in Gujarat, the steamed/ fried Modaks in Maharashtra, Pidi and Kadabu & Puttu from the south and many more that I don’t even know of. But this post is not about the history of these bite sized treasures. Its about the Pierogi, a delicious potato and bacon dumpling from Eastern Europe. I first was introduced to the Pierogi, on a road trip through the countryside of Slovakia. We were driving for a few hours, traveling from Hungary to Poland and were served these amazing treats in a small local village we stopped at for refuelling. They were served warm with a drizzling of lard, fried bacon bits and caramelized onions and Oh!!! a big bowl of fresh local sour cream!:)

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I vividly remember the first bite. And then the other. Before long i had polished the entire plate off while my vegetarian travel partner looked at me nonplussed. That one experience was enough to get me hooked. This was like no other dumpling i had ever eaten. Over the next month, while we scoured most of eastern Europe, i discovered various versions of this dish. Some were lightly fried, not unlike pot-stickers, some had regional fillings such as sauerkraut, beef , mushrooms, even corn meal. I even discovered a sweet version, with poached berries as a filling. Dumplings of any kind are not the easiest food to make. But thats what makes the result so worth it. The best thing to do is to make them in a group, with friends or with your children and partner. Eat whats needed, freeze the rest. They are comforting, full filling and heartwarming, and open up a range of cultures for you to welcome.

Polish Pierogi 

Dough

1 cup plain flour

1 large egg

1/4 tsp salt

just a spoon or two of water

Filling

Every dumpling has a traditional filling which could vary from season to season. But there’s no harm in using whatever’s at hand and what your taste-buds approve of. Traditional Pierogi, contain a filling of mashed potatoes, pork bacon, lard. But in an attempt to be frugal and healthy, i substituted the pork with pepperoni i had at hand, and the lard with olive oil. The result was the same as that dreamy old Slovakian Pierogi experience.

2 boiled potatoes Pepper according to taste

Salt

Bacon bits/ Sausages/ Pepperoni/ or any other meaty additions you would want

1 garlic flake ( optional)

2 tbsp of chopped onions

Procedure

Make the dough by kneading the flour, eggs, salt and water together. The dough should feel smooth and soft and pliable.

Leave to rest for 20 mins while u prepare the filling.

Mix thoroughly the mashed potatoes, meat, salt, pepper, onions, garlic. Do not press mashed potatoes too hard or they start getting starchy and sticky.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add a couple of spoons of chopped onions. While they brown, add chopped bacon. I used chopped Pepperoni. Let the mixture sizzle until its brown and crispy.

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Image   There are many ways of putting a dumpling together. Some make small tortillas, fill them up and press together to create roundish dumplings. I have an easy way out to make good looking dumplings. Roll out dough as thin as you can with a rolling pin. Make sure you roll it either left to right OR top to bottom. in the end it should look like a long rag and not round. Use plain flour or semolina for dusting. On one side spoon the filling in a row.  Fold the other side of the dough over and press down. Then take a cookie cutter shaped in a circle or a crescent and press down wherever there is a mound of filling. You will find this way easy and you can make more dumplings in a shorter time.

Boil a pot of hot water. Add a tbsp of salt.

When boiling, slip in the dumplings. When they bubble up to the surface and begin floating, they are ready to be drained.

Once drained, place on a plate. Drizzle the fried onions, bacon and oil on the boiled Peirogi. Garnish with finely chopped parsley and serve hot with sour cream or regular fresh cream.

If you have any remaining dough left and want to get rid of, roll it out, cut with a pizza cutter into thick or thin strips to make fresh Fettuccine or Tagliatelle. Dust with enough flour and store in an airtight bag for future use.

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You could also make small squares, fill them with honey and raisins or jam and fry/ bake them for a sweet something or fill with spiced shrimp and tofu for a China Town snack 🙂

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Whatever the filling, the dough for most common dumplings is the same. Go ahead and explore!

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