a tale of two dumplings…

….hyperbole to the rescue

I checked out of my kitchen for a week, and have traveled solo to meet up with one of my Louises. It was time to breathe in some Rocky Mountain air, attempt a little yoga, ski some quiet XC trails and laugh until dawn. I’ve been asked by Husband to kindly avoid breaking anything important, which was not so much directed toward the skiing, but the yoga. Or possibly the competitive karaoke afterwards.

Thelma and Louise West

But I had a few thoughts on the way out the door…

I often throw out words like yucky and revolting; and I don’t simply dislike something to express discontent, I loathe it. On the other end of the spectrum, I love and adore with reckless abandon, and divine tends to be my descriptor for approval. I’m unafraid of hyperbole – it’s a silly vehicle that can be an endearing sign of optimism or a crafty foil for life’s less amusing moments. I blame genetics. For example:

“He is the cutest child to ever walk the face of the earth.”
“That was the most ghastly movie I’ve ever had to endure.”

~ Mother

Apparently I’ve also inherited her incredulous gaze along with an impish paternal glint, neither of which is easy to hide. I’m ready for anything, except maybe a poker game or a witness stand. If my big mouth doesn’t give me away, my expression surely will.

Overall I’ve been pretty happy with my kitchen adventures; plenty of definitive wins, but there have been quite a few duds too. There’s a spectrum for my cooking and lying in-between divine wins and yucky duds is the other half. These are the not-dreadful-but-not-spectacular meals which occupy the culinary grey area. They don’t qualify for a cute hyperbolism and are neither post-worthy nor photo-ready. I hate to get all mathy here, but when I make something that falls in the 60th percentile on the yumminess spectrum, I have to ask: what can I do to bump it to the 75th? Yes, I try to fix it. The worst that can happen is it remains not divine.

So about those dumplings…

Tofu, spinach, cilantro and chile crisp dumplings

My stubborn insistence on making things complicated has now boxed me into sharing some non-existent witty tale about dumplings. I did make dumplings, but tale is overstating it; it’s more of a little parable. Sorry about that. But if you are at all surprised by my exaggeration you aren’t keeping up.

It’s really quite simple. On the same weekend as the Super Bowl, and with Valentines Day immediately after, I chose to honor Chinese New Year with not one, but two types of homemade dumplings. One was pan-fried chile crisp tofu dumplings and the other, steamed Tibetan Tsak Sha Momos with ground beef.

They were both okay, but not quite home runs. The chile crisps were zippy and fried, but lacked depth. The momos were steamed and savory, but without intense flavor. I had already made hundreds (dozens) of meh dumplings, and still had half of each stuffing mix left, when it dawned to me to combine the two. In true all-or-nothing fashion I was banking on an exponential leap:

Could meh + meh = divine?

Possibly. My boy, Food Taster and Husband agreed fried>steamed and so I pinched out another 75 hybrid dumplings. The mutants were crispy, vibrant, savory, well-balanced and riddled with garlic, ginger and cilantro. Victory!

the winner: combining both stuffings made pan-fried perfection

There is not a whole lot of middle ground for me, but in my defense, it’s not like anyone ever has to wonder what I’m thinking. Food Taster is also a fairly “black and white” thinker, so I’m constantly reminding him that most of life happens in those grey areas. (h/t genetics) Despite our fascination with extremes, and the last five years have shown us plenty, we need to navigate and embrace the median…and possibly help shift it toward divine. I’d do well to occasionally follow some of my own good advice.

While fine, but less than perfect is comfortably attainable, we might not always have to settle, especially when there is an obvious path to more. I’m not talking about volume or quantity. As an architecture student I was taught the Mies Van Der Rohe mantra “less is more.” While he was addressing the design principles of clarity and simplicity, it also righteously implies that more is actually less. Daddy and I would both argue that more is more. The trick is understanding what the “more” you are seeking really is: more spicy, more delicious, more healthy, more convenient? Maybe you need more adventures or more down time or more freedom, energy, connection, intention.

Your dumplings, your call.

I’m the worst kind too

cheat sheet

  • Frozen dumpling wrappers are wonderful for these. But remember each recipe makes thousands, which is hyperbole for 75.
  • But I made two recipes so it felt like thousands.
  • Firm tofu with the moisture pressed out is important so you don’t have soggy dumplings that pop in the hot oil.
  • Same applies to the spinach – don’t skip the step when you pull the moisture with salt.
  • Watch a few dumpling-making videos or the dumpling scene from Crazy Rich Asians for inspiration and courage.
  • A bamboo steamer is festive, but most multi-function slow cookers have a steam function and accompanying basket that works great.
  • Zippy, inventive sauces can often fix the most boring dumplings. But not always.

the rest of the weekend

2 thoughts on “a tale of two dumplings…

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