Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings … Functional while Deliciously Cute

May 2019 Fam Din
Dumplings.

Potstickers.

Wontons.

Gyozas.

Mandu.

I love them all. And the Fam sure does too.

Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings
Dumplings have made their appearance at a few of our Family Dinners before and I happily oblige to make them since it gives me an excuse to make lots of extra to stash away in my freezer.

You know, for those dumpling emergencies.

We all have them….right?

Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings
I had been scrolling through Instagram a few weeks before my birthmonth’s Fam Din when I saw a pic of the cutest little dumplings that had shrimp tails sticking straight out of them. ADORABLE! I had never seen anything like them before and knew right then….. I HAD TO MAKE THEM!

Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings
One of my favorite Korean food blogs is Maangchi. She’s hilarious and her recipes are delish. In fact, the Korea Seafood Soft Tofu Stew we make is a slight variation of hers.

I recalled that she had a recipe for Shrimp and Asian Chive Dumplings (or mandu) where she added crumbled tofu and thought I would do the same for my dumplings.

May 2019 Fam Din
Now if you’re someone who says “EEEEWWWW….TOFU!”, let me say two things:

  1. Fresh tofu really has the mildest of flavor—if any! And in fact, they usually just take up the flavor profile of whichever sauce or seasonings it’s served with. As for these dumplings, it’s added solely to provide extra juiciness to the filling.
  2. Don’t Yuck My Yum.

That is all.

May 2019 Fam Din
As for the rest, I kept the filling pretty simple since the majority of the dumpling “pouch” would be filled up by a whole shrimp. So in addition to the crumbled tofu, I just added just some more chopped shrimp, fish sauce and a few aromatics. Easy peasy.

The end results were shimmy-shimmy good! There’s really something so satisfying about biting into a whole shrimp and having the rest of the filling be just so darn juicy.

I was also told that it was some of my family member’s favorite dumplings to date. And they can be a tough crowd!

May 2019 Fam Din
And as for the shrimp tail that proudly sticks out?

It’s not just for decor….

They became rather a handy mechanism to hold on to when picking up the dumpling to dunk into the sauce.

Functional and deliciously cute. Now that’s a killer combo.

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Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings
Makes approximately 40 dumplings

Ingredients:

Dumplings:
8 ounce block of firm tofu
40 butterflied whole shrimp, with tails intact
½ pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup chopped scallions
½ tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoons fish sauce sauce (more, if needed)
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 package dumpling wrappers (approximately 50 skins)

Dipping Sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang Black Vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes)

Press and drain your tofu by wrapping the block in a few sheets of paper towels and then place it on a large plate. Place another large plate on top of the tofu block and place a heavy object on top to weigh it down (e.g. a large can of veggies, a book, etc.). Allow the tofu to drain for about 15-20 minutes

Place the ½ pound of peeled and deveined shrimp in a food process. Pulse several times until the shrimp is well chopped up but has not yet become a paste. You can also hand chop the shrimp on a large cutting board. Once done, place into a bowl.

Crumble the drained tofu into the bowl of chopped shrimp. Add in the scallions, garlic, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, fish sauce and black pepper. Mix well to combine. Test the filling for seasoning by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and adjust the uncooked filling as needed.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling skin on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place one of the butterflied shrimp in the center of the wrapper, cut side down so that the tail lifts up. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the filling over the shrimp. Pick up the dumpling and fold the skin over the shrimp/filling. Begin pleating and pressing the edges together to seal around the tail. Place the filled dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/skins have been used.

To steam: Arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 8-10 minutes. The shrimp tails will become pink and opaque while the dumpling skins will become rather transparent. You can lightly squeeze the dumpling and feel that filling has become rather firm.

To pan-fry: Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Place a single layer of the dumplings in the pan. Fry the dumplings for 1-2 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Carefully pour in about 1/3 cup of water and immediately place a tight fitting lid over the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the dumplings to steam for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until all the water has evaporated. If you need to fry the dumplings in batches, use a paper towel to wipe the frying pan clean before repeating the above process.

While the dumplings steam/pan-fry, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dipping sauce and set aside.

Once the dumplings are steamed, transfer to a platter and serve immediately with sauce. ENJOY!

*If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 2-3 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings are frozen, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming.

 

 

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Pastas/Noodles · Seafood

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
Pasta is my kryptonite.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
It’s not just devouring it — I also love cooking pasta dishes, too!

My vice is way too accessible.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
So you can see the predicament I am constantly in.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
But not all pastas need to be heavy or sauce laden.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
In fact, one of my favorites is Linguine alle Vongole – long strands of pasta with clams in a white wine sauce.

YES PLEASE!

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
It’s really quite simple with just a handful of ingredients that are probably (besides the clams) are already hanging out in your pantry.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
As for those clams:

  • Triple check with your fish dude/dudette that they are fresh.
  • Take the time to ensure that you soak and clean them. Biting into sandy clams is NO BUENO!
  • Toss away any clams that do not open after you’ve cooked them because that means they’re D-E-D!  (Nope, not a typo. “DED” is “DEAD”…but wayyyyyy more.)

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
After you’ve done that, just infuse some olive oil with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes…..

throw in some white wine and your cleaned clams….

pop a lid on and wait until those molluscs open up!

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
Then it’s just a matter of tossing in the cooked linguine, butter (for a bit of added lusciousness), lemon and parsley.

Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
And then get ready to do a Happy Dance in your kitchen because your tummy will be so appreciative of you!

Buon Appetito!

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Linguine alle Vongole {Linguine with Clams}
Serves 2

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound clams (Manila clams, cockles, littlenecks), scrubbed and cleaned*
1/3 cup white wine
kosher salt
5 ounces dried linguine, or other long strand pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
½ cup chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes to infuse the oil. Swirl the skillet often to ensure that the garlic does not burn. Add the red pepper flakes and infuse for another minute.

Raise the heat to medium and allow the garlic and pepper flakes to cook for an additional 15-20 seconds. Add the clams to the skillet and pour in the wine. Once the liquids begin to bubble, place a cover over the skillet and allow the clams to steam open – approximately 5-8 minutes depending on their size.

While the clams cook, add salt to a pot of boiling water. Add the dried linguine and cook to just shy of al dente. (Note: If your pasta is not done by the time your clams have cooked through, turn off the heat on the skillet and keep it covered until the pasta is ready. Turn the heat back up to medium once you add the pasta.)

When your pasta is done check your clams and discard any that have not opened yet. Add the pasta directly into the skillet with the clams, tossing to coat. Add the butter and continue stirring/tossing until it has fully incorporated. If the pasta appears slightly dry, add ½ – 1 ladle of the pasta cooking water, continuously stirring to emulsify the sauce. Toss in the lemon juice, zest and chopped parsley. Plate the pasta and serve immediately.

*Rinse and scrub the clam shells with a small brush. Place the scrubbed clams in a dish and submerge with cool water. Place the dish in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Rinse the clams and change out the cool water every 20 minutes for an hour. If you still see sand/grit at the bottom of the dish at the end of an hour, repeat the soaking process for another 20-40 minutes.

 

Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Steamed Crab Dumplings – Happy Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Hello Peeps!

I’m taking a quick break from the Fam Din recaps (told ya’ I would be making up for lost time!) to say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Yes, it’s that time again…. Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
All of the my Tết prep has been dutifully followed.

The house is sparkly clean, the altar is up and I popped into the bank to get “new money” to fill the red lì xì envelopes for the munchkins.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
And OF COURSE, there has to be lots of “lucky” food!

There will be tons of noodles (longevity), fruit (auspicious) and Bánh Tét – steamed rice cakes (prosperity).

Steamed Crab Dumplings

And it wouldn’t be the new year if I wasn’t making lots and lots of dumplings that symbolize wealth. I’m fairly certain that I’ve made a couple hundred dumplings this month alone!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since the Year of the Pig rings in tomorrow, I thought I would take a moment to share with you these scrumptiously decadent dumplings I made for family dinner the other week.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Seester T had requested some type of crab dumplings for her Fam Din menu (more on that soon) so I got to work creating a filling that was truly indulgent and delish.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since I wanted the crab to shine, I kept the filling quite simple and only supplemented the shellfish with beech mushrooms and cabbage. I did toy around with the idea of adding water chestnuts because I thought the added texture would be nice. But a quick convo with seestrah N had me doubting it.

Good thing too because I did a quick straw poll at dinner where I found out that most of my fam do not like water chestnuts. Who knew?

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I will also say that this is definitely one of the times that I skipped the dirty work and bought pre-shelled lump crab meat. Who the heck wants to be picking through shells to get a pound of pure, luscious crab meat?!?

I definitely didn’t!

Steamed Crab Dumplings

But it you’re up for it, more power to ya!

ps. I got mine at Costco. The quality is reliable and the price is reasonable.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Once the filling was made, it was time to assemble. I did a little different fold on these dumplings that made them look like cute little pouches.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I started off with my tried and true pleated method but then coiled the edges around to seal them up.

I was quite happy with how they looked after they steamed up. ❤

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I suggest serving them with a generous drizzle of my homemade Sichuan oil but even a quick dunk in my soy-black vinegar sauce was delish too!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I got some solid feedback from the Fam on these so they’ll definitely be making appearances in the future. Added bonus – since the filling is so simple, they were actually quite easy and quick to make.

Though, I’ve got to give Costco some credit there for knocking out a few hours of manual labor. Thanks Costco!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
So with that, dear Friends– Here’s to a wonderful New Year! May yours be filled with health, prosperity, joy and endless Foodventures!

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Steamed Crab Dumplings
Makes approximately 45-50 dumplings

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
kosher salt
16 ounces cooked lump crab meat
4 ounces white beech mushrooms, chopped
½ tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoons fish sauce sauce (more, if needed)
½ teaspoon black pepper
50 thin dumpling wrappers
serve with: chopped scallions, sesame seeds, Sichuan oil

Place the cabbage in a colander; sprinkle it with about ½ teaspoon salt and let sit over a bowl for 20 minutes. Wrap the cabbage in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid and place the drained cabbage in a clean bowl.

Add in the crab, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, ½ teaspoon salt, fish sauce and pepper. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 4-5 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. Wet one corner of the dumpling and wrap/coil the other end together. Pinch and seal so that it creates an enclosed pouch. Place the dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.*

To cook, arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 7-8 minutes. Transfer the dumplings to a platter and sprinkle the tops with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately with Sichuan oil or your choice of sauce.

*If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 2-3 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings are frozen, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming.

 

Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Seafood with Chinese Chive Dumplings

April 2018 Fam Din
Remember these beauties?

They were one of the gajillion dumplings I had made for my Lucasaurus’ bday Fam Din.

It’s only fitting. He’s one of the generals in my Dumpling Army after all.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
Since the other dumplings were filled with either pork or chicken, it was a no-brainer that a seafood version had to join the party. I opted for a combo of shrimp and scallops but really, you can use anything you’d like.

And a perfect pairing to seafood are Chinese Chives — also known as Garlic Chives. Chinese Chives have a flavor that is a mix between scallions and onions –and they are HIGHLY aromatic.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
I use pre-packaged skins for these Seafood and Chinese Chives Dumplings and prefer the Shanghai style wrappers. I like their thinness and color once cooked.

Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings
I usually have a few packages tucked in my freezer for those times when I’m inspired to restock my dumplings stash.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings

Aren’t they adorable? Like little pouches?

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
Or like a roly poly?

Delicious — however you see them.

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
When it’s time to cook them, just line a steamer with either cabbage leaves….

Seafood & Chinese Chive Dumplings
…or sheets of parchment paper with holes cut into them. The holes allow the steam to vent through the levels and cook the dumplings through.

April 2018 Fam Din
After about 8 minutes – voila!

April 2018 Fam Din
Super juicy, plump and perfect when dunked in the soy-vinegar-chili-sesame sauce I’ve included below.

April 2018 Fam Din
Hope you like them! ❤

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Seafood with Chive Dumplings
Makes approximately 50-75 dumpings

Dumplings:
2 cups Chinese chives, roughly chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 small shallot
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound scallops
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or other preferred rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
50-75 Shanghai style dumpling skins
cabbage leaves for steaming (optional)
chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Dipping Sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang Black Vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes)

Place the chives, ginger, garlic and shallot in a food processor. Pulse several times until all of the ingredients have broken down and become roughly the same minced texture. Add the shrimp and scallops. Pulse until the seafood is chopped but not so much that it turns into a paste – you still want some pieces for texture. Add Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and peppers. Pulse just until the ingredients have combined. Note: You can also due this all by hand but I love the convenience of using a food processor.

Test the filling for seasoning by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and if needed, add more soy sauce or fish sauce to the uncooked filling.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling skin on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Next, choose one of the four following easy methods to seal the dumplings:

  1. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent shape and seal the entire edge by pinching the seam together. These dumplings will lay flat like my Sui Gao. -OR-
  2. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent. Starting from the left side, pleat – fold – and press the edges together, ensuring that you seal the entire dumpling tightly. These dumplings will lay flat but pleated like my Gyoza. -OR-
  3. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 3-4 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. This will create a flat bottom to allow the dumpling to sit upright and form a slight crescent shape like these Pan Fried Dumplings. -OR-
  4. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half into a crescent shape and seal the entire edge by pinching the seam together. Next, create pleats from the left side all the way to the right side—pinching well to hold. *This is how the dumplings in these photos were folded.

Whichever method you choose, place the filled dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/skins have been used. Arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 8-10 minutes.

While the dumplings steam, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dipping sauce and set aside.

Once the dumplings are steamed, transfer to a platter and sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds on top. Serve immediately with sauce. ENJOY!

*If you would like to freeze the dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 4-5 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings have froze, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming the dumplings.*

 

Seafood

Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura

March 2018 Fam Din
There are some foods that after one bite, I find myself saying…

“Damn. That’s luxurious.”

And it doesn’t even mean having to use expensive ingredients – though, it definitely doesn’t hurt.

March 2018 Fam Din
A lot of times, that sentiment is evoked for me just based on texture.

Just think about how you feel when you take a bite of crème brûlée. Hopefully, if it is was prepared well, it should be thick and rich with a great mouthfeel. It should make you want to move your mouth around so that the creamy custard hits all of your taste buds and sensors.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I had chawanmushi – a traditional Japanese egg custard. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant I first had chawanmushi at. All I recall is that it was a tiny little spot we had stumbled into when we were in Osaka years ago. My friends and I didn’t speak a bit of Japanese but had somehow managed to order the most delicious bowls of soba. I guess we amused our host (and the fact that he was incredibly generous) because he brought out several dishes for us to try.

Chawanmushi was one of them.

I recall the bowl was simply adorned with fish cake slices and mushrooms but it was the custard itself that was surprising. It was incredibly light, beautifully silky while having a fresh sea flavor to it.

And that was it.

March 2018 Fam Din
Since then, I’ve enjoyed several variations of it—sometimes with chunks of seafood in the base, sometimes more veggie forward. But always oishi.

At our recent egg themed Fam Din, it was the perfect time make my own chawanmushi. The base of the custard is quite simple to assemble. All we did was combine eggs, seafood stock, dashi and bonito together. And because I’m obsessed with trying to use my sous vide device as much as possible, I put them in little mason jars.

After sealing the jars, I sous vide them at 176 degrees F for an hour. Before serving, we topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

March 2018 Fam Din
Not only did the uni and ikura add to the decadence level and gentle seafood flavor but the little pops from the ikura were a fun little surprise. The Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura was then served with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture.

Next time I may add some big chunks of prawns and beech mushrooms to the custard, too. Or maybe even lobster or crab?

Options are endless.

March 2018 Fam Din
Perfect to serve at brunch or as a light appetizer, the beauties are sure to have you and your guests do a little happy food-shimmy.

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Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried bonito shavings
21⁄4 cups seafood stock
2 teaspoons dashi powder
3 large eggs
flaked salt
12 pieces fresh uni (sea urchin)
3-4 ounces fresh ikura (salmon roe)
sliced scallions/chives
serve with senbei (Japanese rice crackers)

In a small pot, combine the bonito shavings and seafood stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the shavings to simmer and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the stock in a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Stir in the dashi. Allow to slightly cool.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs. You’ll want to ensure the yolks and whites have combined but do so gently as to not create too many bubbles. Pour in about one of cup of the heated broth while gently stirring to combine. Once incorporated and slightly tempered, add the rest of the stock and gently stir.

Divide the custard mixture, pouring through a fine mesh strainer, between six 4-ounce mason jars. Try not to shake or disturb the custard too much as you want to avoid air bubbles. Seal the jars tightly with their respective lids.

Submerge the jars in a secure container of water (pot, food safe bin, etc.)  that has been heated to 176 degrees F. Sous vide the custards at the 176 degrees F temperature for one hour. Once done, carefully remove the jars from the water bath allow to slightly cool. If you prefer not to sous vide, cover each dish/jar and steam for 15-20 minutes.

When it’s time to serve, remove the lids and sprinkle each with a few pinches of salt flakes (we like Maldon for the texture and flavor), 2 pieces of uni, a spoonful of ikura and some scallions/chives. Serve with your choice of senbei on the side.

 

Adapted from Nomiku blog

Pork · Seafood

Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil Sauce – Happy Lunar New Year!!!

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
Friends, today is the beginning of Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year!

As with every new year, I’ve done all the rituals like scrubbed down the house, prepared an altar of traditional Tết goodies and went to the bank to get crisp “new money” to stuff all the bags of lì xì for the munchkins.

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce

Man…I miss the good ol’ days when I was the one collecting stacks of lì xì. Now, Cô Nam just doles out the red envelopes.

Being a grown up is seriously overrated. But at least there’s still all the good food!

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
Every year I look forward to eating copious amounts of fried Bánh Tét with Dưa Món. Bánh Tét are steamed sticky rice cakes and are cylindrical in shape. Bánh Chưng are essentially the same but are shaped as squares.

The savory ones are filled with pork belly and mung beans. Although they can be eaten just as is, I prefer it fried so the crust is nice and crispy but the interior is still soft. SOOOOO good! And of course, it’s best eaten with a side of Dưa Món – pickled veggies.

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
Bánh Tét/Bánh Chưng are not something my family make—well, at least not since I’ve been alive!

It’s REALLY a time consuming process and it’s one of those things that if you’re going to go through the efforts to make a few, you might as well make 100. But that would take you foh-evah!

So like most Vietnamese folks nowadays, we buy ours. But we still like to cook other traditional Tết dishes.

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to include some dishes in my yearly rituals that we didn’t grow up eating for Tết. And dumplings definitely top that list!

Sure, our Chinese kin definitely prepare and eat a variety of dumplings as a part of their Lunar New Year traditions. They’re eaten for luck because they symbolize wealth and richness as their shape resembles Chinese gold ingots.

But hey–if it can bring luck and taste delicious, why not adopt the practice, right?

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
I’ve shared a few of my favorite dumpling versions with you before like:

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
But for this year’s Tết, I thought I would share with you my Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce.

They. Are. So. Dang. Tasty.

But what’s the difference between a dumpling and a wonton?

Honestly I’ve found that the answer changes depending on the person you’ve asked. But generally folks tell me that dumplings are often quite plump and are steamed or pan-fried. Wontons are most often boiled and served in soups or a broth. The wrappers (or skins) are also supposed to be really thin and since they aren’t filled as much as the former, it allows the soup/broth/sauce to stick to the excess dough. That way, you can just slurp them up!

Oh…and some say that wontons only use square wrappers and dumplings use a round shape. But really… you can call them whatever you want —because I’ll take ANY version of them.

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
These Sichuan Wontons are filled with a 1:1 ratio of pork to shrimp. And unlike my other dumplings, I don’t add much filler other than aromatics. No cabbage, no mushrooms—just protein and few other things.

Why?

Because the co-star of this dish truly is the Chili Oil Sauce that it’s pretty much bathed in. The sauce starts off with my homemade Sichuan Chili Oil. Does it have to be homemade? Well…technically no. But it makes SUCH a difference. And not only is my recipe super easy but it lasts a long time in your fridge!

The chili oil is then combined with soy, Chinese black vinegar (there’s really no substitute for it), sugar and a couple of other items. Simple right? That’s because the homemade oil is so aromatic that it needs very little else!

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
And if you’re REALLY fiery, after you’ve sauced the wontons, you can add a few extra dollops of the Sichuan Chili Oil everything. You can sure bet that I do—but perhaps dial it down a bit if you’re serving little ones.

There are also several different ways to fold wontons as I’ve shown above but I generally just go for the standard “ingot” fold as I’ve described in the recipe.

Sichuan Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce
And with that dear friends, let Bella and I wish you all Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!! May the Year of the Dog be filled with happiness, good health, prosperity and endless Foodventures!

ps. Bella believes EVERY year is the Year of the Dog.

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Sichuan Wontons in Chili Oil Sauce
Makes approximately 80 wontons

Ingredients:

For the wontons:
4 scallions
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 small shallot
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 pound shrimp, peeled and roughly chopped
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or other preferred rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
80-100 square wonton wrappers

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang Black Vinegar
½ tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes)
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced scallions

For garnish:
chopped fresh cilantro
chopped scallions
toasted sesame seeds

Place the scallions, ginger, cloves, shallot and cilantro in a food processor. Pulse several times until all of the ingredients have broken down and become roughly the same minced texture. Add the shrimp and pulse until everything has combined and the shrimp has turned into somewhat of a paste. Add the pork, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and pepper. Pulse just until the ingredients have fully combined.

Test the filling for seasoning by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and if needed, add more soy sauce or fish sauce to the uncooked filling.

Begin assembling the wontons. Place one wonton wrapper down on a flat surface so that it points towards you. Dip the tip of your finger into water and moisten the top two edges of the wrapper. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wonton wrapper. Fold the bottom corner (the one nearest you) over the filling so that it meets the top point and forms a triangle. Press down to seal the edges of the triangle while pressing out any air that may have been trapped inside. Add a dab of water to the two outer corners of the triangle and fold in so that they meet. Press corners together to firmly seal. Place the wonton on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.

Prepare the sauce by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the wontons to the pot (no more than a dozen or so at a time) and lower the heat so that it’s at a steady but not rapid boil. Constantly stir so that they do not stick together. Allow the wontons to cook for about 3 minutes or until the wrappers become translucent and the filling has cooked through. Use a large slotted spoon or kitchen spider to remove and drain the wontons. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the sauce over the wontons. Garnish with scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Seafood

Tomato-Fennel Mussels

Mussels

Tomato-Fennel Mussels.

Let me tell you, Folks. This is the kind of dish that I want to enjoy a big ol’ bowl of while sitting on my balcony …. watching the ocean waves roll onto the sand with the sun just barely setting. Oh–and of course with a fantastic chilled glass of Sancerre in hand.

Perfection, right?

September 2017 Fam Din

Only problem is–although the beach is just a short bit away, there are a bunch of pesky buildings and homes blocking my view. How inconsiderate of them, right?

Oh….and I also don’t have a balcony.

So instead, I’ll just sit on the living floor while diving into this scrumptious bowl of mussels and watch whichever show I’m binge-watching on Netflix at the moment.

Pretty much the same right? Just splitting hairs, really.

September 2017 Fam Din
I love making mussels. They’re super easy and quick to whip up for guests or if you’re dining solo. And as far as seafood goes, they’re a great bang for your buck!

I usually make Spicy Mussels in White Wine or Belgian Beer Mussels with Frites as they’re both so low maintenance but these Tomato-Fennel Mussels really do bring such a different profile. Just as easy but the addition of the fennel, crushed tomatoes and clam juice create a rich and an intensively flavorful sauce–particularly when the liquor of the mussels join the party. They smell divine while bubbling away and are perfection when you serve it with toasted baguette or ciabatta to soak up all that goodness. In fact, the sauce is thick enough (but not too thick) that it can be served over linguine or other long stranded pasta.

Whatever the setting you end up having these mussels at, you’re going to love them!

ps. And if you’re anything like my Seestrah, add a few threads of saffron when you pour in the tomatoes. She’s fancy like that! ❤

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Tomato-Fennel Mussels
Serves approximately 4-6

Ingredients:

1 small fennel bulb with fronds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup diced white onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
5 pounds black mussels, scrubbed and debearded
kosher salt
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Cut the fennel bulb from the stalk, reserving the fronds. Dice the bulb and roughly chop the fronds. Set aside separately.

Heat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, butter and swirl around the pot. Once the oil begins shimmering and the butter has melted, add in the onions and chopped fennel bulb. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute until fragrant. Pour in the wine and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Keep stirring until the wine nearly evaporates.

Pour in the clam juice and can of crushed tomatoes with its juices. Stir in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Partially cover the pot and allow everything to come to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the ingredients for 10-15 minutes stirring once or twice during that time.

Uncover the pot and turn up the heat to medium. Once the items starting bubbling, add in the mussels. Stir a few times so that they become coated in the tomato sauce and place the lid back on the pot. Allow the mussels to steam for 5-7 minutes until they have all opened.

Remove the lid, stir the mussels around a few times and taste the sauce. Add additional salt as necessary. Discard of the thyme stems and bay leaves. Fold in the fresh parsley and half of the chopped fennel fronds. Transfer the mussels and the sauce into a large serving dish. Garnish with the remaining fennel fronds and serve with warm bread.