Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Some Red Some Green--Pan-Fried Pork Dumplings with Green Sauce

Lunch is mostly a revamped version of last night's dinner. Sometimes it is just that.......
leftovers. The previous day's lunch comes in a riot of red. Red because dinner was noodles drenched in gochujang sauce. Sitting in a heap besides the noodles were strands of store-bought radish kimchi, nestled next to nuggets of Korean fried chicken. It is a panorama of firecracker red, coral and crimson, neatly portioned on a plate. Two out of three come off the shelf from an enthusiastic shopping expedition. 

Why this palate of red? Reason being I finally made my way to HMart again. I am literally the kid in this Korean store. Eyes dart from exotic but reasonably priced perilla leaves to mounds of maitake mushrooms. The fish counter blows me out of the water! I have to contain myself as I am the only avid seafood eater in my house. I move away reluctantly towards the sizzling tofu counter. Going to HMart on weekends is like walking into Korean tapas demo. Food stations, dotted all over the store, entice you with Asian pear, sautéed mushrooms, kimchi, tofu, mung bean pancakes, and bulgogi. My fingers spear and savor. I am used to the solitary nibble at Trader Joe's, mostly prepackaged food I wouldn't normally buy! So this array of Korean delights makes me salivate. It gets me in the mood for something Asian. And since the plate of red leaves my mouth smarting from fiery spices, I take a break from the mouth-numbing chile. How about dumplings? They cook fast, usually boiled in hot water and sprinkled with soy sauce. Then I remember having pan-fried dumplings with a vinegary green sauce in Bombay at the now-defunct Chopsticks restaurant. I remember Rehan inhaling them. This should bring back pleasant memories for both of us. 

Trader Joe's carries frozen pork dumplings along with chicken and shrimp fillings too. The pork ones are the most popular in this kitchen. I lay the dumplings in a large pan with water and let them steam. Cilantro, mint and little minced green chili lifts my spirits as I take in their fresh aroma. I can hear the sizzle of the crusty bottoms. Lunch is served!

Serves 4

1 package Pork Dumplings (Trader Joe's or any frozen brand of dumpling)
1/4 cup Water
2 teaspoons (or more)Canola oil

Green Sauce
1/2 cup Cilantro 
10 Mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced Green Chile (more if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon Sugar
3 teaspoons White Vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Arrange the dumplings flat side down in a nonstick saucepan. 

Pour the water around dumplings and set the pan over a medium flame. Once the water begins to bubble, cover with a lid and let dumplings steam for 5 minutes.


Start the green sauce by chopping cilantro, mint and green chiles very fine.

 Put them into a bowl along with sugar, vinegar and salt. Mix well and keep aside.

Dribble canola oil into pan, letting it run between dumplings.

Using a spatula, gently move dumplings so they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add more oil if necessary.

Increase the flame and let the bottoms of dumplings crisp up. This should take a few minutes.

Plate the dumplings in a concentric fashion.

Drizzle green sauce over dumplings. 

Lunch opens a waterfall of memories. And I let them wash over me as I fork a dumpling. I can see green sauce in white ramekins on glass topped tables. Narrow white plates of brown dumplings are served by white-coat waitstaff. Dad encourages the waiter to give Rehan the entire portion. Rehan gleefully polishes the plate and asks for more. Mum looks on approvingly. A simple lunch of dumplings reminds me of home. Makes my eyes brim. Fills my heart with sadness but soothes the soul.