charmaine solomon

making dumplings from scratch


Another one to add to #opshopbooks. This is a goody. Look out for it!

I love Charmaine Solomon.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating.  Love.  The thing is, she makes asian food so accessible.

Like this recipe. For example she notes that if you don’t have Chinese cooking wine you can use dry sherry.  I expect that dry sherry was much more widely available than Chinese cooking wine 20 years ago when ‘Charmaine Solomon’s Asian Collection’ was first published (in 1995 to be exact).

I was inspired to make my own dumplings after India went to a birthday party and made them.  Yoyo, India’s friend, was born in China, and her Dad Oliver was like, ‘really, doesn’t everyone make their own dumplings from scratch?’.

And I thought, well, if everyone else does (including 8 year olds) then I can too. Right?

And I can. And you can.  And here’s a good recipe.  I have made these quite a few times.  Page 60 if you have the cookbook.  Page 59 for the photo …


see the little box pleats …

Shanghai Dumplings

  • 350g minced pork
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese wine or dry sherry
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 185 grams of plain flour

and …

  • Chinese red vinegar for dipping
  • light soy sauce for dipping

Mix together the pork, salt, soy sauce, wine, finely chopped spring onions and grated ginger. Slowly beat in 4 tablespoons of water.  This makes the filling juicy (it really does).

Measure the flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in 125ml of cold water.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon or chopsticks mix the dough, working from the middle and gradually incorporating the flour.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 or 6 minutes.  The dough will become very smooth.

On a floured surface, roll the dough thinly and cut about 24 circles about 6cm in diameter.  Place a small teaspoon of the meat mixture in the middle of each round.  Make two box pleats on one side of the circle. Dampen the edges with water and seal them together to make the dumplings.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the dumplings and when they rise to the top and the water bubbles furiously, add 250ml of cold water.  Once more let the water bubble up, then add another 250ml of cold water.  This keeps the dough firm and prevents bursting.

Serve hot.  Combine equal amounts of the Chinese red vinegar and a light soy sauce for dipping.

Easy huh?

my copy of the complete asian cookbook

I really love cooking, and a few years ago my sister decided to buy me ‘the best cookbooks ever’.  She looked online for a top 10 type list, found one she liked, and started buying them for me.  I have been searching online for the list she was working from, but can’t find it*.  Anyway, here we go:

I already had the snazzy hardcovers:

  • Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion
  • David Thompson’s Thai Food
  • Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest

She added to these with the paperbacks of:

  • Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and
  • Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking.

Next came:

  • Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

I LOVED these new books (more in another post), but on with the story I am telling …

She was then struggling.  She searched high and low for Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook but it was out of print. Next birthday she bought me a cookbook not on the list, and explained the drama.  Keep an eye out, she said.


The Complete Asian Cookbook

MY copy of The Complete Asian Cookbook

I found it!  … after about a year of looking in every op shop I entered (and about 6 weeks before the swanky NEW GORGEOUS HARDBACK EDITION was published).  It was at the Anglesea op shop, covered in a homemade plastic cover, and I bought it for only a couple of dollars.  I was SO excited.  What a coup!  It looked pretty tatty at first, but once I took the clear plastic cover off it was like a new book (well a new book published 30 odd years ago …).

I (and thus my family) abandoned our middle eastern/italian diet as Charmaine became my new best (cooking) friend.

That Christmas we were having a low key event (just my parents, my in-laws and Elise’s family) for dinner.  I thought ‘what a great opportunity to make Peking Duck from scratch, pancakes and all’ (thanks Clive for your help with those).

If you have attempted this you will understand why we ate dinner quite late.  The preparation went smoothly (if a tad messy with the red food dye – that stuff is lethal) the cooking was easy, but the whole ‘organisation at the end’ including the carving left a bit to be desired!  In saying this it really was super yummy, and nearly worth the effort.  I might even do it again one day (although definitely with less than 14 guests).

What I love about this cookbook though, Peking Duck included, is that it was written before every ingredient under the sun was available and so the recipes taste just as you remember when you last ate them at the chinese/malaysian/indonesian/korean restaurant, but they are made with really straight forward ingredients.

For example, the other week we had no food in the cupboard.  I looked in the freezer and there was a bag of frozen prawns and some green beans.  I proceeded to look up ‘beans’ and found ‘green, with prawns’.  Tick, tick.

That night we ate Saewoo Bokum, with rice … a great, simple, subtle and tasty Korean dish that I would highly recommend any night you only have your freezer for inspiration.

Here’s the recipe (page 448 in the 1977 edition).

Saewoo Bokum (green beans with prawns) – Serves 6

  • 500 grams small prawns
  • 500 grams green beans
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of toasted, crushed sesame seeds

Shell and de-vein prawns, chop them roughly and set aside.  Top and tail the beans, remove strings with a sharp knife, cut into thin diagonal slices [or open the bag of prepared frozen beans all ready to go].  Heat oil in wok and stir fry the onion and prawns together for 2 minutes, add beans and stir fry for 3 minutes.  Add seasoning and mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for 6-8 minutes or until beans are just tender.  They must not be overcooked.  Serve at once with rice.

Delicious.  Thanks Charmaine!

* Elise has found the link to the article she used.  See her comment or click here.