When I was in New York last week, I had the great pleasure to meet and work with Wai Hon Chu, the co-author of The Dumpling (William Morrow, 2009). I’d heard about Wai’s book last year and was eager to find out what his international coverage of dumplings would be like. I’m always looking for good resources to add to my library and culinary understanding. Turns out that Wai often teaches classes and assists at the Bowery Whole Foods Culinary Center in New York – where I taught last Saturday, October 31. So in between prepping and conducting the class, we geeked out on dumplings, discussing technique, ingredients and the writing process.
Wai and his writing partner, Connie Lovatt, worked many years on this collection that spans the globe to capture the world of dumplings. It was a difficult task as they had to come up with cohesive definition of dumpling. For my Asian Dumplings cookbook, I spent a fair time researching and defining Asia and Asian dumplings, but how do you unify Alsatian matzo balls and Nigerian moyin moyin with Japanese mochi, Korean mandu, and Tibetan momos? Wai flipped his book over and pointed to the back of the jacket to this definition:
A dumpling is a portion of dough, batter, or starchy plant fare, solid or filled, that’s cooked through wet heat, and is not a strand or a ribbon.Whoa – there’s no deep-frying! “It’s all about wet heat,” Wai explained. Ah, that was how he and Connie reigned in the recipe collection and connected their dots. Not all the recipes will seem like dumplings to you as The Dumpling includes some puddings and cakes. But authors have to define their subject and stick to their guns. There are well-written recipes in this book that aren’t often seen in many cookbooks published in the U.S., such as Indian khaman khokla (chickpea squares with mustard seed and spiced oil) and Lebanese kibbet raheb (lemony lentil-chard soup with bulgur dumplings) and Australian dumplings and cocky’s joy (doughnut like dumplings poached in golden syrup). How many Italian cookbooks do we need on our shelves? The Dumpling is a terrific work for anyone wanting to expand their culinary horizons.
The Dumpling presents the recipe collection by the month, which I admit to not really liking at first. But when I read the introduction, Wai and Connie explain that certain ingredients are at their peak in certain times of the year so why not assign seasonality to dumplings? However, they admit that cooks don’t have to adhere to their logic, which is why there are multiple indices in the back so that you can scan the recipes by region and type.
Wai gifted me a copy of The Dumpling and when I came home from New York yesterday, I had a hankering for daikon rice cakes, one of my favorite Chinese snacks. I opened up his cookbook and lo-and-behold there was a recipe for the dim sum treat under the month of October. Stay tuned . . . [Update: I test drove The Dumpling's recipe for daikon rice cakes a week later and posted it for your perusal.]
For more, visit Thedumpling.com