26 April 2011

Pimple Dumplings aka Knot Dumplings aka Mian Geda

Pimples? Knots? Chinese homophones, what a pain. In this case it's only a curiosity and not a source of family discord (like if you just called your MIL a horse because you forgot the right inflection). Geda aka 疙瘩, can mean either a pimply warty skin bump, or a knot. A similar issue presents itself with mian aka 面, which can mean noodle or face, among other things. So in naming the noodle you could end up with 面疙瘩, the noodle, or 疙瘩面, the pizza face. (at least according to google translate).

Which is the 'authentic' translation? I'm going to have to go with pimple dumplings. It's descriptive, as they do look like warty pimply bumps. It's also poetic, fitting in with Chinese food naming tradition. Further, there is a long world wide tradition of giving sophomoric names to foods (cf Italian nun farts, nun breasts, priest stranglers, etc). That said, I doubt I'd menu this item as pimple dumpling. Given current perceptions of Chinese dining predilections, your average western diner might assume they are being served literal pimples.

These noodles are featured in a genre of soups called pimple soup aka gedatang,疙瘩, as well as stews. The soup is euphemistically called 'dough drop soup.' I have a hunch they are also stir fried like Nian Gao, but I haven't confirmed this.

Back to the cooking!

There are three ways to make this dumpling that I know of. The first is you make a thick batter and drop little bits off into boiling or simmering liquid. The second, novel approach, is to drizzle water into a pile of flour while stirring to make clumps, which are then cooked like pasta. The third is to make a dough, and break off little nuggets to form the dumplings, then boil them. I chose to test this second approach because I already used the first and third in Western applications.

For 100g of flour, I used 56g of water. I used AP wheat flour. You could also try rice flour, in all or part. You may need more or less water, so don't rely too much on the recipe. The amount you need is heavily dependent on humidity and the qualities of the flour. Your mileage WILL vary. Drizzle in a little water, and stir. Once you get lumps, shake the bowl so the big lumps settle to the top. Push them aside, so you can drizzle water onto and stir the unincorporated flour and smaller dough bits. Continue until there is no more loose flour. Break up any lumps that are too big with your fingers. If you are going to let the raw dough sit for any length of time, toss with a little flour to keep them from sticking together. When you're done, it should look something like this (sadly these were not as uniform as I would have liked):

The dough ready to cook,

Cooking the dumplings is pretty easy, Just dump them into simmering or boiling liquid for ~1-2 minutes (but always rely on your senses, not the clock). The cooked dumpling should have a firm chew, with the dough being completley cooked. There should be no raw flour taste or texture. I cooked this batch in boiling salted water since I was making pasta for dinner, and not soup. (I also tossed the cooked dumplings in the pasta sauce to make a real dog's dinner. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of cooking and cooked dumplings by themselves). Cooking directly in the soup seems to be the preferred method since it contributes extra body. The dough seems like it would handle par cooking well, but it cooks so quick, I wouldn't bother for most applications.

The bottom line? It's a quick, simple technique that is suitible for both Western and Asian applications. In fact, it closely replicates the taste and texture of one of my favorite restaurant's spaetzle. I'm adding it to my repertoire.

The cooked dumplings (the white lumps).

I want to give a special shout out to liuzhou and heidih, two commentators on the eGullet Society of Arts and Letters forums, www.egullet.org, who helped me track down this dish after I forgot the pinyin for the name. Also, two handy blog posts:


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