Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Skin Rolls" Chinese Dim Sum

I love to eat dim sum and it’s at the top of my list when I am visiting a large city with a true Chinatown. Even though I have consumed hundreds (slight exaggeration) of these delectable rolls in my lifetime, this will be my first attempt at making them. I guess you could say that I am cooking them as I am imagining them in my head. I know that these are not exactly like I would find in an authentic dim sum restaurant but they are my home version. Which is pretty tasty considering…

I can honestly say that it was easier to make the skin rolls than write this post. I found it difficult to explain and describe, this and that. Things that are very familiar to me yet so hard to explain. As I was writing it sounded like everything was more complicated than it truly was. So, bear with me as I attempt to explain this dish with photos. Which was the only way I was going to get this post done.

What are "Skin Rolls"?
Ground pork with thin strips of shitake mushroom, black fungus and bamboo shoots inside a chewy tofu bean curd sheet.  Finished with a gingery broth. (I didn’t add it in the filling recipe, but you could add a tsp. of grated ginger into the meat mixture to kick up the gingeryness of this dish).  I originally used a whole pound of ground pork and found the rolls to be too dense and meaty.  In the recipe I cut the meat down to 1/2 a pound to give the rolls a looser bite.

Helpful Hint: There is no better tool than a microplane to grate your ginger. If you don’t have one, get one ($15) it will change your life. It is also the best lemon zester and hard cheese grater.

½ pound ground pork
3 - 6 sheets dried bean curd sheets, soaked and cut into 6” squares
8 whole dried shitake mushrooms, soaked
4 pieces dried black fungus, soaked
8 oz. can bamboo shoot strips, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 recipe ginger broth (below)

Soak bean curd sheets in warm water for about 15 minutes or until they are pliable and cut them into 6 X 6” squares or about that size. They will be very brittle and may break apart before and after soaking, so soak a few more than you will need just in case. (Save the broken pieces to add to your Chinese broth soups). If you are lucky enough to have a well stocked Asian market close by you can find the sheets in the freezer and they will be easier to work with.
Slice the mushrooms, black fungus and bamboo shoots into thin strips (I bought a can of bamboo shoot strips).  Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Lay the bean curd square with one of the points facing you and place a palm full of filling on the square and shape into a log.
Fold the point closest to you over the meat mixture.
Fold in the sides and roll away from you to form a log. I folded them this way so when I fry them the exposed point easily sticks to the roll to seal it.
Repeat until all the filling is rolled up.
Heat a non stick pan over med heat and add 1 – 2 Tbsp. oil and place rolls seam side down.  Fry the rolls on all sides until golden brown.
Place in a dish and steam for 25 minutes on high.
Make the ginger broth and pour it over the skin rolls.

My mother in law gave me a pack of black fungus also known as wood ear to cook with lup cheong (Chinese sweet sausage) and chicken. Tonight I am adding it to my skin rolls and the ginger broth. Black fungus is known for its many health benefits with nutrients such as vitamin D, iron and calcium, just to name a few. I sliced them very thin and added it to my gravy and skin rolls. They have a firm chewy texture that goes well in Chinese dishes.

I wanted note that these little dried pieces are deceiving and will surprisingly hydrate to 3 - 5 times its size. So use them sparingly. I suggest that you only soak 3 or 4 for any recipe.  The dried product seen on the right will expand to what you see to on the left side.
I place all my ingredients for the ginger broth in a pot including the cornstarch and stir with a whisk while cooking until it thickens versus dissolving the cornstarch separately with water and adding it last.  Make sure you grate or finely mince the garlic and ginger to give the broth a fuller ginger flavor.

Ginger Broth
1 can chicken broth plus the soaking liquid from the mushrooms and or liquid from the seamed skin rolls.
Enough liquid to equal 4 cups

¼ cup cornstarch
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 slice ginger, grated or minced fine
1 clove garlic, grated or minced fine

Place the chicken broth in a 4 cup measure. Add the mushroom water then more tap water or other liquids to equal 4 cups.

Add the rest of the ingredients to a pot and mix well to dissolve the cornstarch. Heat ingredients over med high heat and stir frequently with a whisk until the gravy thickens and comes to a boil. Add black fungus and pour over skin rolls.

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