Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dumplings 101 At Fraser Mustard (Largest JK SK School in Canada)...


Always exciting times over at TDSB Welcoming Communities working with newcomers. My next project is cooking in East York at Fraser Mustard, with morning culinary classes opened to parents from this largest early learning centre in Canada, and Thorncliffe Park Public School. Fraser Mustard currently schools 650 students with a capacity maximum of 700. There are 24 classrooms with two educators- a teacher and an early childhood educator, a large muscle area and exercise/play area in addition to their gymnasium, and outdoor gardens for hands-on environmental studies. They partner with the Ontario funded Parenting and Family Centres by providing an on-site location for community use and a childcare centre through the Child Development Institute. 

What to cook to kick-start our community kitchen as well as to celebrate Nutrition Month? Dumplings came foremost to mind, for their soul food prominence in many cultures and diversity in flavours, textures, cooking styles and traditional importance. Indian, Muslim and Roma communities make-up the cultural vibrancy of the neighbourhood, and diet restrictions for religious practices, such as purchasing halal meats and no use of pork and wine. At the session, parents tell me they are trying Asian-style dumplings for the first time, and then goes off and skill-fully masters dumpling wrapping in one hour :D. Ashima, the school's facilitator and community coordinator organized the workshops, and Meena, the community's public health nurse was invited to engage on nutrition and health matters. It may have been ambitious to plan preparations for three versions of dumplings- Chinese-style (Jiao Zi), Korean-Style (Mandoo) and Japanese-Style (Gyoza), in less than two hours, but we came together, wrapped and cooked, told stories and ate in bliss! To see the parents take notes on the ingredients and techniques, and to hear them say they will try to make dumplings at home, is my happiness success :D


My happy post for the next four weeks...

The largest Junior and Senior Kindergarten school in Canada!

The predominant cultural make-up of Thorncliffe Park's community.


A bright spacious and full capacity kitchen to run my culinary activities. 


Parents got right down to business after our meet and greets over Korean genmaicha tea (roasted rice green tea). A few parents and volunteers were assigned to each recipe.

It was evident all these lovely ladies cooked at home.


We cooked with Halal ground turkey for the meat recipes. Ground pork works well in this.

Ginger Meat Dumplings (Chinese-Style called Jiao Zi)

1-1/2 lbs. lean ground meat of your choice
1 cup finely chopped nappa cabbage (blanched first, drain and squeeze excess liquid)
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
1 tsp. salt
A few dashes of ground white pepper
1 Tbsp. cooking wine
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cooking oil or sesame oil
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 package of dumpling wrappers (find in Asian supermarket in refrigerated section with noodles) 

Mix meat and/or vegetables together in a bowl. Add salt and seasonings; incorporate well. Then add oil and cornstarch. Chill at least 1 hour for flavours to develop.


We used Halal ground turkey. Ground beef is also delicious in this recipe.

Curry Meat Dumplings (Indian-Inspired)

1-1/2 lbs. lean ground meat of your choice
½ to 1 small onion, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. curry powder
Add ground cumin, coriander and fresh cilantro to taste (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 package of dumpling wrappers (find in Asian supermarket in refrigerated section with noodles) 

Mix meat and/or vegetables together in a bowl. Add salt and seasonings; incorporate well. Then add oil and cornstarch. Chill at least 1 hour for flavours to develop.


Tofu, Noodle and Chives Dumplings (Korean-Style called Mandoo)

1 pkg (425 g) firm tofu, drain well, mash to bits, but not mushy (use a fork)
3 cups finely chopped nappa cabbage (blanched first, drain and squeeze excess liquid)
1 handful Chinese chives, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked Korean starch noodles (chopped into small pieces)
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 package of dumpling wrappers (find in Asian supermarket in refrigerated section with noodles) 

Mix meat and/or vegetables together in a bowl. Add salt and seasonings; incorporate well. Then add oil and cornstarch. Chill at least 1 hour for flavours to develop.


To Wrap: Assemble dumplings right before cooking. Place 1 Tbsp. filling in centre of wrapper. Wet half the wrapper rim with water, then fold the wrapper over so that the dry edge meets the wet one. Press or pleat along seam to seal shut. Repeat with other dumplings. Cook immediately or freeze (see tips below). Do not refrigerate or they will get moist and stick together and to the plate.

Photo Credits: Ashima Suri

Meena getting hands-on and getting into pro-wrapping territory!

WOW, look at those neat pleats! Master wrappers in just one hour :D!

Vegetarian-style got the steam treatment. Tofu mandoos are perfect in this cooking style- healthy on healthy!

Steam, Steam Baby!!!

Steam: Place a cut-out parchment paper in steam basket with holes poked in it to allow steam to escape, on top of a pot with water. Place dumplings in a circular pattern and cover the lid. Bring water to a boil and let steam for 8-10 minutes. Serve hot best with ponzu sauce. The light bright citrus flavour goes very well with the soft texture of tofu and noodles.


Ginger turkey dumplings got the pan. Pan-fry: Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet or wok. When oil is ready, carefully add the dumplings and cook on high heat until golden brown, turning dumplings over once. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Steam for about 1 min. to ensure filling is cooked, then uncover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. (Pan-fry on medium heat). Serve with red or black vinegar, or soy sauce with a little sesame oil.


For the curry dumplings- Steamed Dumplings with Crispy Bottoms (Japanese-Style called Gyoza) I took it a step further to create a crispy fan pattern- also Chinese-inspired): Heat a large skillet with 1 Tbsp. oil on medium high. Lay the prepared dumplings in a circular pattern and let pan-fry for two minutes until golden brown underside. Make a slurry with 2 tsp. potato starch and 1/3 cup water per batch. Drizzle over the dumplings in a circular motion and cover lid immediately. Let steam for 3 minutes. Remove lid and let cook until the slurry on the pan is golden and crisp. Carefully place a plate over top; keep your hand steady on the plate, tip the skillet upside down to remove "crispy dumplings" onto the plate. Serve with soy sauce or not.


I was thrilled the crispy bottom released from the pan intact-- a little admiration over there perhaps :D


Thank you lovely ladies for making this first session a fun success! I'm looking forward to our next morning together--  how about muffin-tin frittatas to pop in a kid's lunch box (Easter is also coming- so eggs are joyful) and healthy snacks to tote or for after school?


Extra Dumpling Tips (also check out my previous Dumplings 101 post):

Pan fry from frozen: put the frozen dumplings into a pan with a little oil and fry the dumplings until they turn slightly brown, add ¼ cup water, set the temperature to medium, cover for 10 minutes turning over once. Pan-fry with a little rice vinegar for a delicious tangy taste.

· If you want to prepare a lot of dumplings in advance, steam the dumplings, wait for them to cool, and then freeze them on a parchment-lined tray. When fully frozen, transfer them to a zip-top bag for longer storage.

· You can then use them anytime straight from the freezer without defrosting, whether you want to fry, sauté, steam, or toss them in soup.


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