Chinese people call us Caucasians, “Gwilos”. I think it means something like White Ghost face. Personally, I don’t take any offence at that racial slur. Being Irish, my face could never be described as white. It is the unhealthy pink colour that most of us have from drinking too much, a head like a boiled arse, as they would say in county Wicklow. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, they can call me whatever the bleedin’ hell they want, because nobody even gets any of their names right over here. To such an extent, that out of the dozens of Chinese people I have met in Ireland, I have yet to come across one that goes by their proper name.
There have been various bartenders and waitresses in my employment who hail from far flung, quaint sounding places in China, until they tell you that their hometown has a population of 12 million. Obviously, their family and mates, who arrived here before they did, all had one piece of advice, “The Irish are backwater peasants who eat cow dung and breathe alcohol. They are centuries away from mastering the pronunciation of foreign names. Just tell them you’re called John/Sue.”
Nearly all the Chinese blokes that I have met were either named John or Shane. And nearly all the birds have introduced themselves as Sue. There was of course the deranged loolah who stalked me for a job for two weeks and with a massive smile would stick out his right hand and eagerly proclaim, “Hi! My name is Sky! Like Sky News!” He’d come up to the bar and give you this outrageous monologue about his flawless work ethic and an even longer spiel about his hobbies and interests. Then he’d hand you his CV and that was the money shot. Because his entire introductory speech was actually his CV, word for word. If I wasn’t in, he’d ask for the nearest senior staff member and give him/her the same deal. A perfect recital of his curriculum vitae. Bonkers. He was so hilariously unstable that you’d nearly invent a job for him just to watch him in action. Not for him the dull dumbing down of one’s individuality, he was no John. For he was “Sky, like Sky News!”
Having said that, there was one particular barback who was working for us that liked to be called Vivienne. Her culinary skills made up for her almost complete lack of English. During her break, she would lash out a whole load of her home made pork or shrimp dumplings, always enough for everyone. I’ve only started giving them a go recently but I reckon I’m getting the basics down. I like them cooked and served in a Chinese broth but you can pan fry them too. No doubt they taste nothing like they should, that’s why mine are called:
INGREDIENTS FOR THE DUMPLINGS:
150 g of Pork Mince
150 g of Beef Mince
2 cloves of minced garlic
200 g of Chinese cabbage finely shredded (Asian Food Store, George’s St)
100 g of bean sprouts finely chopped
1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
100g of Chinese Mushrooms (Asian Food Store, George’s St but normal mushrooms will be grand)
A small bit of water, about 1/3 cup or 70 ml
1 packet of frozen dumpling wrappers, get the circular ones. They defrost in a couple of hours sitting in your kitchen. Don’t get the won ton wrappers, they’re too delicate.
METHOD FOR THE DUMPLINGS:
- Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan, til they darken slightly and turn golden. Remove and smash them up into a paste in a pestle and mortar.
- Fry the meat and garlic in a wok until it’s all cooked through.
- Put the cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts through a blender. Mix them all up with the meat and the water in the wok. Cook it through for a few minutes til the water evaporates.
- Mix your sesame seeds and scallions in.
- You now have to start making the dumplings by taking each individual wrapper and placing about a teaspoon of the meat mix into the centre of it. You then have to wet the rest of the pastry with a water dampened paint brush and then seal it up by folding the wet sides into each other. After a couple you’ll be grand at it and you start turning into a bit of a dumpling machine. Like I said, you can cook them in a hot broth or fry them. Carefully drop them into a hot broth until they plump out, shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Here’s how you make the broth. It’s fairly bog standard but it’s tasty.
- A 3cm piece of fresh ginger, very finely cut.
- 2 litres of a good beef stock.
- 2 tablespoons of Chinese Rice Wine (Asian Food Store, George’s St, it’s only a fiver a bottle. Don’t be a muppet and drink it, you’re only supposed to cook with it)
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
- Some chopped scallions to garnish.
Put the stock, ginger, wine and soy sauce into a pot and simmer it for 15 minutes. Garnish with spring onions.
If you’re serving the dumplings in the soup you can brighten it up with some pak choi and some extra bean sprouts.
P.S. I should mention that you can make the meat filling and broth well in advance and even freeze them. As you can see from the photos here, my freezer is jammers with previously made batches.