Chinese cooking for all levels

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April 24, 2002|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

Acommon problem with Asian cookbooks is that they are written either for beginners or for experts. Joan Shih tries to capture both in The Art of the Chinese Cookery ($26.95), a self-published book by the Silver Spring cooking instructor.

By dividing her chapters into skill levels from basics like Sweet-and-Sour Pork to advanced recipes like Peking Duck, Shih has produced a book that is both approachable and challenging. The at-home cook can sort of drift to the proper skill level.

Shih is at her best in the advanced recipes. She assumes the reader has some knowledge of Chinese cooking techniques. Her descriptions are simple and direct - no doubt influenced by her background as a scientist (she's a full-time chemist when not running her own cooking school). She even includes nutritional breakdowns for the completed dishes.

One classic dish certain to impress dinner guests is the dumplings. Although they are time-consuming to make, they are much more satisfying and flavorful than the typical restaurant fare.

Chiao-Tzu Northern Dumplings

Makes 24

DOUGH:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

3/4 cup boiling water

FILLING:

8 ounces Chinese cabbage

1 pound lean ground pork

1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger root

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon rice wine or pale dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sesame oil

DIPPING SAUCE:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Place the flour in a bowl. Add the boiling water gradually and mix and knead until a smooth dough forms. Cover the dough with a moist cloth and let stand for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to become softer and more pliable.

Rinse the cabbage under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the wilted leaves and root end. Slice and chop the cabbage very finely and set aside. Combined the ground pork, ginger root, garlic, wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt and sesame oil in a bowl and mix well. Add the chopped cabbage.

Blend the 1/4 cup soy sauce and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside to be used as dipping sauce for finished dumplings.

Divide the dough into two portions and shape each into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Cut each log into 12 equal portions using a cleaver. Flatten each portion in the palm of your hand to a circle 1/4 -inch thick and then roll on a lightly floured surface into a 3-inch circle only 1/8 -inch thick.

Place 1 tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of each circle and bring the dough up to enclose the filling, pinching the top edges together and pleating the edges to shape into a small pouch.

Place the shaped dumplings on a platter and cover with a moist cloth to prevent drying while shaping the remaining dumplings.

Bring 2 quarts of water or more to a bubbling boil in a deep saucepan. Add the dumplings one at a time to the boiling water and turn over gently with a strainer to prevent the dumplings from sticking together.

Cover the pan and cook over high heat just until the water returns to the boil. Add 1 cup cold water, cover the saucepan and return to the boil.

Remove the dumplings from the water with a bamboo strainer, arrange on a platter and serve immediately with the prepared dipping sauce.

Note: The dumplings can also be cooked in a steamer for 25 minutes. The cooked dumplings can be fried with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and a little water to make pan-fried dumplings or pot stickers.

- From "The Art of the Chinese Cookery" by Joan Shih (available by calling 301-236-5311 or by e-mail at ChineseCookery@aol.com)

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