Reub's journey

10 January 2012

Sichuan dumplings, no repenting

Well, fine. December is over, the house full of delightful young guests is now empty, and it is the season of sucking-in: repentance for all of the fat and sugar in we which we just indulged:

Enchiladas! Stir-fry! Home-made pasta! Asian-style short ribs with garlic Yukon-gold mashed potatoes! Samosas! Roasted chicken! Jambalaya with grilled chicken , shrimp, and sausage! (OK, to be honest, this last thing was made by my youngest son, a self-taught chef.)

And then, of course there were the multiple cookies that I produced, one-a-day, before Christmas: rosettes (a deep-fried treat from my Scandinavian ancestors), spritz (for which I bought a hilariously stupid electric cookie gun), ginger cut-outs (adorable and decorated by my daughter and my son's girl friend).

There were thumb-print cookies (oldest son's fav, and I love these too), and almond butter toffee (which cures anything that ails you, I swear). 

There were  cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies (my favorite.) Missing was my mother's almond short bread; I've never been able to get the recipe from her, and now she is 90 years old, so her secret may go down with her.

One by one our holiday guests left. But my youngest son remained, and one evening I wondered if I should fill the pepper grinder with some pepper from China which I mysteriously found in the pantry.

"NO!" he said, that's pepper from Sichuan, and it will numb your mouth if you use it like that. He said I shouldn't throw it out, that it may come in handy some time. I scribbled his comment on the package (didn't trust myself to remember) and stuck it back in the cabinet.

Anyway. I am not well-made for serious repentance. I dislike how every January there are ads for cut-rate memberships to gyms. I have not signed up for the "Biggest Loser" competition which is happening at my work place right now (put money into the kitty, lose weight, win money).  I cook and bake like crazy in December, but only sparingly partake of it all, the pleasure being in the process of it, and the hope that others might like it.  In January there is not a whole lot for which to repent.

Exactly 2 days after putting the Chinese pepper back in the pantry I read a post from Laoch, a professional gambler whose blog is succinct, smart, dryly witty, and from time to time features something amazing that he has eaten in a Chicago restaurant: Szechuan dumplings, for which he kindly gave me a link:

I loved the way Kelly showed how to make dumplings (potstickers), using chopsticks to pluck the filling out of the bowl. I decided to do the same. Who wants to measure a 1/2 teaspoon of anything? Why not just grab a likely amount with chopsticks? It was fun.

It used the crazy Sichuan pepper in the dipping sauce and my mouth wasn't numb at all. The potstickers called for 6 ounces of "ground pork" (that's one lean boneless pork shop thrown into the food processor). It made enough filling to load a couple dozen dumplings, and the rest went into the freezer. This means that John and I stuffed ourselves on approximately 1/2 of a lean pork chop.

Three ounces of lean pork for two people? You would think that we were on some kind of January diet regimen. Nahhh. Just cooking something fun. Wish somebody else were here to enjoy it with us.


  1. I have cooked dumplings before and now I must do that again. It was so long ago when I was really into Asian food.

  2. dang! i was hoping for some hell-fire-hot reaction with the pepper! :) but at least it's being used now! :)

  3. um...i'd come over and eat those with you...ohio's not thaaaaaaat far away...

  4. Tabor: Do it! They are so delicious, and guilt-free.

    twg: I googled the pepper before using it! Turns out you should only use the husks, not the insides of these little guys. Luckily my pepper was mostly already husked. So no hell-fire!

    Slim: Come on over! You would love these! The girls would have fun with chopsticks.

    Ellen: I could eat these things every day.

  5. Oh yum! I made frozen pot stickers over the holiday and they stuck to everything. I love your note to self on the Chinese pepper! Cute.

  6. Rebecca: Haha! Lived up to their name, did they? I put a bunch of these in the freezer & we'll see how sticky they are when I thaw them out. But I dusted them with cornstarch, so maybe they'll be ok.

  7. Nifty.

    One loves the baked goods, the dumpling project and especially the mouth numbing peppercorns (which for a long time you could not get in the US).

  8. Laoch: My son also said that these peppercorns are sometimes hard to find. I guess I picked them up at the local Asian market, not even realizing what they were. He knows about them b/c of a fair amount of time spent in China. How do you know about them?

  9. My mouth is watering...a sure sign I'm meant to try the recipe. I'm thinking I'll enlist the help of my live-in daughter-in-law for this. It looks like something fun to do together!

  10. Jo: This is a perfect cooking project to do with the help of your daughter. I hope you do it!

  11. mom, mg and i split the job of decorating those ginger cookies. 50/50. harumph.

    your daughter

  12. Credit where credit is due. Sorry 'bout that. The purple frosting is why I associate it with MG.

  13. Oh they will totally numb your mouth. Try another Sichuan recipe that calls for the peppercorn to be in the food. Some good authentic Kung Pao chicken uses the stuff and when you bite into a few of them at once the effect is immediate. It's wonderfully addictive.

  14. I'm onto it. We had Kung Pao Chicken in China, and it did have this in it, now that you mention it. I'll look for a recipe. Thanks, anonymous!

  15. Nice recipe. You might like my take on sichuan chicken.


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