Friday, January 27, 2017

The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook

Title:  The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook
Author:  Helen You
Publication Information:  Clarkson Potter. 2017. 128 pages.
ISBN:  1101906634 / 978-1101906637

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "For some, dumplings are merely the start of a meal, but in my family they sit at the center of the plate."

Favorite Quote:  "A dumpling is the perfect food:  proteins, vegetables, and seasonings all wrapped up in an easy to eat bundle of carbs."

Take a piece of rolled out dough. Add just enough filling - not too little that the end result is all dough and not too much that the dough bursts. Close up the dough. Cook in a myriad of ways depending on the dough and the filling.

It is amazing that almost every culture has a version of this. Dumplings. Samosas. Empanadas. Ravioli. Pierogi. Calzone. The list goes on an on. The recipe for the dough differs. The fillings are limited only by the cook's imagination. This book does one thing - Chinese dumplings - and does it well. It's not a big book and only 128 pages - definitely a specialty cookbook.

I love cookbooks that begin by saying that we will teach you the basic rules. Then, feel free to experiment. Experimentation is my favorite kind of cooking, using whatever I happen to have in the fridge and pantry at the time. "Dumplings are made to be customized, and this book will give you all the confidence you need to explore your own dumpling galaxy."

The first ten pages of the book are the basics. Ten pages doesn't sound like a lot, but a lot of information fills these pages. It starts with a history lesson establishing the author's credibility. Then, it includes general tips for fillings, the three methods of cooking dumplings, tools that make the job easier, how to make the dough depending on the method of cooking, and finally shaping the dumplings.

The remaining sections of this book are about the flavors - classic, green, faraway, and dessert. All told, the book contains about 45 flavor combinations. The classic flavors are all east based with eight out of fourteen recipes featuring pork. Three out of the six green recipes include egg as does the dough for boiled and panfried dumplings. So, depending on your definition of "green," these recipes may or may not fit into your dietary restrictions. The faraway flavors all feature some kind of meat or seafood. So, the concept and technique can work for anyone; the relevance of the specific recipes is, well, more specific.

A final section highlights about ten sauces and sides. The recipes themselves are not that long because they refer to the techniques described in the first ten page section. The recipes do not have too many pictures; I suppose, how many different way can you photograph a dumpling? I would have like to see pictures of some of the fillings coming together though and some more pictures of the actual process of assembling the dumpling.

What I really enjoy about the book is that it seems to anticipate the questions I ask. I am an experienced cook but new to the art of dumplings. Reading through, I wonder about many things and, usually, within a few pages, is the answer. Each recipe includes an introduction, explaining either an unusual ingredient or some cultural significance. Tips sprinkled throughout add to the information the book provides. At the end, I confirm my initial reaction. This book packs a lot of knowledge into a relatively small package.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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