The Ugly Dumpling (April 2016), story by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober.
I’m a big fan of “The Ugly Duckling” because it’s a story of feeling less-than because of how others treat you and then finding out you’re pretty special and they were wrong all along.
I’m also a big fan of dumplings (and steamed buns!), especially having grown up in Singapore and Hong Kong.
So this picture book is a perfect literary and culinary combination!
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Setting: Golden Swan, a dim sum restaurant. Of course!—because that’s where dumplings live! (And nodding to the original tale in the eatery’s name is pretty smooth.)
Ingredients: a lonely, misunderstood dumpling and the cockroach who befriends it. (Yeah, this is one classy cockroach, another unexpected element to admire.)
Favorite garnish: the expressions on the main character’s and other steamed buns’ faces.
Flavor: clever, funny, and lively writing with undertones of deeper meaning.
Yelp review: a story about seeing past appearances that will have you coming back for seconds.
Cockroach accepts the ugly dumpling and shows it beautiful things in the world of a restaurant kitchen. One of those things is even a bamboo steamer with its own kind. But it turns out cockroaches are pretty misunderstood too. (Big time!) And in return for the cockroach’s welcome and kindness, the dumpling offers the same, forsaking sameness for authenticity. And that is the beginning of a beautiful, unusual, boundless friendship.
Big thanks to Mighty Media Press for images!
And now, for the main course, courtesy of my food-genius friend Bonnie of Thirsty For Tea. I feel so lucky she’s collaborating with me again! Her recipe is perfect for Chinese New Year on February 8th (or any day of any month!) and combines both facets of dumpling’s journey.
Bonnie will be your chef and server:
Steamed Chinese Pork & Napa Dumplings, 2 Ways
Makes 30 mini buns or dumplings.
1 lb. ground pork
5 Napa cabbage leaves, minced, tossed with 1 tsp of salt, then rinsed and squeezed dry
2 green onions, sliced thin
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 Tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper
Use a 1/2 portion of this Steamed Bun Dough recipe (divided into 20 pieces to create 20 dumplings) and/or store-bought wrappers.
wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer
1. Make the Filling. Combine all the filling ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
2. Fill the Wrappers. For Buns: If you are using the Steamed Bun Dough recipe, fill each dough portion with 1 Tbsp of the filling according the directions in this post. After filling the buns, place them in the steamer. For Dumplings: If using store-bought wrappers, fill each skin with 1 Tbsp of the filling, seal opposite edges of the wrapper with water, then place them upright in the steamer.
3. Steam Away! Fill the wok or stockpot with 3-4″ of water. Set water on high heat and let it come to a full rolling boil. Place the steamers in/on top of the wok/stockpot and cook the dumplings for 10 minutes on over high heat.
4. Sip, Eat, Read, & Enjoy!
Check out the post at Thirsty For Tea for more! Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing your five-star literary/culinary creation with us!
You might want to check out my last collaboration with Bonnie on Please, Mr. Panda, too!