There are few dishes that can put our whole family on the same page. With a food writer mom always looking to try something new; an African dad who never outgrew his pickiness; and a 5 year-old who mostly swears by plain pasta and peanut butter, the dining table can turn into quite the battleground. Except when it comes to dumplings.
We all loooove dumplings. After all, if you’re a kid, what’s not to like about stuffed “pasta” bundles? Monsieur approves of the mushy stuffing (man’s got a thing for soupy food that reminds him of the family stews he grew up on). And I can play endlessly with the ingredients, which keeps me creatively spellbound.
Although we have barely started exploring the dumpling restaurants in Montreal, I am told Qing Hua Dumpling may well be the best in town. Located on Lincoln Street near Guy, it occupies a small two-room basement with terrace. It’s a fancified hole-in-the wall eatery with formica tables, the obligatory murky aquarium and a cash-only policy.
That said, Qing Hua has been universally praised in the media and by Montreal’s tight knit foodie community, especially for its lamb and cilantro dumplings. They are pure rapture indeed, with stuffing and broth trapped inside, ready to burst into your mouth (and all over your shirt front if you’re not careful).
On a recent visit, our family also indulged in classic pork and cabbage dumplings, and a surprising take — to me anyways — on pork and squid stuffing. With a smear of hot chili sauce, they thrilled our tastebuds and actually had my son rubbing his stomach in giggling contentment.
I wish I could have sneaked into the kitchen to find out how Qing Hua’s chef makes those broth-inside dumplings. If he uses the traditional method of xiao long bao, or Shanghai dumplings, chances are you could make your own version as follows:
1. Add gelatine to your choice of broth to turn it into an aspic.
2. Chill, then dice the broth jelly.
3. Stuff into your dumpling alongside your favourite filling. When steaming your dumplings, the broth jelly will turn back into a liquid.
4. Bite in… carefully.
While I have promised myself I will try this technique soon, I leave you for now with my go-to recipe for pork and shrimp dumplings. I usually serve these with a peanut sauce for Monsieur and kiddo (the one here from Chuck Hughes is very nice, I use chicken broth instead of veal stock though), but as for me, I’m a sriracha smear kind-of-a-girl. A traditional soy and vinegar sauce also goes well. Enjoy.
Pork and shrimp dumplings
50 to 60 dumplings
350 g (3/4 lb) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves
450 g (1 lb) ground pork
2 green onions, chopped
1-2 leaves bok choy or nappa cabbage, roughly chopped
30 ml (2 tbsp) oyster sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)
15 ml (1 tbsp) corn starch
5 to 10 ml (1 to 2 tsp) hot chili sauce (Sambal Oelek or Sriracha work best)
50 to 60 square won-ton wrappers, thawed if frozen
1. In food processor, blend two-thirds of the shrimp, garlic and egg to a paste.
2. Roughly chop remaining shrimp. The idea is that you want to bite into pieces of shrimp inside every dumpling. Set aside.
3. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and pulse to combine.
4. Pour stuffing into a large bowl and mix in chopped shrimp.
5. Put water to boil in a pierced bain-marie, a wok if you plan on using a bamboo basket or a dumpling steamer.
6. On a work surface, lay down a few wrappers and wet their contours with water (I use my fingers). Put 15 ml (1 tbsp) of stuffing into the middle, then fold wrapper upwards, pleating wet edge into a stopper shape.
7. Transfer dumplings to a plate lightly sprinkled with flour as you go.
8. Cover the bottom of your pan with parchment paper. In batches of 10 or so dumplings, steam 10 minutes. Keep cooked dumplings warm while you proceed with the rest. Serve with your choice of sauce.
Note: This basic filling provides the canvas for all sorts of variations. Feel free to substitute flat Italian parsley for the cabbage; use a few drops of sesame oil instead of hot sauce; flavour with a touch of dry sherry or rice wine. Even some grated fresh ginger would produce a completely different taste profile.
Qing Hua does not have a website but for Yelp reviews and to find it on a map, click here.
For Asian staples such as fresh wrappers and sriracha, or triple-decker dumpling steamers like the one partially shown in the pix above, I shop at Marché Hawai in Saint-Laurent.