My friend, Sebastien, of Pata Negra House has recently challenged me to create some Asian dishes using Spanish products from his shop. This was a challenge I could not resist. I was let loose in his shop and I swear, I could have walked out with everything there, it all looked good – I was like a hyperactive child in a candy store! After having a good root around his shop, I took home some Iberico Jamon, some Fuet (Iberico dried sausage) and a tin of sea urchin, amongst other goodies. These I felt would lend themselves well to fusion food.
Iberico ham is very similar to Chinese Yunnan ham, which is highly prized in China. The jamon from Sebastien’s shop actually comes from his family’s farm in Spain, and the ham he gave me is the best quality bellota, or acorns, that the pigs are raised on while foraging in the acorn forest. It was 24-month aged ham, from the pork shoulder, which is very tasty but cheaper than the backleg of the same bellota quality. This ham is more suited to cooking, whereas backleg bellota is best eaten thinly sliced on its own, or with some bread.
This is not cheap ham. Iberico ham is the best of the best. But it is truly delicious and a very tiny amount goes a long way, imparting a lovely, mellow, salty, ham-ness to the dumplings that works perfectly. I used 2 large tablespoons, finely chopped, for 36 dumplings. It makes me excited about using the jamon in other dishes as not a lot is needed to give it a subtle, smoky richness.
Which brings me to a new point. With all this bad weather lately, it’s been driving me nuts keeping my kid occupied in a “non-TV” way, so this is a perfect rainy day activity for kids. It kept him busy – and quiet – for 2 hours, plus you get free labour! Dumpling making is now no longer a chore!
There are many ways to wrap dumplings, which can be found on Google. I let him go to town, wrapping the dumplings any old which way. The wrappers can be found in most shops selling dried and fresh noodles, not to mention the supermarket superstores (Wellcome or Park ‘n Shop). A pack of 40 wrappers was $6.
For the filling, I used pork since this is relatively cheap and popular in dumpling fillings in Hong Kong, but you could substitute with minced prawn or chicken, both of which would work well with the jamon.
We tried two versions, fried, and boiled in soup; and while I am usually a sucker for deep-fried badness, this time I preferred the soup wonton. It was lighter and the flavour of the ham shone through. A simple chicken and ginger broth would really allow the flavours to come out.
Wontons With Iberico Ham & Baby Napa Cabbage
(Makes 30-40 dumplings)
- 1 pack of wonton wrappers
- 200 grams of lean minced pork
- 2 small chunks of Iberico tacos jamon (shoulder ham), roughly 2 tablespoons finely chopped
- 1/2 baby napa cabbage, shredded and chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon each of minced garlic and ginger
- 2 teaspoons of mirin (sweet Japanese rice vinegar) or sugar
- 2 teaspoons of light soya sauce
- 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1. Mix the ingredients together and leave to marinate for one hour or longer.
2. Take a wrapper and place a small teaspoon of the mix in the centre. Using a wash of cornstarch and water, seal the wrapper into a triangle and then pull the two lower corners back and stick together. Or wrap up like a bundle. Or let your kid take over… just make sure they seal the edges well so none of the filling falls out during cooking!
3. If frying, use a non-stick pan and heat some oil in the pan. Not a lot of oil is needed. Put a few wonton in and splash a few drops of water in and cover with a lid. Fry gently for a few minutes and serve with your choice of dipping sauce when they are golden brown and crispy.
4. If boiling, add the wonton to your simmering soup and cook for 5 minutes. When the wrapper is wrinkled and very soft, it is ready.