One year ago today I published my first illustrated blog post. The topic was cheesecake and memories of an iconic Canadian department store restaurant. There is one picture of my recipe, taken with my husband’s phone. When I read that post it still makes me happy, despite the poor photography. As I thought about what I might write to commemorate this little milestone of mine, I turned again to childhood memories. Recently I attended a family reunion in Winnipeg, and I’m still feeling the warmth of those shared remembrances; the places we went together as a big, boisterous, extended family, the fun we had at picnics, holiday events, and the beach. But one place in particular stands out, not only for our family, but for the entire city of Winnipeg: the Shanghai Restaurant. The Shanghai opened in the 1940s, originally as the Shanghai Chop Suey House. At the height of its popularity, from the 1950s to 1980s, it had grown to occupy a whole city block. Its distinctive red neon sign was a welcoming beacon to its loyal clientele, who lined up around that entire block, waiting, even in the bitter winter cold, for a table or a takeout meal at their favorite Chinese restaurant. An aunt and uncle of mine went to the Shanghai regularly when they were dating; later they celebrated birthdays there with their daughters. When we went as a family, the restaurant staff would push tables together in the center of one of their three dining rooms to accommodate our large group. Uncle Archie would take charge and make sure we all got our favorite dishes: Golden Dragon, sweet and sour chicken, egg foo yung. The kids drank Shirley Temples and the moms sipped Singapore Slings and other drinks garnished with little paper umbrellas. There we were, at our big table, the center of attention, and enjoying every minute of it. My uncle loved the food so much he was known to order takeout and drive in to the city from his cottage at Winnipeg Beach to pick up his order (that’s about a two hour and twenty minute round trip!) But times changed for the Shanghai, and after seventy years in business (owned, managed, and staffed by the same family), the restaurant closed in December of 2010. A niece of the owners wrote a wonderful article in the National Post, chronicling the many memories of the family who worked so hard to make the restaurant a Winnipeg landmark. So in keeping with my current mood of nostalgia, I’ve prepared a dish that my children have enjoyed since they were very young. Potstickers are surprisingly easy to make and, of course, the homemade version is so much better than store-bought. I have included a link to an excellent illustrated instruction on how to pleat these little dumplings. And being that this is an occasion of sorts, I would like to thank my family and friends for following me this past year. Your encouragement and support means so much to me. My cousin Sandra, writer extraordinaire, (you can visit her personal blog at sandrascorner.wordpress.com) made me promise “not to delete anything”. Andy, Katie, Daniel, and David, thank you for being such good sports. I’m happiest when I’m cooking for you four. And, for my first blogiversary gift, I will send one reader a copy of Sophie Dahl’s new cookbook “Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes”. It’s a lovely book of seasonal recipes with stories and gorgeous photography. Just leave me a comment here (and a way that I can contact you if you win) and I will make a random draw of names. The winner will be announced on Monday, July 30. Now I finally get to say,
One year ago: No-Bake Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce
(makes 26-30 dumplings)
1 package gyoza/potsticker wrappers (available in the freezer section of most supermarkets)
a generous 1/2 pound lean, ground pork
1 cup finely chopped napa or green cabbage
2 green onions, bottoms and green tops, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 -1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water, for sealing the edges of the potstickers
Thaw the wrappers in the refrigerator overnight or for about 30-40 minutes at room temperature. Place the chopped cabbage in a sieve and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let stand for 15 minutes and then rinse with cold water. Squeeze the cabbage dry in a tea towel or piece of cheesecloth. This step will prevent soggy potstickers. Mix all the filling ingredients together, and fry a tiny portion of the mixture to test for seasoning. Adjust salt and ginger/garlic to your liking. Take a wrapper in the palm of your hand and with your finger, dab some of the cornstarch slurry around the edges of the wrapper. Place about a teaspoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper, bring the edges together and pleat the dumpling like the illustration here.
As you finish each potsticker place it on a parchment-lined sheet or tray and cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent them drying out. When you are ready to cook, heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potstickers, flat bottom-side down, and brown them.
You can turn them to lightly brown the sides, if you wish. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and cover tightly. Turn the heat down to medium and steam the dumplings until they are done, about 3-5 minutes. Enjoy your dumplings with the dipping sauce of your choice or this one:
Dipping Sauce for Potstickers
1 teaspoon Asian chile sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar.
(recipe for sauce and potstickers just slightly adapted from the blog Steamy Kitchen)