Crimpin’ Ain’t Easy

I had been planning to make this for days, but never managed to get the ground turkey. Eventually I did, and these shu mai were the happy result. Normally I make them with shrimp and/or scallops, but for whatever reason I wanted turkey. I have learned to listen to my desires, for they are often smarter than I am.

I seasoned the meat with fish sauce, ginger, scallion, garlic, cilantro, and Korean pepper powder to give it a crustaceous hue and a little heat. I formed little balls of meat and crimped them into wrappers, which I found at a fish market I like that’s not too far away.

They got nestled into the bamboo steamer, which fits perfectly inside my stock pot. I used parchment to keep them from sticking. There was room in the second level, but I had nothing else to steam, sadly.

While they cooked I wilted a big colander full of baby turnips that I thinned out of the garden. I love using the thinnings, from tiny sprouts to larger yet still tender plants. It’s supremely efficient, allowing for lots of production in a finite space. I overplant all my greens so I can enjoy the babies while letting the others mature.

At this late juncture, I suddenly realized that we were out of soy sauce. I know, right? It’s the worst thing that has ever happened anywhere. But I rallied, and made a pretty passable sauce with chicken stock, fish sauce, black vinegar, sriracha, and a dribble each of maple syrup and sesame oil. The yellow flowers are from the last of the pak choi I planted in March, and the purple ones are chives. This was a highly enjoyable plate of food, and I washed it down with various wines leftover from the previous night’s excesses; Mary stopped by, and we tasted a bunch of the treats in her portfolio:

The Mâcon is excellent, with lots of definition and detail. La Folie Noire is interesting, with a fascinating black tea thing happening, and the Grain Noir (declassified Cornas) is pretty astonishing juice for the Northern Rhône. The star, of course, was the Clos Vougeot, Freaking gorgeous. Octaves of fruit and perfume and a structure both monumental and seductively undulating.

It’s remarkable what a thin membrane of dough can do to a bunch of turkey meatballs. Like a pie crust, it gives form and authority to the filling; meatballs on a plate with sauce doesn’t look like dinner. Dumplings do. And they were.

3 comments to Crimpin’ Ain’t Easy

  • Mem

    I love these little packages, too, and make them myself. I make lots of them and freeze them for many more meals to come.

  • Those really look marvelous and I sure they tasted good, too, soy sauce or no soy sauce. Your recipes are usually ‘way too ambitious for me to attempt, but this one seems really attainable by the average cook. Pretty, too, what with the flowers and the frills of wrappers.

  • Considering the pickiness of the proteins my husband and I like, I spend a lot of time trying to dress up turkey. Anyway, anyone can cook with soy sauce! You took it all to a new level.

    Crimping is hard? These guys might disagree http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCR_Z7Fsa3k

    Oops. Wrong crimp.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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