‘Pumpkin dumplings!’ shrieked our Taiwanese friend Sarah, who has lived all over the Mainland for years. ‘That’s not Chinese!’ Unhappily we’ve never quite made it to Xinjiang, the sprawling Muslim region in the northwest, but we have eaten bucketloads of food from that area during our travels. These are based on a dish from that region, kawa mantisi, or pumpkin dumplings. So, technically, she’s right; these aren’t strictly Han Chinese, but Xinjiang counts as part of Greater China, as it’s within the borders.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) jap or kent pumpkin (winter squash), peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 225 g (8 oz/ 1½ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1½ tsp salt
- black rice vinegar and chilli flakes, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 30 minutes
Heat half of the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the pumpkin, ginger and cumin seeds. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender, then remove the lid and cook, stirring often, for another 20 minutes, or until the liquid released from the pumpkin has evaporated and the mixture has thickened. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper, then cool.
Meanwhile, to make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add 185 ml (6 fl oz/ ¾ cup) water, then use your hands to mix to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth, adding a little extra flour if necessary; the dough should be a little soft. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into 20 even pieces, then roll each piece into a ball. Using a small rolling pin, roll a dough ball into a 12 cm (4½ inch) circle, rolling the edges so they are a little thinner than the middle. Place a slightly heaped tablespoon of cooled pumpkin mixture in the middle of the round, then lightly brush around the edge of the dough with water. Bring the dough edges up and over the pumpkin filling, pleating seven or eight times to enclose the filling, and twisting the ends together to seal.
Place the completed dumplings on a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, rolling out a few each time and then filling them.
Put the dumplings in a steamer lined with perforated baking paper. Place the steamer over a wok or saucepan of boiling water, then cover and steam for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve with small bowls of vinegar for dipping, and chilli flakes, to sprinkle over as desired.