Saturday, August 28, 2010

And you can fry them too

By Michael

Almost every cuisine that’s worth eating has them: boiled or steamed pieces of dough with stuff inside. Call them shumai, kreplach, ravioli, potstickers, tortellini, jiaozi, steamed buns, manti, khinkali, and mandu. Or if you live in a Polish neighborhood as my fictional PI Joe Kozmarski does, call them pierogi. Call them what you want, to my thinking they’re the ultimate comfort food.

There’s nothing edgy about dumplings. The proper noise to make when eating them is a slurp. If you’re normally attractive, you’ll be less so with soy sauce dripping down your chin or marinara sauce on your cheek. You may want to unbutton the top of your pants when you finish eating, but only to give your belly more room.

Other foods become the subject of love songs. Think of Mtume singing “Juicy Fruit” (“You’re my sugar thing,/ My chocolate star”). Think of the Archies singing “Sugar, Sugar” (“Sugar, ah honey honey,/ You are my candy girl/ And you’ve got me wanting you”). What the heck, think of Mtume again (“I’ll be your lollipop./ You can lick me everywhere”). Other foods get some. But not boiled or steamed dough with stuff inside. The only popular lyric that focuses on dumplings (at least the only one I can think of) emphasizes the un-sexy, the un-edgy, the slovenly: “Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John/ Went to bed with his trousers on;/ One shoe off, and one shoe on,/ Diddle, Diddle, dumpling, my son John.” Apparently My son John ate a plate of shumai, a couple of kreplach, a bowl of ravioli, and a dozen steamed buns and collapsed from the effort of removing a shoe. So, if you want someone to hold you and control you and then melt you slowly down like chocolate (Kylie Minogue), skip the dumplings. But if you’re looking for simple comfort, there’s nothing better.

My PI, like many other PIs, has struggled with various addictions (alcohol, cocaine) –and with the attractions of the edge – but he mostly has put his chemical dependence behind him. When the burden of the world becomes too much for him, he turns instead to a different escape mechanism. Pierogi. As he knows, they’re best taken with sour cream, though he also likes his with applesauce.













9 comments:

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Lovely post, Michael! I wondered what exciting treats were in store for the weekend!

Dough with stuff in it. Can't get much better than that. I used to have an bulani from this Afghan restaurant for lunch almost every day when I worked in Emeryville. Thin layer of dough around spicy potatoes served with a yogurt-based dip. And potstickers. And BBQ pork buns. And potato dumplings. And... I'm ready for lunch now.

Michael Wiley said...

I've already eaten a large dinner, and now you have my mouth watering again, Rebecca. We didn't even get to the deep fried versions: right now a plate of samosas with some coriander chutney sounds good.

Gabi said...

Comfort is a lonely thing for you, Michael. So sad. Needless to say, I'm staying away from the potstickers on my next date.

You do make the various balls of dough sound lovely and sedative.

Michael Wiley said...

Oh, there's nothing lonely about eating dumplings, Gabi. Dumplings are capable of providing mass comfort: think of a crowded dim sum restaurant. Think of the children's book Go Dog Go with all the dogs snoozing together in a massive bed. Okay, they may not have eaten dumplings, but they may as well have.

Gabi said...

I love Go Dog Go. And you're right, when they stop Going, they collapes into what might be a dumpling induced group nap position.

Shane Gericke said...

Fried, baby, fried. That's the best way to eat those luscious dumplings: fried up in a wok. If Chinese dumplings, anyway. Great post, Michael. Makes me hungry for dumplings now.

"Dough with stuff." Great description, Rebecca.

Michael Wiley said...

There's a poetic simplicity in Go Dog Go, isn't there, Gabi? And once the dog does, one might say that we have a Doggone.

Michael Wiley said...

I'm with you, Shane. Except for a few of the dumplings -- e.g. steamed shumai, boiled kreplach -- fried is the way to go. And I'll bet that the shumai and kreplach would be good fried too.

Kelli Stanley said...

Oh, Michael--I've got a bag of homemade pierogi in my freezer that's been there for something like two years ...

My secret family recipe (my mom's Polish), made by mom. I love 'em so much I couldn't bear to cook 'em. So they're still stuck in the freezer, like a prize. Yeah, I love 'em that much.

There used to be a phenomenal Polish restaurant near me with some damn good pierogi. Not as good as Mom's, naturally ... what is? But still good. Meat, cheese, sauerkraut, mushrooms ... whatever they're filled with, they're heaven on earth.

Sigh. And don't forget the sour cream.