Spinach spicy dumplings feature a filling of eggplant, egg, sweet potato noodles and wild hot peppers.
Baoyuan Dumpling House has certainly done it. You will not find basic meat dumplings at this restaurant. Instead, we were offered a rainbow of choices with brightly colored skins and exciting flavor combinations.
Our favorite was the purple dumplings (the color comes from red cabbage) filled with bean sprouts, minced pork, purple cabbage and crusty rice, a combination that is warm, but fresh and crunchy.
The other was a spinach-colored dumpling that hid a spicy surprise. It had eggplant, egg, sweet potato noodles and wild hot peppers in it, and although it was vegetarian, it was very satisfying, with complementary flavors and textures.
Chen says her inspiration for the dumplings come from the philosophy of classical pairing.
"Each filling is like a mini dish in itself. It's all about a match of flavors and textures." In order to bring out the layers of flavors, Chen says she first identifies the main ingredient.
"Take the lotus root and cucumber filling for example. The lotus root has this earthy woody fragrance but it disappears when mixed with other ingredients. The key is to marinate it first and then pair it with cucumber, which has similar texture and a lighter background flavor. I put the coriander in at the end to add more fragrance."
Many hours of trial and error went into the creation of these dumpling recipes. Chen tried dozens of ingredients every day after work, repeatedly pairing one with another, learning the hard way because she did not have a teacher. All the hard work pays off when she sees how her customers enjoy the dumplings.
Each dumpling is handmade, an undertaking that is time consuming, but worth the effort.