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Pan Sip Nueng Sai Kai (Steamed Dumplings with Chicken-Peanut Filling)

A recipe for Pan Sip Nueng Sai Kai (Steamed Dumplings with Chicken-Peanut Filling) from the cookbook, Bangkok.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Thai
Keyword chicken, dumpling, peanut, Thai, Thailand
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 48 Dumplings

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro roots or stems
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon homemade lard or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced shallots
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs chopped with a cleaver to a coarse grind or coarsely ground in a food processor
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar or 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts finely chopped

Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups Thai tapioca starch
  • 3/4 cup Thai rice flour plus more for working with the dough
  • 1/2 cup Thai glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Banana leaf wiped clean with a damp cloth, for lining steamer tier

Sides:

  • 1/4 cup fried garlic oil
  • 1/4 cup fried garlic
  • 24 green lettuce leaves
  • Plump fresh bird's eye chiles as many as you like
  • 1/2 inch bunch cilantro

Instructions

To make the filling:

  • In a mortar, grind together the garlic, cilantro roots, and peppercorns to a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a 10-inch frying pan, add the lard and shallots, and set over medium-high heat. Fry until the shallots have softened, about 1 minute.
  • Add the chicken, salt, and sugar and stir-fry, breaking up the chicken as finely as possible with the blunt end of a wooden spatula, until the chicken is opaque and all of the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped peanuts and transfer the filling to a plate to cool, spreading it as thinly as possible to speed the process.

To make the dough:

  • While the filling cools, in a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. (You won't need all of the water, but it's better to have more than you need on hand.)
  • Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, stir together the tapioca starch, rice flour, glutinous rice flour, salt, and oil until the oil is fully dispersed into the dry ingredients and becomes invisible. Get a sturdy wooden spoon ready. The moment the water is at a rolling boil, slowly pour it in a thin stream into the center of the flour mixture while simultaneously using the wooden spoon to stir everything together briskly. Stop adding the water the moment a stiff and shaggy ball of dough forms that cleans the bottom and sides of the bowl. If in doubt, err on the side of too little water, as you can always add more.
  • With one hand, knead the dough lightly in the bowl, using your palm to gather the dough into a ball and your knuckles to push it down, just until the dough is smooth and supple, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a smooth ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then invert the bowl over the dough. Let rest for 30 minutes.

To assemble:

  • At this point, you should have a ball of dough that weighs about 1 1/2 pounds and 2 cups filling. The goal is to make 48 dumplings, each with 2 teaspoons filling. Do your best to divide the dough into 48 uniform pieces (a scale comes in handy here) and roll each piece into a smooth ball about 1 inch in diameter. Keep the balls under an overturned bowl. Line a steamer tier with parchment paper or a piece of banana leaf.
  • Have additional rice flour nearby for dipping your fingers as you assemble the dumplings, as the dough can get sticky. Use your fingers to flatten a dough ball into a round 2 1/2-2 3/4 inches in diameter and of even thickness. Place the dough round in the center of your cupped palm and push the center down a bit so the wrapper looks like a flared bowl. Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center. Fold the wrapper over the filling to form a half-moon. Pinch the edges of the wrapper together -quite hard- to form a very flat seal from one end to the other.
  • You can stop at this point or you can give your dumplings a beautiful rope edge by using the tips of the fingers of your nondominant hand to grab a sealed dumpling by its "belly" and hold it vertically. Starting from the bottom end, use the thumb and the index finger of your dominant hand to fold the seal upward and pinch it down on itself to secure the first pleat. Repeat, forming decorative pleats until you reach the top end. Tuck the end of the "rope" behind the top end and secure it with a light squeeze. If at any point the dough gets too sticky to fold, dip your fingers into the rice flour. Set the dumpling aside on a lightly floured surface and cover it with a kitchen towel. Repeat until you have used all of the dough and filling.
  • When all of the dumplings have been shaped, bring the water in the steamer pot to a rolling boil. Working in batches, arrange the dumplings in the prepared steamer tier, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Set over the boiling water, cover, and steam the dumplings until the wrappers turn glossy and slightly translucent, 5-6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, brush a large platter with a thin coat of the garlic oil. When the dumplings are ready, use a spoon to gently transfer them one by one to the prepared platter and brush a little oil on them to keep them from sticking together. Steam the remaining dumplings in the same way.
  • Sprinkle the dumplings with the fried garlic and serve them while they are still warm by wrapping in half a leaf of lettuce along with a little bit of chile and a sprig of cilantro and enjoying it in one bite.