Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Ladies Who Lunch

I have a friend whose name is Ping. Ping is probably more fit than two of me put together, and is as gorgeous and smart as they come, maybe even more. She has a personality as big as her heart, and like any good Malaysian, she loves food.

Ping discovered some time ago that her body reacts adversely to certain foods - bloating, pain, stomach discomfort. One of the things she can't tolerate any more is gluten. She had to give up a lot of foods she really loved, and one of them was Chinese pot stickers and Japanese gyoza.

I have another friend named Pearl. Just like her name, she's radiant and precious. She has a huge heart and a big smile, and she has the most wonderful, sunny attitude no matter what happens (unlike me). She also has two beautiful children, an amazing, devoted husband, and a lovely big kitchen.

Due to certain circumstances beyond my control, I've not been able to do a whole lot of cooking, and I can't bake in my kitchen much any more. It's probably contributing to my current state of permanent stress, but it can't be helped. Life happens.

And out of life happening, this is where all our stories start to merge - Ping's, Pearl's, and mine. When Pearl found out about my kitchen situation, she offered her kitchen so I could cook and destress, and she invited Ping to come too so we could all have lunch and spend time with each other - something we don't do nearly enough in the midst of all our busy schedules.

So that's how I wound up in Pearl's beautiful kitchen two weeks ago, making gluten-free pot stickers dough from the recipe in Laura B. Russell's terrific book, The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. Shauna of Gluten Free Girl had mentioned this book to me quite some time ago, but I'd totally forgotten about it until I saw it in the bookstore a couple months back. I have to admit the main reason I bought it was because it had a recipe for pot sticker dough, and I have MISSED eating pot stickers. Just like Ping!

I was a bit nervous about trying the recipe, mostly because I've had some incredible disasters happen with things like homemade gluten-free pasta, which came out not quite like what I wanted it to. The minute I put the flours together, poured in just boiled water and kneaded up the dough though, I was sold. The dough felt so wonderfully silky and - yes, I won't deny it - wheat-flour like in texture. I loved everything about it, now it just had to make it past the taste test.

Rolling out and kneading the dough took a little bit of practice, but nothing I couldn't handle. Note to anyone who decides to try the recipe out of the book: cover the rolled pieces of dough with a damp towel, otherwise it'll dry out really fast and become brittle. My first batch of pot sticker skins suffered that fate. The second time, I used the damp towel and all went swimmingly well.

One of my favourite ever Vietnamese cookbook authors and bloggers, Andrea Nguyen, published a wonderful series of gluten-free pot sticker dough posts on her blog, Viet World Kitchen. The one I've linked to is the recipe I used out of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. Andrea is an amazing cook and a lovely, lovely person - go check out her series of posts on gluten-free dumpling dough, they really are worth the read.

Once we'd finished cooking the pot stickers, it was time for the taste test. All three of us agreed: Absolutely fabulous! They tasted just like the real thing, perhaps a touch stickier, but that was all right. And the best thing is, Ping not only loved them, she didn't get any ill effects from them later on!

We've decided to make The Ladies Who Lunch a bi-weekly affair. This week's offerings will be Shauna's gluten-free bread sticks and gluten-free spaghetti with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with butter and onions.

Thank you Andrea, Laura, and Shauna for making it possible for Ping and I to eat the stuff we love. It means so much more than we both could ever say in words.


  1. aww.. you're so wonderful yourself, girl.. I love having you & Ping in my kitchen. Such diverse characters, we are but come together for one common thing: food!! :D love ya..

  2. Good gosh, and here I was just about to write a "Ladies Who Lunch" article! The ladies in mine were tai-tai's who attended a bread-baking class though, so not very gluten-free, unfortunately! :P