Preston Market is possibly the best market in Melbourne. It is currently marketing (no pun intended) itself as the market at which locals, not tourists, shop. Clever strategy - the perfect way to attract non-locals and tourists is to pretend that only locals shop there.
If that makes sense.
It's great for breakfast on a Saturday morning. If you like pizza. No kidding, the breakfast of choice at Preston Market is pizza, although last time I went there early on a Saturday morning I had a burek, straight out of the oven and bursting with melting cheese and spinach. And a coffee. You can't beat sitting in the open plaza in the early early morning sun, weekend newspaper spread out, watching busy shoppers stocking up for weekend barbecues and family feasts.
Across the road from the market, there's a Chinese cafe that specialises in dumplings. It's a homely kind of place with condiments and chili on all the tables and a TV set in the corner tuned to Hainan TV. You can sit there at lunchtime on a Saturday, eat enough dumplings to sink a ship and watch TV direct from China. Chinese commercials have a gay, colourful, graphic 1960's retro feel about them. Quite refreshing after the attitude-laden and downright offensive rubbish that passes for most television advertising.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, dumplings. We thought we should try them at home.
I bought a pack of Jiao Zi - boiled dumpling - wrappers for $1.50 at one of the Asian food stores. There's about a hundred in a pack, so we're going to be eating plenty of dumplings, delicious little pouches of yumminess swimming in soup.
Chop up a generous handful of prawns and mix them with some well-chopped spring onions, a little chopped ginger and coriander, a splash of fish sauce, another splash of tamari, a small spoonful of corn flour and some rice wine, just a sprinkle. Mix it into a reasonably firm consistency, spoon an amount into the middle of each dumpling wrapper, fold each in half and press the edges together to seal them into semi-circles.
I made a kind of soup with stock and some more coriander, ginger and garlic, dropped the dumplings in and they puffed up beautifully. Fresh bean shoots and chinese basil on the side - toss the bean shoots and shards of the basil over your soup for a sensational crunch, texture and flavour sensation. Add some chile for heat ... maybe a little extra tamari ...
I think we made up and ate about 25 or 30. That means we've got up to seventy dumpling wrappers left to fill - with minced chicken and corn, minced pork, bean curd, vietnamese mint and crushed peanuts ... dumpling options are endless!