It’s an old family recipe that has been tailored through the years by the tastes of the Mississippi Delta.
The family of Clarksdale resident Gilroy Chow will have their dumplings and other unique dishes featured on Somewhere South at 9 p.m. Friday on PBS.
“It’s a new food program and they called us and asked if we cooked dumplings,” said Chow. “Everybody cooks dumplings, but these are Delta Chinese dumplings.”
While traditional dumplings are strips of dough simmered in a thickening broth with chicken, Chinese dumplings take meat and spices and wrap them in dough and then steam them.
Chow said the film crew showed up last fall.
“We cooked one afternoon,” said Chow. “We stacked up our steamers about nine layers and cooked about 30 steamers over our wok.”
Chow said his family has been gathering once a month for years for family food night.
“Everybody brings comfort food and it’s traditionally something their mothers made for them or that the group especially likes,” said Chow.
Gilroy’s wife Sally said most of their dishes have been Americanized through the years.
“Jean Mask’s mother makes dhongs which is sweet rice and Chinese sausage,” said Sally. “The dish traditionally has peanuts in it, but her dish has black-eyed peas instead.”
Sally said all cooking is handed down from mother to daughter, no matter the culture. She said she never quite got the knack for forming Chinese dumplings as quickly and effectively as her mother.
“I taught my kids,” she added. “They know how to use a steamer and we do a lot of cooking for Chinese New Year.”
Gilroy said they had to get additional bamboo and stainless steel steamers for Somewhere South’s visit.
The menu the Chows prepared had 11 dishes: sesame balls, steamed buns, Shang Hai dumpling soup, chicken sticky rice, shrimp and chive dumplings, scallop dumplings, shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, deep fried shrimp and pork dumplings, shrimp and pork bean curd roll, and shrimp/pork/mushroom dumplings.
“It’s not unusual for us to cook for a dozen people but this was a little bit bigger job,” he explained. “It was all shot here on our carport and at the Mississippi Delta Chinese Museum.”
The Chows said they have no idea what will be shown in the video, but they have seen a trailer.
“It’s pretty neat for them to pick us and we want to see what they show and say,” said Chow. “Our family has eaten these dishes for years and this is just our way of sharing them with others.”
Somewhere South is a new food show and premiered March 27. Host and award-winning chef Vivian Howard looks at the lesser-known roots of Southern food, Southern cooking and Southern living.
Each episode of “Somewhere South” explores a single dish, and the ways people of different backgrounds interpret that dish while expressing the values, identities and history that makes up the American South.