Trip to the Gyp: Chinese Edition!

Hear me out when I say homemade dumplings MIGHT be better than itsu frozen gyoza

After spending my first Lunar New Year away from home (Happy New Year by the way!!), I was REALLY starting to crave my parents’ cooking. Fast forward to me lying in bed at 1 pm and deciding I was going to attempt to cook three Chinese takeaway classics: dumplings, chicken chow mein, and pork spring rolls. It sounds easy enough… but honestly, have you tried to cook ANYTHING in a Cambridge gyp?? I also decided (for reasons related to this article and this article only) to order the same three items from a local Chinese takeaway to compare dishes.

I ventured with the dumplings…

Okay. This was the first thing I attempted – and it probably only took me 5 minutes before I realised this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. I first made the dough (wrongly, and without any measurements) and alternated between realising it was too sticky, then too dry, debating whether to give up, and continuing this loop for a solid 10 minutes.

At this point, my flatmate Emily (hi Em, if you’re reading this) came in and, realising I was struggling, decided to help. After making both the filling and the dough, we noticed neither of us owned a rolling pin. In typical student style – the only *and best* alternative had to be a half-empty wine bottle. Duh.

Britney and Sugababes blaring, I was actually impressed at how well we were doing. The wine bottle was working surprisingly well apart from the fact the first few dumpling skins stuck to it. We started to distribute the work, with Emily rolling the dumplings and me filling them up – our pace picked up from here. After about 45 minutes, we had used up all the filling, realised we had too much and then made more dough, made more dumplings AND cooked them all.

Final product: 7/10

Honestly. They were quite good. I wish I’d added more seasoning to the filling, and minus points for the entire first batch splitting in half – but who cares how they look if they taste good, right? Also had to deduct points for the amount of washing up these resulted in. No reasonable uni student wants that. You may notice the wine bottle in the background is now completely empty but I can assure you this has *nothing* to do with my optimism here – I would actually recommend giving these a go sometime!!

Next up we have our beloved chicken chow mein

A stable takeaway classic – and one that is surprisingly easy. I popped to Mainsbury’s, grabbed some egg noodles and chicken breast alongside some spring onion and bean sprouts – and got started.

The only downside of this is that you need two hobs simultaneously – one to fry the chicken and one to cook the noodles. If your gyp is anything like ours, this is practically impossible unless your pots and pans are quite small. Sadly, this meant I couldn’t cook for the entire household, given my tiny frying pan could barely handle enough chicken for myself *insert sad face*

I feel like I may have oversimplified this a bit – but a student striving for academic rigour doesn’t have time to follow proper recipes. I got some soy sauce, salt, and pepper, chucked it all in a pan with the chicken, added the spring onions and bean sprouts after a while and bish bash bosh. Throw the egg noodles in when they’re done with a bit more soy sauce and somehow that was it?

Final product: 8/10

It tasted really good – it was just a bit boring. I wanted a bit more *spice* but this is probably my fault for well… simply not adding spice. Extra points for how easy it was, how little space it needed in the kitchen, and especially not having to do much washing up afterwards. Honestly, would 10/10 recommend if you have a little extra time and you’re not feeling like eating your 5th microwave meal this week – it probably only took about 15 minutes in total.

Some cheeky pork spring rolls

You might be thinking: “Hannah. We don’t want to make these. Don’t you have to make the pastry? Won’t that take forever?” Well, my friends, luckily for you there are *multiple* Chinese supermarkets in Cambridge and most, if not all of them, stock spring roll pastry. You’re welcome.

Pastry acquired, I started to wonder whether these might be the easiest ones yet. I seasoned the pork, chopped up some Chinese leaf and spring onion (the bean sprouts came to an unfortunate fate after being left in my fridge for too long…) and began rolling them.

No joke – they each took less than a minute to roll. If you’re thinking of trying these, seal the roll by dipping your finger in a mixture (!!) of flour and water – not just water. Don’t ask me why it works, it simply does.

Spring rolls rolled, I set off frying them (admittedly, the amount of oil needed to cook these makes you question the decisions that led to this point). I realised at this point that I actually had no idea how to tell when these were cooked and so decided I’d just guess and it would probably be okay – I mean if I’m giving anyone food poisoning it would be myself right? Maybe get a few days off from doing essays?

After a good few minutes, I pulled one out and cut it in half. The good news – it was cooked! The bad news – I forgot to put soy sauce in the pork and it was a weird colour and had a slightly disappointing taste as a result.

Final product: 8/10

Considering I forgot a pretty vital ingredient – these were not bad at all, winning a: “Han, these are actually really good!” from Em. They were super simple to make and took up almost no space, they were super fast to make and by uni standards, kinda healthy given they were half vegetable. Points lost for needing literally an entire pot of oil (which in itself caused some stress when I realised I couldn’t pour it down the sink).

Comparing time: Me vs takeaway

I have to admit – I was pleasantly surprised by how well my cooking held up compared to the takeaway. Their spring rolls were WAY better – full of flavour and general deliciousness, but honestly, the noodles were kinda burnt and super salty (which mine actually weren’t… surprisingly) and I didn’t love the flavour of the dumplings – although other members of my flat did so I guess that one’s up for debate.

All in all, these were some really tasty and easy things to make in the *limited* space a gyp provides. All the ingredients (apart from the spring roll pastries) can be found in Mainsbury’s, can all be made vegetarian and, to be honest, are probably healthier than the things we usually eat at uni. We hope you all had a safe and Happy Lunar New Year – wishing you all the best for the Year of the Ox!

Featured Image Credit: Hannah Huang

All images are the author’s own.

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