The Frugal Foodie: The Source’s Scott Drewno

Ring in the Chinese New Year with food for wealth, not an exorbitant grocery bill. We challenge the Source’s chef Scott Drewno to show us how with a celebratory meal for under $10.

The Source chef Scott Drewno chooses ingredients for his Chinese New Year feast.

“That is one ugly dumpling,” says Scott Drewno, looking at the pork-filled wonton I’ve been working on. The chef at the Source—Wolfgang Puck’s Asian-accented restaurant in DC’s Penn Quarter—accepted our Frugal Foodie challenge and agreed to cook an Asian-themed menu for four to celebrate the Chinese New Year. We’re making crescent-shaped dumplings because the shape is reminiscent of an ancient currency and supposed to bring wealth in the new year. And Drewno is right: My dumpling is an ugly, doughy blob with unevenly folded ends.  

One more time, Drewno walks me through how to assemble the dumpling. He takes the round wonton wrapper and rubs an egg wash along the ring of half the wonton. He places a small amount of the mixture he’s created and then folds the wonton in half like a taco. He then creates two accordion folds on each end and works the dumpling on the counter, curving it to resemble a crescent. After several more attempts, I start to get the hang of it. At the very least, the shape is apparent—a half-moon-shaped token for a prosperous year.

The Chinese new year—the year of the ox—begins January 26. Many of the foods dished up are meant to appease the gods and ensure a healthy, successful year. Drewno cuts the rice noodles we picked up at China Boy—a basement take-out spot on the outskirts of Chinatown—into long strips that will denote longevity. And he uses pork for the dumpling mixture and stir-fry not only because it’s within his $10 budget, but also because it signifies prosperity.

Then, the Frugal Foodie pantry—a.k.a. my sparse home kitchen— receives an unexpected windfall. Drewno explains that the Asian pantry would have some standard items that aren’t included in the typical Frugal Foodie collection of sugar, flour, and olive oil. He says every Asian pantry should have rice vinegar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and red-hot chili sauce. He pulls a bottle of each out of a bag as a gift. It may be a bribe to keep his budget within the $10 limit, but given all the talk about luck and prosperity, it seems unwise to doubt the kitchen gods.

Drewno uses his pantry items to make everything. For a pork marinade he mixes rice vinegar, soy sauce, and red-chili sauce. He then adds oyster sauce, soy sauce, and red-chili sauce to the dumpling fillings; they’ll be served with a dipping sauce of rice vinegar, soy, and red-chili sauce. And he makes a sauce for the stir-fry that includes rice vinegar, soy sauce, red-chili sauce and the very pungent fish sauce. The Frugal Foodie judge deems these items official pantry items, not a bribe.

After digging into the dumplings and stir-fry, it’s clear the new year is off to a very good start.

All recipes serve four.

Pork Dumplings:

¾ pounds pork
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
½ tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red-chili sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package round wonton wrappers
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove.
Chop the pork very finely, until it is the consistency of ground sausage. Put it in a bowl and  
mix in the next eight ingredients. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg to create an egg wash.
Rub the egg wash along the edge of half of the wonton. Place a small amount of the mixture into the center of the wonton.
Fold the wonton in half like a taco, then fold each end with 2 accordion folds. Work the dumpling on the counter making one side flat and curve the whole thing to resemble a crescent. Add dumplings to the rapidly boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain well.
Heat up a large frying pan and then add the vegetable oil. When the oil is well heated—it will start to smoke slightly—add the dumplings and pan-fry for about two to three minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve immediately.

Dumpling sauce:

¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red-chili sauce

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve with the dumplings.

Pork marinade:

½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup rice wine
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red-chili sauce

Mix all ingredients.

Pork Stir-Fry:

1 ½ pounds pork
½ pound green beans
2 sheets rice noodles (keep at room temperature until ready to use)
scallions, as needed
½ cup fish sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red-chili sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut the pork into long, thin strips and marinate.
Cut the green beans on a bias and blanch in boiling water for one minute. Set up a pot of ice water and plunge the green beans into it to keep them from overcooking. Drain.
Cut the rice noodles into long, thick strips.
Make the sauce: In a bowl, mix the fish sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, soy sauce and red-chili sauce. Set aside.
Heat a large frying pan until it’s hot, then add the vegetable oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the pork.
Cook the pork until medium rare—about two minutes—stirring or shaking the pan frequently.
Add the noodles to the pan and cook for one minute.
Add the sauce, green beans, and scallions to the pan. Stir and cook for another minute. Serve immediately.

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Want to hear more about Scott Drewno's Chinese New Year menu? He'll chat about his meal with Frugal Foodie writer Kelly DiNardo this Sunday on foodie radio show Dishing it Out. Tune into 1500AM at 11 AM.