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Asian Dumplings

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Written by foodie pam   
Friday, 12 March 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Asian Dumplings" by Andrea Nguyen

Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen (Ten Speed Press, 2009)  is a 2010 IACP Cookbook awards finalist in the Single Subject category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie IACP Finalists Guide.

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Photo by Penny De Los Santos © 2009
Dumplings are something I consider a treat, something to feast on when I get the opportunity. Andrea Nguyen offers an alternative - under her guidance we can make our own dumplings right in our own kitchens and feast on them whenever we want.

As with Andrea's wonderful first book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, it is clear that Asian Dumplings contains a piece of her heart.  This book is clearly a labor of love.  

I haven't had a chance to chat with Andrea in a few years, but when I last saw her we shared a wonderful stroll through the Santa Cruz farmers' market.  Seeing vegetable through her eyes was not only a fun experience, but a knowledge packed one as well.

Asian Dumplings is the same.  Andrea presents a huge amount of knowledge on how to make every recipe (see for example the Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings below). The result is that you'll have fun making and eating them.  About the only thing I can think of better than making some of her dumplings myself would be convincing her to make some with me.

Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings (Tarkari Momo)

ImageReprinted with permission from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Makes 32 dumplings, serving 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a snack or starter

Tarkari momo are strikingly similar in concept to Italian ravioli with a ricotta-based filling, but the seasonings in these Nepalese dumplings reveal their Asian roots. Cumin, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn commingle with chenna, or crumbly curds of Indian cheese (a precursor to paneer). Those ingredients combine with fresh chile, vegetables, and butter to make a wonderful vegetarian dumpling. The eye-poppingly spicy tomato sauce is a fabulous pairing with the delicate, rich filling.

The cheese is very easy to prepare, but you can substitute 1/3 pound paneer, crumbling or mincing it before using. For a pretty presentation, consider tinting the wrappers orange or gold by using some carrot juice or turmeric (see page 23).

Filling

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 3 cups lightly packed chopped green cabbage
  • 2 cups lightly packed coarsely chopped spinach
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter  
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large medium-hot red chile, such as Holland or Fresno, finely chopped  
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn, toasted in a dry skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant, then crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 large scallions (white and green parts), chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

  • 1 pound Basic Dumpling Dough (see below)
  • 1 1/2 cups Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce (see below)


1. Put the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, line a colander with a flour-sack towel, a piece of muslin, or four layers of cheesecloth.

When the milk begins to boil, decrease the heat to prevent boiling over. Add the lemon juice, stirring gently for about 10 seconds, or until white curds start forming and separating from the clear green-yellow whey. Remove from the heat and strain through the fabric-lined colander. Rinse the curds under cold water at a medium flow for about 5 seconds, to cool slightly and remove residual tang.

Gather up the towel around the curds, gently twisting to extract excess water. (If the cheese is still too hot, try again after it has hung for 10 minutes.) Tie up the corners of the towel, then hang the cheese to drain (I use the sink faucet) for 30 to 45 minutes, or until cool.

Transfer the cheese to a bowl, then mash it into a crumble; there should be about 1 cup. Cover to prevent drying. The cheese can be made up to 4 days in advance and refrigerated.

2. Half-fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cabbage. When the water returns to a boil, add the spinach, stirring to wilt it. Remove from the heat, drain the cabbage and spinach, rinse with cold water, then drain again. Expel excess water by squeezing batches of the vegetables in a towel or the same cloth used for making the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. There should be about 1 1/2 packed cups.

3. Melt the ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrantly sweet. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile, stirring for 30 seconds, or until aromatic. Sprinkle in the Sichuan peppercorn and cumin, stirring for another 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the cabbage and spinach, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Stir in the cheese, scallions, and cilantro to combine. Sprinkle in the salt and mix well. Cook for about 1 minute to heat through.

Give the cornstarch mixture a stir and add to the filling mixture. Gently stir and fold until the mixture coheres. Transfer to a bowl, partially cover, and set aside to cool completely before using. You should have about 2 cups. (Or, cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight, and return to temperature before proceeding.)

4. Meanwhile, form 16 wrappers from half of the dough (see page 24). Aim for wrappers that are about 31/4 inches in diameter.

5. Before assembling the dumplings, line steamer trays and/or a baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you are making the dumplings in advance, or plan to freeze them, lightly dust the paper with flour to avoid sticking.) For each dumpling, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling with a bamboo dumpling spatula, dinner knife, or fork and position it in the center of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a mound and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Use your fingers to pleat and pinch the edge together to enclose the filling and form a closed satchel (see page 52). If that shape is too challenging, make the dumplings into half-moons, pea pods, big hugs, or pleated crescents (see pages 26 to 29 for instructions).

If you are steaming right away, place each finished dumpling in a steamer tray, sealed side up, and 1 inch away from the edge if you are using metal steamers. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, placing them in the steamer about 1/2 inch apart. If you don't have enough space on your steamer trays to steam all the dumplings at once, or if you are not steaming them right away, place the waiting ones on the prepared baking sheet, spaced a good 1/2 inch apart.

Keeping the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel, form wrappers from the remaining dough and fill them.

6. Assembled dumplings can be covered with plastic wrap, refrigerated for several hours, and cooked straight from the refrigerator. Or, freeze them on the baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and keep them frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed, before steaming. 7. To cook, steam the dumplings (see page 17 for guidance) over boiling water for about 8 minutes, or until they have puffed slightly and become somewhat translucent. Remove each tray and place it atop a serving plate.

8. Serve immediately with the sauce in a communal bowl for guests to help themselves. Enjoy with fork and spoon.

Basic Dumpling Dough

Reprinted with permission from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Makes about 1 pound, enough for 32 medium or 24 large dumplings

This dough is the foundation of many excellent dumplings, including Chinese ji?aozi, Korean mandu, and Nepali momo. The process of making the dough is easy to master, especially with a little help from modern tools such as a food processor (though you can mix the dough by hand).

Asian wheat flour wrappers may be made with cold or hot water-the temperature is traditionally dictated by the cooking method. Boiled dumplings are said to require thicker skins made from cold-water dough in order to withstand the pressures of boiling, whereas panfried and steamed dumplings require thinner skins made from hot-water dough for their gentler cooking processes. Over the years, I've found that homemade wrappers of medium thickness, a scant 1/8 inch thick in the center and about 1/16 inch thick at the rim, work well for all cooking methods. If dumplings are gently boiled as described for shujiao on page 31, there is no need for thicker wrappers. Producing medium-thick wrappers is easier with hot-water dough as it is more yielding than its cold-water counterpart. The resulting wrappers taste superior to store-bought ones, and they need no water to seal. Grocery store all-purpose flour with a moderate amount of gluten, such as Gold Medal brand, works exceptionally well.

  • 10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • About 3/4 cup just-boiled water (see Note)

1. To prepare the dough in a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl. With the machine running, add 3/4 cup of water in a steady stream through the feed tube. As soon as all the water has been added, stop the machine and check the dough. It should look rough and feel soft but firm enough to hold its shape when pinched. If necessary, add water by the teaspoon or flour by the tablespoon. When satisfied, run the machine for another 5 to 10 seconds to further knead and form a ball around the blade. Avoid overworking the dough.

2. Alternatively, make the dough by hand. Put a bowl atop a kitchen towel to prevent it from slipping while you work. Put the flour in the bowl and make a well in the center. Use a wooden spoon or bamboo rice paddle to stir the flour while you add 3/4 cup water in a steady stream. Aim to evenly moisten the flour. It is okay to pause to stir or add water-it is hard to simultaneously do both actions. When all the water has been added, you will have lots of lumpy bits. Knead the dough in the bowl (it is not terribly hot) to bring all the lumps into one mass; if the dough does not come together easily, add water by the teaspoon.

3. Regardless of the mixing method, transfer the dough and any bits to a work surface; flour your work surface only if necessary, and then sparingly. Knead the dough (it is not hot) with the heel of your hand for about 30 seconds for machine-made dough, or about 2 minutes for handmade dough. The result should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic; press on the dough; it should slowly bounce back, with a light impression of your finger remaining. Place the dough in a zip-top plastic bag and seal tightly closed, expelling excess air. Set aside to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the plastic bag and become earlobe soft, which makes wrappers easy to work with.

4. After resting, the dough can be used right away to form the wrappers. Or, refrigerate it overnight and returned it to room temperature before using.

Note: Recipes for hot-water dough often call for boiling water to hydrate the dry ingredients, but I find that practice too dangerous and prefer to let the water rest first. For the just-boiled water, half-fill a kettle or saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and after the bubbling action subsides, 30 to 90 seconds (depending on the heating vessel), pour the amount needed into a glass measuring cup and use for making the dough. I typically wait no more than 2 minutes after boiling to use the water.

Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce

Reprinted with permission from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

When you present dumplings with this sauce, the combination may recall an Italian pasta dish, but the sauce's zesty qualities resemble the Latin flavors of Mexico more than of Europe. But on closer analysis, the combination of chile, ginger, herbs, and spices is definitely Asian, specifically Nepal's Himalayan cuisine, which blends Chinese, Indian, and Tibetan traditions. In the Nepalese repertoire, this sauce is a type of achar (a moniker for chutneys and pickles) and is what typically accompanies momo; it's great with Tibetan momo, too.

With a tangy edge, moderate heat, and spiced depth, the sauce has a multilayered punch that begins seemingly subtle but finishes with a certain feistiness. Sometimes ground toasted sesame seeds are added for richness, but I find that they mute the other flavors too much.

  • 3/4 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 1 medium-hot red chile, such as cayenne, Fresno,  Holland, or jalapeño
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice (optional)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seed or Sichuan peppercorn (optional)

1. Position an oven rack about 4 inches away from the broiler. Put the tomato and chile atop a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and broil for about 6 minutes, or until the skins have pulled away and are a bit charred. Turn over and broil the other side for another 2 minutes. Continue, if necessary, to roast and char all over. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. Remove and discard the skins from the tomatoes and chile. Cut away the stems and, if you like less heat, scrape out and discard the chile seeds. Coarsely chop and set aside.

3. Combine the garlic, ginger, and salt in a mortar and pound with the pestle into a fragrant paste. Add the chile and pound to a rough texture. Add the tomatoes and gently mix to break the tomato apart. It will remain chunky. Transfer to a bowl, then stir in the water, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin. (For a fine texture, use an electric mini-chopper and process in stages to ensure a smooth consistency. Blend the water and lime juice with the tomato. Stir in the cilantro and cumin to finish.)

4. Set the sauce aside for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and add extra salt for depth, lime juice to cut the heat, or water to thin out the sauce. Aim for a medium-hot tang. This sauce is best enjoyed the day you prepare it, but it can be refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before serving.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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Wendy Peterson (Unregistered) 2010-03-12 20:58:15

I am so glad you posted these!!! My friend spent 2 years over there for the Peace Corps and always makes spectacular food for us. We just had these dumplings at a great Nepali Restaurant in La Mesa, CA (near San Diego). Fun!! Thanks so much for sharing!
pam (Publisher) 2010-03-13 09:18:20

Hi Wendy - Asian Dumplings has a really great mix of different types of dumplings so it was really hard to pick which to share. I'm glad you like the choice! I haven't had these in a restaurant but I'll have to find them somewhere to see how they compare.
baylah (Unregistered) 2010-09-22 09:49:59

These look wonderful. Is it possible to use a store-bought dumpling wrapper in lieu of making them? If anyone has experience with that, could you let me know? Thanks!
pam (Publisher) 2010-09-22 10:23:02

Baylah - in the book Andrea says you can use store-bought dumpling wrappers for the recipes, but if I remember correctly she discourages that because they won't taste nearly as good...
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