Asian Dumplings, written by Andrea Nguyen, is the dumpling-lover’s dream. This book features a variety of dumplings and accompaniments with more than 75 recipes from East, Southeast, and South Asia. While China takes the lead with the most recipes, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore also have a notable presence. Celebrating the Lunar New Year? There are plenty of dumpling ideas for the holiday. This book was an IACP Cookbook Award Finalist in 2010 and one of NPR’s Best Cookbooks of 2009.
Andrea Nguyen is a food writer and cookbook author. She has a food blog (Viet World Kitchen), is a contributing editor for Saveur magazine, and has also written for the Los Angeles Times and other publications. She is also the author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors, Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home, and The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches. Learn more about Andrea Nguyen and her featured works here. Check out her Asian Market Shopper App for help in finding and selecting Asian ingredients.
Chapters are divided based on type of dumpling: Filled Pastas; Thin Skins; Stuffed Buns; Rich Pastries; Translucent Wheat and Tapioca Starches; Transformations of Rice; Legumes and Tubers; Sweet Treasures; and Sauces, Seasonings, Stocks, and Other Basics.
The book begins with a dumpling history and their classification in Asia. There is also a specialty equipment guide, ingredient overview, and introduction to specific cooking techniques such as steaming and deep-frying. A list of resources in California and tips on where to find harder to locate ingredients are also included.
I particularly enjoyed how in-depth the instructions are on making homemade wrappers and doughs. I have used store-bought wrappers in the past, but feel a lot more comfortable making my own now. They are so much easier to work with too. They are more pliable, particularly when making pleats and other more intricate folds. Nguyen also offers tips and other ways to customize the wrappers, such as naturally coloring them or making them extra-chewy. Shaping guides include: half moon, pea pod, big hug, pleated crescent, rope edge, closed satchel, triangle, nurse’s cap, flower bud, open bag, cigar, and football. Black and white illustrations accompany the folding instructions. Every dough recipe I made came out perfectly with no tweaking required. Don’t have the time to make your own? She also includes tips on how to pick out commercial wonton and egg roll skins.
The beautiful photography is by Penny De Los Santos with food styling by Karen Shinto and prop styling by Natalie Hoelen. Many of the recipes include a full page color photo of the finished dish. There are no step-by-step photos, but illustrations are provided in the master shape sections to show how to roll out, fill, and shape the wrappers.
Every recipe includes a headnote with background information, variations, and tips. The name of the dish is listed in English and the original language. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. A scale is recommended for weighing the ingredients, particularly for the dough recipes.
This book is a great choice for dumpling lovers or those wanting to learn more about dumplings. Most of the recipes are on the more time consuming side, often with multiple parts, so they may not be the best choice for weeknight cooking. However, if you make the dumplings in large enough batches and freeze the extra when applicable, they can be used as a quick snack or meal. A few of the steps can also be done in advance. Many of the ingredients may require a trip to the International Market specializing in East, Southeast, and South Asian foods. As far as special equipment needed, a wooden dowel rolling pin, Chinese steamer, scale, food processor, and spice grinder (or mortar and pestle) are helpful. This book takes you on a journey through the entire process of forming the dumplings, from the homemade wrappers to fillings and accompanying sauces/stocks.
The Momo is a dumpling popular in Nepal, Tibet, and India. This version, Tarkari Momo, is stuffed with a vegetable and cheese filling. It is paired with a spicy tomato sauce. Like the Momo? Asian Dumplings also has recipes for Khasi Momo (Spiced Lamb Dumplings) and Sha Momo (Tibetan Beef and Sichuan Peppercorn Dumplings).
To use just-boiled water to make the dough, turn off the heat to boiling water and use after it stops bubbling, 30-90 seconds.
This recipe uses milk and lemon juice to make a simple homemade cheese, Chenna. While homemade will have the best flavor, you can also substitute with about 1/3 pound of crumbled or minced paneer cheese.
These dumplings use the closed satchel shape. This was my first time making it, but the illustrations and instructions helped in forming this fun dumpling. Nguyen also notes that if the closed satchel shape is too challenging, you can form the momos into half moons, pea pods, big hugs, or pleated crescents.
After forming, the dumplings can be arranged on a parchment lined baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for a few hours or frozen until solid then transferred to a freezer bag for up to 1 month.
Sichuan peppercorns (huā jiāo, Chinese prickly-ash) are not actually related to black pepper, but are dried dark-red berries. They have a tingly sensation and are generally used as a flavor enhancer. To toast them, cook in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Crush using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. They are available in Asian Food Markets specializing in Chinese ingredients or online: Organic red sichuan peppers (2 oz.).
I also made Shēng Jiān Bāozi (Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini Buns), Empanadas (Beef, Sweet Potato, and Raisin Turnovers), Chashāo Xián Shui Jiao (Haam Sui Gok/Fried Sticky Rice Dumplngs with Char Siu Pork and Mushroom Filling), and Onde Onde (Sweet Rice Dumplings with Palm Sugar and Coconut).
Shēng Jiān Bāozi (Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini Buns) are little dumplings from Shanghai made of a yeast dough filled with seasoned pork and Chinese chives or scallions. They are cooked in a similar manner to potstickers. The buns are arranged in a flat skillet with hot oil and panfried until the bottoms are lightly golden. Water is added and the pan is covered to steam the buns until cooked through and puffy. Once the water has evaporated, they are finished off for a couple of more minutes in the pan until the bottoms are browned and crisp. This method creates the best of both worlds, a chewy top with a crisp, flaky bottom. Nguyen pairs them with an easy soy ginger vinegar sauce.
Empanadas (Beef, Sweet Potato, and Raisin Turnovers) are popular throughout Latin America, but this is a Filipino version. In the Philippines, these pastries are generally deep-fried, but are also baked by Filipino-American cooks. A short pastry crust is filled with seasoned beef, sweet potato, and raisins. The top is brushed with an egg wash and baked until golden. Nguyen notes that if you are short on time, you can substitute a high quality prepared pie crust for the homemade short pastry crust. My plan was to serve 6 as an appetizer and freeze 6 for later. Chad and I ended up eating all 12 at once and skipping what was originally planned for dinner.
Chashāo Xian Shui Jiao are Cantonese fried sticky rice dumplings filled with a char siu pork and mushroom filling. This is a popular Lunar New Year snack. The glutinous rice flour dough is formed around the filling in a shape of a football. They are served with a chile garlic sauce. I loved the crisp and slightly chewy texture of this dumpling. Nguyen also includes a vegetable and shrimp filling.
Onde Onde (Klepon) are small sweet rice dumplings filled with palm sugar and coated with coconut from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. These dumplings were quite interesting, but delicious with an amazing texture. Palm sugar is packed and formed into small balls. They are covered in a glutinous rice flour dough dyed green with pandan leaves and flavored with vanilla. After boiling, the dumplings are coated in fresh coconut. Boiling melts the palm sugar for a little surprise with each bite.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Tarkari Momo (Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings)
Adapted from Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More
Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce:
3/4 pound ripe tomatoes
1 medium hot red chile (Cayenne, Fresno, Holland, Jalapeño)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin or Sichuan peppercorn
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or 1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white 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 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 large medium hot red chile (Holland or Fresno), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and 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
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
About 3/4 cup just-boiled water
To make the Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce: Place an oven rack 4 inches away from the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the tomato and chile on the prepared baking sheet and broil until the skins are charred and beginning to separate, about 6 minutes. Turn and repeat, until charred all over. Remove from oven and allow to cool until able to be handled.
Peel away the skins and cut the stems from the tomato and chile. Remove the seeds and membrane from the chile if desired to remove some of the heat. Coarsely chop.
In a mortar and pestle or mini food processor, pound the garlic, ginger, and salt into a paste. Pound in the chopped chile, then the tomatoes until broken apart and chunky. Place in a bowl and mix in the water, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight then return to room temperature before serving.
To make the filling: In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the milk over medium high heat, stirring often.
Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth. A flour-sack towel or piece of muslin will also work.
Once the milk starts to boil, decrease heat to medium low. Stir in the lemon juice gently until curds start to form and separate from the whey, about 10 seconds. Pour into the prepared colander. Rinse gently under cold water for about 5 seconds, then gather up the cheesecloth. Gently twist to remove excess moisture once it is cool enough to handle. Tie the corners together and hang the curds for 30-45 minutes. Using a sink faucet to hang the curds works well. Crumble the resulting cheese 1 cup of cheese into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to four days.
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and return the water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out excess moisture using a cheesecloth or towel. This should result in about 1 1/2 cups. Place in a bowl.
In a medium skillet, heat ghee over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Sichuan peppercorn and cumin and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the cabbage and spinach. Cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes. Mix in the crumbled cheese, scallions, and cilantro, then season with salt. Cook for an additional minute before adding the cornstarch mixed with water. Gently fold into the filling, then remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl, partially cover, and allow to cool to room temperature. If desired, cover and refrigerate overnight and return to room temperature before filling.
To make the dough: In a food processor fitted with a dough blade or a large bowl, add the flour and slowly pour in the just-boiled water with the machine running until the dough comes together. It should be smooth but firm enough to hold its shape. If too sticky, add a little flour. If too dry, add a little more water. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Knead until smooth and elastic once cool enough to handle.
Wrap the dough in plastic or seal in a plastic bag, making sure all excess air is removed. Allow to rest for 15 minutes to 2 hours. It can also be refrigerated overnight and brought to room temperature before using.
Line a steamer tray or baking sheet with parchment paper.
Divide the dough in half. Place one on a lightly floured work surface and recover the other with plastic. Roll the dough into an even log about 1 inch thick and cut into 16 equal pieces.
Take one piece and lightly press each of the cut sides into the flour. Press with a tortilla press or heavy object into a circle 1/8th of an inch deep. Repeat with remaining pieces.
On a lightly floured surface, only flouring as needed to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a circle about 3 1/4 inches in diameter while keeping the center thicker to hold the filling. As you are rolling, apply more pressure to the outer 1/2-3/4 inch of the circle to make it thinner than the center.
Place a wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand and add 1 tablespoon of the filling to the center, keeping 1/2-3/4 inch of the edge clear. Pleat the edges over the filling and pinch the tops together to seal, twisting gently. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Cover the assembled ones with plastic to keep them from drying out.
To steam: Arrange the prepared dumplings on the lined steamer tray, sealed side up. Steam the dumplings over boiling water until puffed and beginning to become translucent, about 8 minutes.
Serve immediately with the Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce.