Archive for April, 2009


April 11, 2009

I love dumplings. Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Polish, sweet, savory and every kind in between. They are filling, versatile, and extremely inexpensive. Before a few days ago, my favorite type of dumplings was yasai gyoza (known as jiaozi in Chinese): the delicate, thin skinned, and slightly chewy pockets of joy you can order off the appetizer menu at most Japanese restaurants or pick up at the frozen foods section at Trader Joe’s. But this past week, I came up with my own version using spinach, basil, wild mushrooms and tofu. And I have to say, they came out even better than I suspected they might. The recipe is below.

3 bunches of baby spinach
1 small bunch of basil (about 20-30 leaves)
1 package (4-6 oz.) dried wild mushrooms
1 package (14 oz.) extra firm tofu
1-2 package(s) gyoza wrappers
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

1. Drain the tofu and remove most of the water by slicing it and sandwiching the slices between kitchen towels. Adding some pressure by laying and empty pot or pan over the top will help.

2. Bring about 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Add the dried wild mushrooms and cover with the lid. Let soak about 10-15 minutes.

3. Prepare the spinach by chopping off the stems. Give the leaves a rinse and blanch them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, submerging them in an ice bath afterwards so they remain brightly green (you may need to do this in several batches). Drain in a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can.

4. Remove the basil leaves from the stems and chop in a food processor with the spinach. Chop it pretty fine so that it isn’t stringy. Place this mixture in a large mixing bowl.

5. Next chop the tofu finely in a food processor along with the ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add this to the mixing bowl as well.

6. Add cumin, nutmeg, salt, pepper and lemon juice to the rest of the ingredients and mix everything very well to make sure all the ingredients are well distributed.

7. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the center of a gyoza wrapper. Wet the edges of the gyoza wrapper using a damp cooking brush and fold one side over the other to create a half-circle shape. Be careful that the stuffing does not spill out. Use a fork to press the edges together. There should be enough stuffing to fill an entire package of gyoza (about 30 dumplings). You may even be able to fill another half package of gyoza, but if you don’t purchase another package of wrappers and have some left at the end, you could use the stuffing for omlettes, crepes, a small tart or some quiches, etc.

spinach gyoza

8. The final part of making the dumplings is to cook them, of course! There are several ways you could go about doing this. The simple method would be to boil them for about 5 minutes. Another way to cook them is steam them, but this requires a bamboo steamer (which I don’t have). The most popular way to eat them is pan-fried. To do this, add about 1 tablespoon of peanut or vegetable oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Quickly place the dumplings with the bottoms (the opposite of edge that you pressed together) flat on the pan so that that they are close and brown the bottoms for about 2 or 3 minutes. Now this next part needs to be done in quick succession. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and rapidly cover the pan with the lid. Steam the dumplings for about 10 minutes until they are translucent. When the water is nearly gone, remove the lid and turn up the heat a bit to evaporate the rest of the water. Now very carefully use a spatula to remove the dumplings. They have a tendency to stick – hence the name postickers – so make sure you don’t break them.

Serve with gyoza sauce. You can find this ready made at the asian grocery store or you can make it by mixing together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce (I prefer light soy sauce), 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and a dash of chili sauce or hot sauce and a teaspoon of sugar.


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April 9, 2009

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