Sunday marks the Chinese New Year — and the start of the Year of the Snake (watch where you step!). So, her incredible dim sum embedded into my taste-memory forever, I tapped my friend Grace Chang Spada — marine scientist/world traveler/rabid sports fan/amazing cook. She hooked me up with her family recipe for dumplings — also known as pot stickers or jiao tse — a traditional Chinese New Year dish. A fun custom is to hide a coin in one of the dumplings; whoever gets the coin gets good luck for the year — and, perhaps, a broken tooth, which is one reason why, Grace says, her mom would hide an almond instead. (Also, “Coins in food are gross.”)
In the interests of making the recipe a bit less intimidating, Grace suggests buying packaged pot sticker skins, rather than making them from scratch.
Makes 50-60 dumplings.
Half a head of cabbage (Chinese or American)
2-3 bunches of baby bok choy
4-5 dried black mushrooms
1 package bean thread noodles
1 Tbsp. ginger, crushed or chopped finely
4 blocks baked, marinated tofu (about 1 package)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Sesame oil, salt, pepper to taste
Soak black mushrooms in cold water. (Save the mushroom water for later.)
Day of (prepare filling 2-3 hours prior to wrapping; can also prepare a day ahead):
Finely chop cabbage, and marinate in ½ tsp. salt. Set aside.
Boil water, heat baby bok choy for a few seconds until bright green. Immediately transfer to cold water. Chop finely; set aside.
Shred carrots; stir-fry in a bit of oil until soft. Cool; set aside.
Soak bean thread noodles in cold water until soft. Chop into ½-inch lengths, and set aside on paper towels to dry.
Finely chop tofu. Set aside.
Squeeze water out of black mushrooms, and finely chop. Stir-fry ginger in hot oil and add mushrooms. Let cool; set aside.
Squeeze as much water as you can out of the cabbage, bok choy, and carrots.
Mix cabbage, bok choy, carrots, mushroom/ginger mix, noodles, and tofu in a large bowl.
Pour ½ cup of the mushroom water into a pan. Heat until boiling. Dissolve cornstarch in a little bit of water, and add to the boiling mushroom-water. Stir rapidly until mixture is thickened. Add soy sauce. Turn off heat, and add to the vegetable mixture (this helps the filling stick together for easier wrapping). Stir.
Add salt (or soy sauce) and pepper to taste.
When ready to wrap, add sesame oil to taste.
To assemble, drop a spoonful of filling slightly off center of each wonton skin, fold skin over, and pinch edges together, squeezing tightly so they don’t break open when cooking.
Fill a large pot of water 2/3 full and boil.
Add about a third of the dumplings carefully (pot should not be too full). Keep pot on high heat.
When water boils up again, wait about 30 seconds, and add ¾ cup of cold water.
When water boils again, wait about 30 seconds, and add ¾ cup of cold water.
When water is at a boil again, dish dumplings out carefully, and place in serving dish. Separate the dumplings so that they do not stick together.
Serve hot with soy sauce. For leftovers, pan fry until golden brown.
Note: Can substitute 4-5 yellow crooked-neck squash, chopped finely, for carrots. Baby bok choy can be substituted with 1 package frozen, chopped spinach, squeezed dry. Ground pork can be substituted for tofu. Can also add shrimp, ground beef, etc. Whatever your taste desires!