Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

January 31, 2013

Easy vegetarian steamed dumplings

It's easy to love the Chinese New Year foods

Whether or not Chinese New Year marks a major event in your life, it's easy to love many of the foods associated with it.

Dumplings are a traditional choice for the holiday, which this year begins Feb. 10. And while there are seemingly endless variations on the simple theme of stuffing rounds of dough with something savory and delicious, the basic steamed dumpling is among my favorites. Not the least because it is incredibly weeknight friendly.

I always start by using purchased wonton skins as the dough. These skins, which are available in various shapes and sizes, are widely available, inexpensive, need no prep, cook quickly and are easy to work with.

For the filling, you can use virtually anything you like. Seasoned ground meats (pork, poultry or even beef all work quite nicely) are wonderful, especially when combined with diced vegetables, such as carrots and onion. The only trick is to make certain the ingredients aren't watery, as this will ruin the texture of the dumplings.

If your filling contains many vegetables, it's a good idea to give them a quick stir-fry before adding them to the mixture. This helps remove excess water. For smaller amounts of vegetables, this isn't necessary. You'll also want to opt for lean ground meats for the same reason.

For this dumpling recipe, I decided to go vegetarian and used purchased seasoned and baked tofu in the filling. If you'd rather use meat, substitute an equal amount of diced or ground meat and skip the food processing step. You'll also need to steam for a bit longer (use an instant thermometer to check the progress and ensure you hit a safe cooking temperature).

For this recipe, I use a simple fold-and-pinch method of forming the dumplings. It requires no special equipment or skill. But if you make a lot of dumplings, consider getting a dumpling press sold for just a few dollars at Asian markets. These clamshell-style presses neatly fold and crimp the dumplings into attractive packets.

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