Know what’s a good mood changer? Freaking dumplings. And lots of ‘em! My daily walks weren’t doing any good, and I was just not feeling like myself lately. Or at least the self I want to be.
And what always makes me feel better? Dumplings. Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings! Screw booze, pills, or whatever else it is people do for stress relief. What do I do? Dumplings.
Albany John and I have been on a budget, though. And this being the end of the month, we are nearing the end of our budget (ideal = $200/mo. This month is looking closer to $240). Dumplings, for me, generally involve ground pork. But since we didn’t have any pork in the fridge, I tried something a wee bit different and went the vegetarian route. I also took some inspiration from my wonderful Albany John who can whip meals up out of seemingly nothing.
Now, first off. Dried mushrooms? Awesome. I found this package of them at the Asian Food Market on Colvin for under $4. It was the cheapest of the dried mushroom packages, and also looked very mild, like all dried white mushrooms. No shiitakes. I dislike dried shiitake mushrooms since I think too many of them are overpowering. Some people might call them ‘meaty’, but I think they taste a little ‘butt-y’ and pungently funky. I think it’s ‘cause we O.D.’ed on them a while back. I can take it in small amounts now, like shredded. Right. Sorry. Tangent!
So I grabbed about an ounce of these mushrooms, and covered them in boiling water. I also found some dried fungus in a jar in the cabinet and tossed it in there too. Wow, how Chinese does that sound? Actually, I like it, since food is one of the ways I feel I really connect with my Chinese-ness, since I don’t speak the language or anything, or really even have other Asian friends.
Then I noticed we had some spinach. And napa cabbage. Block of silken tofu. Shallots. Ginger. Shaping up quite nicely!
So I finely chopped the cabbage. Basically, it looked like if you’d shredded it, only by cutting. Salt it and leave it to drain for around half an hour. Mince up everything else (well, I just squished the tofu with my hands and the mixed like crazy), season, and add an egg or two to bind. Oh, and get this! One of Albany John’s friends came by halfway through making them, and he brought his girlfriend. Who was half Chinese! And also didn’t speak the language! Haha, it was so cool to meet someone else with that in common!
The dumplings turned out really well! I was incredibly surprised by this, since I was more looking forward to the chewy texture of the dough than anything else. Tofu, I find, can be overwhelmingly chalky sometimes. At least the way I prepare it. Even Albany John complemented me and said this was the best version of anything I’d cooked with tofu. What a compliment! Definitely a mood booster.
So here’s what I did first:
Boiled water. Covered mushrooms and fungus with water, then covered that bowl. Let sit.
Rinse some napa cabbage leaves off. Slice finely so it resembles shredded lettuce in size. Salt and leave in a strainer in the sink to drain.
Open tofu. Remove and wrap in paper towels, then drain it with a heavy weight on top.
Go take a shower, check some gossip sites online, and 30-60 minutes later, walk back into the kitchen.
Slice the caps off of the mushrooms and place in a blender with the fungus greens. Process until fine (but not mushy).
Dry off napa cabbage. I put it in a salad spinner. Combine with mushrooms.
Unwrap tofu and squish it with your hands to make it all crumbly. Woo hoo, messiness!
Grab that spinach out of the freezer and put it in the microwave to thaw for a few minutes. Grab 2 large handfuls and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Plop in bowl.
Mince ginger and shallots, add to bowl.
Pour in sesame oil, sprinkle white pepper and msg, and crack 2 large eggs in. Mix like heck until you’re happy with the consistency.
Make your dough. I wanted chewy boiled dumplings so I used that recipe. It’s easy. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes after combining to rest.
Roll out yer dough and make your dumplings. I put mine on a lined cookie sheet. Don’t let them touch, since the dough tends to stick to itself.
Boil in water 4 minutes to cook.
I also made a sauce to dip them in. Yummy!
They could easily have been vegan by omitting the eggs, but they were very hard to handle and crumbly, so I threw them in. They are a great binder and don’t add any flavor (or none that I can detect). Would cornstarch also work? Maybe sweet potato starch, since that is also gooey.
These were also very cheap to make. The most expensive ingredient was the block of tofu, which cost around $1. Albany John and I ate close to 2/3rds of this recipe for dinner. Maybe the rest tonight with side dishes.
Tofu & Mushroom Dumpling Filling
3-4 leaves napa cabbage, salted, drained and dried
1.5-2 oz dried mushrooms + some fungus, soaked, mushroom caps only cut and processed
1 package firm silken tofu (although I’ve never really noticed a difference with firm v. soft silken tofu. They’re so soft)
2 handfuls frozen spinach, squeezed dry
4-5 shallots, minced
¾” ginger, peeled and minced
1 T sesame oil
~½ t msg
6-9 good shakes white pepper
2 large eggs
Combine all ingredients, let sit to let flavors combine while making dough.
Boiled Dumpling Dough
(This produces a nice and chewy texture for boiled dumplings)
3 C flour
1 C cold water
I am not even kidding how easy this is to make. Mix and then knead for ~5 or so minutes until the dough is soft and silky. It might look rough at first, but trust me, it will get there. Let rest at least 10 minutes. The texture will continue to improve.
Roll out pinches of dough and fill. Pinch to close. Boil 4 minutes.
2 cloves garlic, minced
Equal amount ginger
Few pinches sugar
1-2 t sesame seeds
Mix all together to get some flavor out of the seeds, garlic, and ginger, and to blend the sugar into the liquid. Top off with soy sauce (around ¼ cup, maybe a little less). Add spicy sauce or paste to your taste. I’ve been liking this one spicy chili paste lately.