Steamed Dumplings, Asian Style

MAKES: 4 to 6 24 dumplings; 4 to 6 servings

TIME: 40 minutes

This is a simplified, streamlined stuffing, but you can get as elaborate as you like; there are few limits to the vegetables you can use in dumplings. The only secret is to include something slightly starch or bind with an egg so the stuffing doesn’t fall out of the wrapper when you take a bite. If you want to break free of tradition or geography, see the chart for many more options.

As long as your stuffing isn’t too moist, you can refrigerate the stuffed dumplings for an hour or so before cooking or freeze them for up to a few days. Dust them with flour first to prevent sticking. But they really are best if you can stuff and cook in one fell swoop.

8 ounces firm tofu

1/4 cup minced scallion

1 cup chopped leek, Napa cabbage, or bok choy

1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

24 round dumpling wrappers (to make your own, see Dumpling Wrappers)

Basil Dipping Sauce or Ginger-Scallion Sauce

Put the tofu in a large bowl and mash roughly with a fork to crumble it. Add the scallion, leek, ginger, rice wine, sugar, soy, sesame oil, and egg and sprinkle with a large pinch of salt and lots of pepper. Mix gently but thoroughly.

Put about 2 teaspoons of the stuffing in the center of a wrapper, then moisten the edge of the wrapper with water and fold over to form a semicircle. Press the seam tightly to seal; it’s best if there is no air trapped between the stuffing and wrapper. Set on a lightly floured plate or wax paper. (You can make the dumplings to this point, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze for a couple of weeks.)

Set up a steamer or put a heatproof plate on a rack above 1 to 2 inches of boiling water in a covered pot (see Ways to Rig a Steamer). Lightly oil the steamer or plate to prevent sticking. Arrange the dumplings in the steamer so they don’t touch and steam, working in batches if you must, for about 10 minutes per batch. Serve immediately with dipping sauce on the side.

Variations

Steamed Bean Dumplings. An interesting textural change from tofu: Use 11/2 cups cooked adzuki, soy, or black soybeans instead of the tofu. In Step 1, put the beans into the bowl and roughly mash. Proceed with the recipe.

Steamed Gyoza with Sea Greens and Edamame. The Japanese version of dumplings, made with thinner wrappers; try to find gyoza or wonton wrappers or roll your own as thin as possible. Serve with Ponzu Sauce, Dashi Dipping Sauce, or simply with a little soy sauce mixed with a few drops of water: Soak about 1/2 cup dried wakame or dulse in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain well and chop. Use 11/2 cups edamame instead of the tofu and mash as described in Step 1; use the chopped sea greens instead of the leeks, cabbage, or bok choy. Proceed with the recipe.

Vegan Steamed Dumplings with Bean Threads. Pretty, with a chewy texture: Soak 1 bundle (2 ounces) of bean threads in hot water for 5 minutes (see The Basics of Asian Noodles). Drain and chop into 1-inch pieces. Use the bean thread instead of the egg in the main recipe or any of the variations.