Book Talk and Dumplings

Time to indulge in Asian cuisine! Pearl Buck in China, of which we have 10 copies, clearly takes place in China. Northeast China, where dumplings have been a popular dish for literally centuries. An assortment of dumplings (great finger food if they’re not too hot) seems like an easy addition for nibbles during a book club discussion, does it not?

Chinese Pork Dumplings

½ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

dumplings-21 tablespoon finely chopped Chinese chives

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce

1 pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic , minced

1 egg, beaten

1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

50 dumpling wrappers

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

1 quart water

Combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon chives, sesame seeds, and chile sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix pork, garlic, egg, 2 tablespoons chives, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Place a dumpling wrapper on a lightly floured work surface and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the middle. Wet the edge with a little water and crimp together forming small pleats to seal the dumpling. Repeat with remaining dumpling wrappers and filling.

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place 8 to 10 dumplings in the pan and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Pour in 1 cup of water, cover and cook until the dumplings are tender and the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Repeat for remaining dumplings. Serve with soy sauce mixture for dipping.

Vegetarian Dumplings

1/2 pound firm tofu

1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots

plateful_of_momo_in_nepal1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage

2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer

35 to 40 small wonton wrappers

Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels. Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer’s surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

Feel free to watch how it’s made!

Chinese food tries to engage the mind, not just the palate. To provoke the intellect. -Nicole Mones