With their pungent seasonings of black mushroom, ginger, and sesame oil, these dumplings could never be described as bland. I like to gather friends together and make a huge batch, then freeze them in plastic bags. All I have to do is remove from the freezer as many as I need, and when they are at room temperature, drop the dumplings into boiling water for a delicious and satisfying one-dish meal. Serve them alone or with a stir-fried, roasted, or steamed vegetable.
Yield: MAKES ABOUT 45 DUMPLINGS
¾ pound firm tofu, cut through the thickness into ½-inch slabs
10 dried Chinese black mushrooms, softened in hot water for 20 minutes, drained, and stems removed
½ cup whole canned water chestnuts (about 10), blanched for 10 seconds in boiling water, refreshed in cold water, and drained
1 cup grated carrots
3½ tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
3½ tablespoons minced scallions, white part only
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 or 3 tablespoons cornstarch, as needed
45 to 50 thin round dumpling or gyoza skins
Spicy dipping sauce (mixed together)
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¾ teaspoon hot chile paste, or to taste
FIRST Wrap the tofu slabs in paper towels or a cotton towel, and place a heavy weight such as a cast-iron skillet on top. Let stand for 30 minutes to press out the excess water, then, using a fork, mash the tofu until smooth in a large bowl.
SECOND Shred the black mushroom caps by hand or mince them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Blot the water chestnuts dry with paper towels and chop finely by hand or in the food processor.
THIRD Put the tofu, black mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, and Seasonings in a bowl. Stir vigorously with a spoon or your hands to mix well. Add the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and stir until smooth and sticky. Sprinkle in another tablespoon of cornstarch if the filling is too loose.
FOURTH Place ½ tablespoon of the filling in the center of each dumpling skin and moisten the edge with a finger dipped in water or a beaten egg. Fold over to form a half-moon shape. Press the edges together to enclose the filling and seal. Place the finished dumplings on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornstarch.
FIFTH Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add a third of the dumplings. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from the water with a strainer and place the cooked dumplings on a serving platter. Cook the remaining dumplings in two more batches as directed. Serve with the Spicy Dipping Sauce.
Serve these dumplings for their wonderful flavor and anytime you feel a cold or the flu coming on. They are chock-full of foods (tofu, black mushrooms, and ginger) that strengthen the immune system, and garlic, which protects against bacterial and viral infections.