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Asian Dumplings

by: Andrea Nguyen

Berkeley CA: Ten Speed Press 2009, $30.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-58008-975-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(2) page(s): 21

Not all recipes are Chinese, but every dumpling offers technique and taste; many providing influences Chinese. The index says twenty-six are Chinese, we find more than double that number with some attributed elsewhere but detailing Chinese roots when discussed. For example, the Vegetarian Crystal Dumplings qualify, their maker migrating from China to Southeast Asia. Likewise the Daikon Radish and Smoky Ham Cakes. They begin, saying their maker first tasted these Shanghai cakes in Vancouver. On and on go the not-too-hidden attributions to China, expanding the many we did not count. Though not listed as such, more than half are identical to or a smidgen away from foods of the Middle Kingdom.

Never mind, just read the recipes, make your own count, and then more importantly, make the dumplings. They are organized by type in chapters titled: Filled Pastas; Thin Skins; Stuffed Buns; Rich Pastries; Translucent Wheat and Tapioca starches; Transformation of Rice; Legumes and Tubers; Sweet Treasures; Sauces, Seasonings, Stocks, and Other Basics. More than forty drawings and a similar number of color photographs did guide me when making them. There are step-by-step recipes for more than seventy-five of these savory and sweet packets of pleasure. Try lots of them and you will be pleased as you learn to shape, fill, prepare, serve, and savor them. These good dumplings are not complicated and are enhancements to any and every Chinese meal and snack, just waiting for you to prepare them.
Spiced Lamb Dumplings
3/4 pound lamb, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
2 large scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 large medium-hot chile, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced then crushed into a paste
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 and 1/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted in a dry skillet then crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
recipe for basic dumpling dough for sixteen dough wrappers, or purchase them
2 cups spicy roasted tomato or another sauce
1. Combine lamb, onion, scallions, fresh coriander, chili, ginger, and garlic in a bowl, mixing and mashing well with a fork.
2. Mix coriander, cumin, garam masala, Sichuan peppercorn, salt, oil, and six tablespoons water and pour this over the meat mixture, stirring and folding all these ingredients together.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for half an hour; this should be about two cups; and it can be prepared one day in advance.
4. Roll each piece of dough to about three and a half inch rounds. Then fill them and steam over boiling water for eight minutes. Serve with sauce on the side.

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