Cooked by a combination of pan frying and steaming, delicate tofu and vegetable dumplings require a delicate hand and patience. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Cooked by a combination of pan frying and steaming, delicate tofu and vegetable dumplings require a delicate hand and patience. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Chubby bites of goodness

Pan-fried and steamed tofu and vegetable dumplings take patience and practice.

Dumplings are a lot like babies. They are both chubby little bites of goodness, lovingly and painstakingly made to share with the world. They are also both a lot of work, work that requires patience and practice, and it helps tremendously to have extra hands around.

You can fill your dumplings with almost anything you want, and, although they are all essentially the same, there are countless unique varieties that are different from culture to culture and from home to home. There are greasy, fried pork dumplings and delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, even dumplings filled with piping hot soup (apparently crafted via magic because I have never been able to make them successfully).

My little babies were simply made with tofu and vegetables and cooked by a combination of pan frying and steaming.

Ingredients:

2⁄3 of a block of extra firm tofu

½ cup finely minced carrot

3 stalks green onion, minced fine

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup finely shredded napa cabbage

4 tablespoons soy sauce

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 package gyoza wrappers

Directions:

With the flat edge of your knife, scrape and press the block of tofu to crumble it. Wrap your crushed tofu in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much water as possible. You want your filling to be a little dry to keep the finished dumplings from being soggy.

Mince your vegetables as small as possible.

Combine your tofu, vegetables, soy sauce, and pepper in a large bowl.

Prepare a small bowl of warm water and a sheet pan with parchment or wax paper as your landing zone for your dumplings.

Lay a wrapper flat on your palm and use one finger to wet the edge of the wrapper all the way around. This will help the wrapper to stick to itself.

Scoop about one teaspoon of filling into the center of the wrapper.

Pinch the wrapper closed around the little mound of filling, trying to press out as much air as possible.

Fold the decorative edge if you desire or leave flat.

To Cook:

Coat a saute pan with a teaspoon of oil and pan fry on medium heat until both sides are slightly browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Pour about ¼ cup of water into the hot pan and immediately cover.

Steam until the pan is dry, around 7 minutes.

Let rest 5 minutes before serving to avoid burning your mouth.

Dipping Sauce:

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

½ teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon minced white onion

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno (Optional but highly recommended).

This recipe made 45 dumplings with a little bit of filling to spare. If you have extra filling at the end, I suggest adding it to scrambled eggs or fried rice.

The process of making them takes a lot of time, so when I do, I make it worth my while by doing a large batch to freeze. Put the whole sheet pan in the freezer for 30 minutes, then transfer to a gallon bag. They store in the freezer for up to 2 months. No need to defrost before using, just fry, boil, or steam straight from the freezer. These are also an excellent addition to some mindful ramen soup.

The art of folding the edges takes experience to master, and there are countless beautiful options. My simple “wrinkle and press” technique makes dumplings that look like little purses with ruffled tops.

For the best outcome, just remember to treat them like babies: Be gentle, don’t overfill them or they will burst at the seams, if you let them sit in hot water too long their skin will suffer, and, whatever you do, don’t forget to burp them (press all the air out) or there will be unpleasant consequences.

Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.

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