Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pot-sticking Sesame Tofu

My camera memory card appears to be failing me, so all of the photos I took of the prep for the filling of this dish were lost! Hope to get a new card soon...

Potstickers "frying" in water, not much oil...

Having read about these yummy steamed dumplings on The Village Vegetable's blog, I found myself with a craving for them all week long. I tend to be intimidated by cuisines that I don't know much about - Asian, Mexican, and Indian food, for instance. I love eating almost every type of dish in all three of these ethnicity's, yet when it comes to making them myself'? I'm scared of not doing it justice. There's nothing worse in my mind than melting pot of American food, where we feature Chinese food that's full of syrupy, thick and all-too-sweet corn syrup, or Mexican food like Taco Bell. What's wrong with us? Why can't we get it right? And is this really what good (different) food tastes like?

I often feel that it's a shame we can't do other cuisines better justice in this country. Whether it's because American taste buds require American food, or it's because the chefs that make that kind of bad spin on Anything Not Deep Fried simply aren't being conscientious and respectful cooks... it annoys me. And it makes me very reluctant to dabble in making food that I don't know much about.

That said, I branched out for these steamed dumplings. I just wanted something that tasted good, and those Asian inspired flavors? I could not get them out of my head. I needed to make something Asian, whether it was a legitimate dish or not. (Today's feature will only be about the dumplings, but I'll make another post soon about the Thai-inspired Lemon Lemongrass soup I made to go along with these.) With respect to these dumplings, I wanted a lot of tofu and I nixed the cabbage. I enjoy the flavor of raw or slightly cooked tofu, and I'd like to bring it into more of the dishes I cook. Thus, I pureed a good portion of tofu with some green onion, mushrooms, red pepper, carrots, hot chili paste and peanut sauce. After briefly cooking the vegetable mixture, I stirred in sesame seeds for some good texture and stuffed won ton skins.

Lastly came the frying. I have a special cooking technique for dumplings when I don't want a lot of oil but want something a little crispy (and not just steamed). I take a non-stick skillet with a very, very light coating of oil (I soak a paper towel first, then wipe the surface of the warm skillet). I dry-fry the dumplings for a minute on each side, then add a splash of soy sauce and a few tablespoons of water. I let the water boil away and then do a final crisp-up of the potstickers in the now-dry nonstick pan (don't do this for too long or you'll get burnt Teflon in your food... just long enough to crisp the outer skins). The water steams the dumplings, thus cooking them the rest of the way through, and the boiled off soy sauce helps buy up a nice crispy crust without a lot of oil.

I really loved this recipe - Greg and I ate them on Friday night and on Sunday night, and we'll have them for lunch tomorrow as well. The recipe is a little time consuming (to stuff 60 Wontons), but it is also very simple. It's light, flavorful and the leftovers can be frozen for later cooking. I think these would be almost as good steamed instead of the bit of frying I did, though the frying hardly adds any fat. I used pre-prepared Thai Chili and Peanut sauces I had on hand... of course, you'll have to fiddle with the amounts to get a good flavor based on your own sauces. I liked that the base was primarily tofu and mushrooms, and in terms of flavor, the spicy-peanuttiness of this was dead on.


Tofu Sesame Seed Potstickers
Makes ~60 Wontons

6 oz Tofu
2 large portobella mushrooms
1 cup baby carrots
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp green onion, roughly chopped (white portion of the green onion)
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp Asian peanut sauce
2 tsp Asian hot chili sauce
Splash of soy sauce
Splash of rice wine vinegar
1 Package Wonton Wrappers (60 sheets)
Sauce for Dipping *
  1. Roughly chop all vegetables
  2. In whatever batch size necessary for your food processor (mine only holds two cups maximum, so this took 4 batches), puree the tofu, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, green onion and red bell pepper to a fine mince.
  3. Cook over low heat in a nonstick skillet for about 5 minutes - or, long enough to soften all of the vegetables
  4. Stir in sesame seeds and flavorings.
  5. Fill Wonton wrappers with about 3/4 tsp mixture each, sealing edges with a finger dipped in water. Either fry as potstickers (technique described above) or steam for several minutes. Extra potstickers can be frozen for up to 3 months**
* I've made a few sauces to go along with these. Frankly, anything is good. Here's my favorite:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp peanut sauce
2 tbsp hot chili sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds

As you can probably see in the picture up top, I also used a version of this (without chili sauce or soy sauce) for salad dressing!

** Tip: freeze wontons on a flat sheet first, then place in plastic bag. This way they won't stick.


Susan said...

Oh, these look absolutely mouth-watering! Great tips re: the reduced oil and the water. I make spring rolls a lot, but I haven't made these. Were they difficult/time-consuming?

Rachael said...

Susan - watch out, once I saw Linda's dumplings on the Village Vegetable, I was dreaming about them all day long for a week! These are not at all difficult, since you pretty much just mince everything in the food processor. Getting a good flavor took me a bit of time, but only because I was picky and tried some difference spices. The only long part about the recipe was stuffing the wontons... again, not difficult, just time consuming. Unlike ravioli, you don't have to worry about the filling spilling out. What I liked about this was that I stuffed a few on Friday and a few on Sunday. The filling keeps well and they can be frozen.

Mmm, I've never actually made spring rolls. That sounds delicious!

Susan said...

Thanks Rachael! Glad to know they can be frozen too!