Thursday, March 13, 2008


Dudes! I love, love, love dumplings. A and I have been known to visit our local Tibetan/Nepalese restaurant and consume a meal consisting entirely of momos—steamed veggie momo appetizer, pan-fried chicken or lamb momo entrees. I get a little pouty at our favorite sushi restaurant if there are no gyoza out on the little boats that carry food around the bar. I’d like to try making my own dumplings sometime, but I don’t know why it never occurred to me to check out Trader Joe’s frozen dumpling offerings in the meantime. I guess because…what would I do with them? Dumplings for dinner is fine for the occasional eating-out treat, but it would make me feel like a college student to sit down to a big bowl of convenience-food dumplings at home. But dumplings floating in homemade chicken broth chock-full of wholesome, colorful veggies? Sign me up!

I am a fan of many Asian soups, from udon to pho to won-ton to tom kha gai, and while it’s not authentic to any one cuisine, this one sort of reminded me of all of my favorite restaurant versions at once. But unlike eating in a restaurant, I could adapt it however I liked. Usually it drives me crazy to read Epicurious comments from people who modify the recipe so much it bears no resemblance to the original: “I substituted lime for the lemon, pork for the chicken, and spinach for the arugula, then added some peanut butter and Fontina cheese. It was great!” But after I scrolled through the comments on this recipe as it was originally published in Gourmet, it did seem that this was a flexible, forgiving soup that might benefit from a bit of dressing up. Taking the advice of many cooks who thought the original was on the bland side, I added some garlic and fresh ginger, and a few red-pepper flakes for spiciness. A hates regular frozen peas, so I used fresh sugar-snap peas instead—I love them, and I figured they were big enough for him to avoid if he wanted, though he ate them happily. I though the soup was sufficiently salty already, but A drizzled some soy sauce on his bowl before eating, and also commented that chili sauce, like Sriracha, might be good with it, too (he likes the salt and spice, that boy). Thinking wistfully of pho (there’s only one Vietnamese restaurant in Pasadena; its sign says, “The only Vietnamese restaurant in Pasadena!”), I sprinkled some cilantro on my serving and thought it was a great addition.

We used Trader Joe’s frozen pork gyoza, which were fabulous (I’ve got the chicken variety sitting in the freezer right now, so you can bet I’ll be making this recipe again soon, so I can compare them). The original recipe called for 3 cups of cabbage, which I gamely went along with even though I don’t like cabbage. It was fine, but there was a bit too much for me, so in the future I’ll only use 2 cups. I’d also love to try totsoi or baby bok choi leaves instead. I used a mixture of shiitake and cremini mushrooms—I got the shiitake at the farmers’ market and they were gorgeous, but at $4 for about a cup, I needed to supplement them with a cheaper mushroom. Both kinds worked fine.

In short: I highly recommend this recipe. It’s quick and easy (except for all the vegetable-chopping; I’m so bad at julienning carrots, but can’t bring myself to buy the bagged shredded kind; someone buy me a mandoline already!), it tastes great, and you can do just about anything you want to it without messing it up. But mainly, you get to eat dumplings for dinner.

Update, October 2015: You know what's an excellent replacement for peas here? Shelled edamame! 

1 (16-ounce) package frozen Asian dumplings. such as potstickers or gyoza (about 20 to 24)
5 cups low-sodium (or homemade) chicken broth
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage or other greens
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (or another brown mushroom, such as cremini)
1 cup shredded or matchstick (1/8-inch thick) carrots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, or to taste
½ cup frozen peas or fresh snow peas or sugar-snap peas
½ cup chopped scallions
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
red pepper flakes, soy sauce, chili sauce, and/or cilantro to taste

1. Cook dumplings in a 6- to-8-quart pot of boiling unsalted water, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes. Remote pot from heat and keep dumplings warm in hot water. (Or you can follow the package directions to pan-fry and steam the dumplings, if you like.)

2. While dumplings cook, bring chicken broth to a boil in a 4- to 6-quart heavy pot. Add cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, ginger, and garlic and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add peas and cook 2 minutes. Stir in scallions, sesame oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired, and boil until all vegetables are tender, about 1 minute.

3. Divide dumplings evenly among 4 soup bowls with a slotted spoon. Ladle soup over dumplings. Season with soy sauce, chili sauce, or cilantro if desired.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

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