Shanghai-style Kale Dumplings in Sesame Sauce
Serves 2 dumpling fiends or 4 as an appetizer
Chinese kale manages to become even more fantastic when wrapped in dumpling skins and smootherd with spicy sesame sauce. Rich and comforting, these decadent dumplings are too good to save for just special occasions. For the tofu, use homemade pressed tofu or try one of the many varieties of packaged fried tofu puffs found in Asian markets.
Homemade square wheat-starch-based dough wrappers are ideal, but for now standard egg-free square wonton wrappers will do. If you’re lucky enough to find ones labeled “Shanghai-style” snatch ‘em up for these dumplings.
Tip: the essential ingredient to authentic-tasting Chinese-style peanut sauce is using not tahini, but Chinese sesame paste. All the other ingredients can vary slightly, but this toasted, earthy and slightly gritty paste will give just that right flavor to the thick and satisfying sauce. For this recipe use the lighter colored paste, a brown-grey color, instead of black sesame paste.
1 pound Chinese kale, yu-choy
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup finely minced fried tofu puffs or pressed baked tofu
4 scallions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
Square fresh wonton wrappers, preferrably Shanghai style, about 26
Sesame Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup Chinese brown sesame paste
1 tablespoon smooth, salted natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2-4 tablespoons hot black tea or hot water
Asian-style smooth red chile sauce like sriracha
Chopped green scallions
Toasted Sesame Seeds
1. Prepare the filling first. Chop the bottom 1 inch of tough stems from the bottom of the yu choy, then slice the stems away from the leaves. Chop the stems as fine as possible, then roll up the leaves and slice into very thin shreds. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat, add the chopped stems and cook for 2 minutes; then add the leaves and cook another 3 minutes to reduce the mixture. Fold in the chopped tofu and scallions, sprinkle with the ginger, 5 spice powder and salt and fry another minute. Sprinkle on the cooking wine and continue to fry and stir the mixture until it’s cooked down to about about 2 cups of filling. Pour filling into a bowl and let cool.
2. While the filling cools make the peanut sauce; in a mixing bowl stir together all of the ingredients except for the hot tea to form a thick paste. Now dribble in the hot tea or water a tablespoon at a time until a consistency like a thick salad dressing is achieved. The sauce will get lighter the more liquid you add; if desired add more liquid than listed for a thinner, more pourable sauce. The sauce will also thicken as it sits, so you may want to loosen it up with a little hot water if you’ve made it considerably in advance of serving. For a really smooth sauce, use an immersion blender to blend to a silky consistency.
3. When it’s time to make the dumplings, bring a large stock pot with 3 quarts of water to a boil; add 2 teaspoons of salt and vegetable oil to the water. To form a dumpling, place a wonton wrapper on a cutting board, dip your finger in cold water and trace the edges of the wrapper with water. Place one level tablespoon of filling in the center, and fold over two opposite corners to form a triangle. Press down firmly to seal the edges (this is important!), then with the remaining opposite edges bend them towards each other and press the tips together to form an almost tortellini-like (but still pointy one one end) shape. Place the finished dumpling on a piece of parchment paper and finish assembling the rest.
4. Carefully lower 4-5 dumplings at a time into the boiling water; these thin skinned dumplings will cook in 3-4 minutes and the skins will look slightly translucent when done. Use a long handled mesh skimmer to carefully scoop one dumpling at a time, shake off the drops of excess water and lower into a wide, shallow serving bowl. Continue with remaining dumplings, either loading them all into one really big bowl or several smaller ones. To serve, generously spoon peanut sauce over the hot dumplings. Then drizzle with desired amount of chile sauce, a handful of scallions, a tablespoon or more of black vinegar, a scattering of soy sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.