Tofu Daisy Dumplings

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japanese chicken tofu dumpling_6877
montauk daisy 8375Fanciful daisy dumplings are fun for appetizers or a light meal. They are sure to delight guests, but are easier to prepare than wontons, gyoza, or shui mai. These flower-like savories bring to mind an early summer bouquet—perfect for relieving the vision of dirty grey snow mountains and the numbing cold we are currently enduring.

Simple ingredients (tofu, chicken, wonton skins, and pantry staples) are transformed so the whole is different from its parts. This recipe is poetry—a longing for one thing to be a substitute for another. A bit of magic. An illusion…

japanese wonton dumpling_6864Longing for spring, I have been thinking of the garden. This recipe reminds me of the two daisy-like plants I bought from the discount rack in the fall of 2012 without knowing a thing about them except that they were beautiful with dark shiny green leaves and large daisy-like flowers. Even recently planted, they bloomed later and longer than my chrysanthemums. Extraordinary!

Last summer they formed spherical “shrubs” and bloomed in late autumn while the rest of the garden was frostbitten and sad. After some research to recover their name: Montauk daisy (nipponanthemum nipponicum: Chrysanthemum Nippon). I realized they were too close together and leggy. I am looking forward to taking proper care of them, cutting them back at the end of May, propagating the cuttings, and moving one plant a bit further away.

Oh love for the seed catalogs which come this time of year! Possibilities for perfection are unlimited…

Tofu Chicken Daisy Dumplings

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Tofu Daisies

adapted from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 188

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 7 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 block firm tofu, (14 ounces)
  • 1½ teaspoons usukuchi shoyu (light colored soy sauce), or regular shoyu
  • 2 Tablespoons thin scallion disks, white part only
  • 1½ teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger
  • ½ beaten egg white
  • ½ Tablespoon potato starch, or cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 20 to 25 wonton wrappers, cut into thin strips
  • lettuce leaves to line your steamers
  • parchment paper circles to line your steamers
  • shungiku leaves (edible chrysanthemum), or spinach leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard powder dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water
  • Pozo dressing or nihaizu dressing

INSTRUCTIONS:

Drain the tofu for 30 minutes: Wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel or double cheesecloth, place on a rack over a tray, then place another tray on top with some weights. I used trays from a toaster oven and a couple of cans of tomatoes.

Chop the chicken fine, (I used a food processor, but ground chicken—or ground turkey breast—would have more texture, as would hand chopping.) Transfer it to a bowl, then add the salt. Mix with your hands until the chicken feels sticky or slimy.

Squeeze the tofu in a clean tightly woven cotton cloth to remove as much liquid as you can. Add the tofu to the chicken and mix thoroughly. Add one at a time and mix with your hands: shoyu, green onions, ginger, egg white, potato starch, and sesame oil. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Oil a platter large enough to hold eighteen 1½-inch dumplings without touching. Pile the wonton strips on a plate. Oil your palms and form the tofu mixture into 18 balls. Place each ball on the wonton strips and scatter more over so it is completely covered with the wonton “noodles.”

Place the dumplings on the oiled platter, and press each in the center to make a shallow depression. This helps the dumplings to cook evenly.

Ms. Shimbo says that you can make the recipe to this point earlier in the day to cook later, but in my experience, the noodles absorb liquid from the dumplings and melt into sticky dough. I’d advise not to add the wonton strips more than an hour in advance.

Prepare your steamer by bringing a quantity of water to a boil with high steam production. Line the steamer baskets with the parchment circles, then lettuce leaves—the dumplings should not touch each other as they cook or they will stick together. Steam in batches if necessary. If you are using a metal steamer, line the lid with a cloth to keep the condensation off the dumplings. Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

If you aren’t going to serve the dumplings immediately, keep them warm by covering with some of the hot lettuce leaves.

Place dumplings on a bed of chrysanthemum leaves and garnish with a drop of mustard paste in the center of each dumpling. Serve nihaizu dressing (add 1 teaspoon sesame oil) as a dip (appetizers), or pour over the greens (main course).

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