Tips for Making Asian Dumplings

At Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz this past weekend, I met one of my culinary idols, Andrea Nguyen. If you aren’t familiar, Andrea is the author of several Vietnamese cookbooks, including Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, Asian Dumplings (my favorite), and her most recent release, The Banh Mi Handbook.

I’m always trying to improve my dumpling making skills because I consider dumplings to be quintessential Asian tea food. Dumplings are to Asian tea culture what finger sandwiches are to English tea culture. Elegant, flavorful, and beautifully presented, they make any culinary tea experience unforgettable and exquisite.

Earlier this year, I posted a recipe for Ha Gao, those translucent little shrimp dumplings that you find at dim sum houses. Interested in learning how to make Ha Gao the authentic way, with real fatback, (my Ha Gao are a slimed down version of the real deal) I parked myself at the Ha Gao table with Uwe, who ended up being my cooking partner for the day. I also wanted to see if I could try at improving my pleating skills, since I always end up skipping over this intricate part of dumpling making.

Andrea Nguyen Dumpling ClassUwe (who’s actually from Germany!) was in charge of all the chopping and seasonings for the Ha Gao filling while I landed with the task of shelling and deveining way too many shrimp. It took awhile, but I think we did a pretty decent job following the instructions to form a textured yet homogenous filling.

When you get the chance to see Andrea Nguyen in action, it starts to make perfect sense why she’s been nominated for a countless number of culinary awards, including the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award. She’s exceptionally clear and detailed with her instruction. Here, you see her standing with her back to the classroom so that we can see how to wrap dumplings from the dumpling wrapper’s vantage point (i.e. meaning the person wrapping the dumpling).

Below you can check out a few of the artful dumplings that Andrea wrapped. When students in the class remarked how perfect her dumplings turned out, she warmly responded: “Do you know how many times I’ve done this!?” I love that someone as successful as she is can be so humble and down-to-earth.

Here I am, eating, while others are still hard at work cooking away. When the hot dumplings started getting dished out, everyone honed in on them like a pack of ravenous wolves. Seriously, you can’t blame us…I mean just look at them! You can tell from the photo below this one that I wasn’t the only greedy person in the class that day…what can I say–a freshly cooked dumpling just has that kind of effect on people!
At the end of the 4-hour class, the results were simply gorgeous. Even now, looking at all these artistic, flavorful little pockets of goodness fills me with pure joy. Steamed, pan-fried, baked…I think we pretty much covered them all!

Andrea Nguyen’s cookbook, Asian Dumplings, is truly a masterpiece. If you are looking to learn more about shaping, pleating, filling, and cooking these delicacies, you simply must check the book out! Filled with helpful diagrams and beautiful food photos, it’s a comprehensive dumpling encyclopedia of sorts.

Even better yet, if you end up wanting to ask Andrea a question in person you can sign up for her classes at Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz. You’ll leave class with a head full of knowledge and a tummy full of delicious dumplings…in my book, it really can’t get any better than that!

***Tips for Making Asian Dumplings***

Now here’s a list of tips I’ve gathered not only from my dumpling class this past weekend, but also from my trials and errors in dumpling making over last few years. Practice makes perfect, but at the end of the day, it’s good to know that any wonky looking dumplings will taste just as great as the ones that look pretty. That being said, here are a few ideas on how to make your dumplings look as good as they taste.

Dumpling Tip #1:  Store-Bought First.

There is nothing wrong with using store-bought wrappers. Store-bought wrappers are an excellent way to perfect your pleating and folding skills until you graduate to making homemade dumpling wrappers. They are also time-effiecient and work great with a variety of fillings and cooking methods.

Dumpling Tip #2:  Dry it Good.

Just like you do with a salad, take your veggies for a spin in a salad spinner before adding them into a dumpling filling. Ideally, your filling should be moist but definitely not runny. Runny fillings are a headache to control, especially when spooning them onto the prepared dumpling skins. Excess moisture can make it difficult to seal the dumplings tightly.

Dumpling Tip #3:  Chop it Fine.

Many vegetables have the tendency to be bulky and rigid, so you want to take the time to cut them finely. This will prevent them from poking or tearing through the soft dumpling skins. Veggies like napa cabbage should be chopped, salted, drained, and dried before adding them to a filling. This wilting process will help the cabbage soften and meld well with other soft ingredients like chopped mushrooms, tofu, or ground meat. You don’t have to salt thin veggies like chives because they aren’t very bulky, especially when you’ve taken the time to chop them into a fine mince.

Dumpling Tip #4:  Get the Right Tools.

An Asian-style rolling-pin is essential for making homemade dumpling wrappers. Unlike Western-style rolling pins, Asian rolling pins are lighter, thinner, and easier to maneuver. If you are really serious about dumpling making, you’ll also want to get a tortilla press. This heavy press helps to apply even pressure to the dumpling skins so that you get though prepping all the wrappers faster. A tortilla press is especially valuable for making translucent dough wrappers, like the ones used for making Ha Gao Shrimp Dumplings.

Dumpling Tip #5:  Tacky not Sticky.

After adding all the ingredients together for your dough, the dough should be slightly tacky without actually sticking to your finger. If the dough is too sticky, then add some more flour, and if it’s too dry add a bit more water. The dough should feel just like a finished bread dough would–soft, supple, and slightly clinging to the touch.

Dumpling Tip #6:  Rest the Dough.

Generally, resting the wrapper dough for about 10-20 minutes before cutting, shaping, and filling them is a good idea. Especially with gluten-based flours, the resting process helps to make the rolling process simpler and faster.

Dumpling Tip #7:  Make a Log.

The best way to create equally sized dumplings is to first roll the dough into a log. The length of the log doesn’t matter, you just want an easy way to visualize a half portion of the dough. Use a sharp knife to cut each half portion of dough into half again until you get all the dough pieces to be the same as the size of a cherry tomato.

Dumpling Tip #8:  Zip Top Bags are Your Friends.

These convenient bags serve a variety of functions. First, they provide a place to park your just-made dough so that the gluten can rest a bit before you start to divide and shape the dough. They also serve as a slightly humid place to keep your dough balls before shaping them so that they don’t dry out. And if you end up using a tortilla press to make your dumplings, you can cut off all the edges of one bag to create a smooth surface for lining your press.

Dumpling Tip #9:  Oval Beats Circle.

It’s easiest to tell people to shape dough rounds into a circle, but the truth is, a circle made very slightly oblong (into an oval) is much easier to stuff then a plain circle. An oval shaped dumpling wrapper is easier to fold over, especially when you are trying to fill each dumpling with as much of the yummy filling as you possibly can.

Dumpling Tip #10:  A Soft Belly is a Good Thing.

This tip comes straight from the dumpling queen, Andrea. A slightly pouchy center (middle 1 1/2″ of a 3 1/2″ wrapper) on a dumpling skin assures that the dumpling has a sturdy structure even after it’s been filled. This is especially true for wheat based dumplings where the dough has some elasticity to it. When you don’t have a slightly puffy center to a dumpling skin, you run the risk of the filling popping through the skin as you fold it, which will result in a less flavorful and less pretty pouch. You can see here that I’ve lightly floured around the section of the wrapper that should be left slightly thicker. Looks kind of like a fried egg doesn’t it?

Dumpling Tip #11:  Just South of the Equator

The best location to place your filling is just south of the center, not actually in the center. Placing the filling slightly off-center will help you to easily create a half-moon. Folding one half onto the other is that much easier when one half of the wrapper doesn’t have filling on it.

Dumpling Tip #12:  Don’t Over-Stuff!

The best item to use when filling a dumpling is a rounded spoon measure. This assures that you are filling the skins with the same amount of filling so that the dumplings cook and look uniform. If you are new to wrapping dumplings, always err towards filling them with less filling, not more. Dumplings that are pierced or overfilled could burst while cooking, which means some of their delicious flavor will be lost.

Dumpling Tip #13:  Work in the Air.

This is another tip that I learned from Andrea over the weekend. After you’ve rolled and prepped your dumpling skin to be filling-ready, it no longer needs to be parked on the work surface. Use your non-dominant hand to hold a finished dumpling skin after it has been rolled/prepped properly. Then, use your dominant hand to seal, shape, and pleat the dumplings.

Dumpling Tip #14:  Start Simple.

Half-moon shaped dumplings are the easiest to make and are the starting point for many fancier looking dumplings. If you are short on time, or if you simply don’t want to mess around with pleating, then just leave your dumplings as half-moons. If you are steaming them, lie them flat on one side. If you are pan frying them, prop them up so that their bottoms make more contact with the frying pan for maximum browning.Dumpling Tip #15:  Cook it hot.

Whether you boil, steam, or pan-fry your dumplings, make sure that the cooking source has reached full heat before cooking your dumplings in it. If you are boiling, look for bubbles. If you are steaming, look for a wisp. And if you are pan-frying, look for a shimmer to run across the oil. In all three of these methods, high heat is valuable in keeping an ideal al dente (not mushy) texture to the dumplings.

If this post has you thinking of punching out some yummy dumplings soon, please check out a few of my dumpling and dim sum posts! Siu Mai, Ha Gao, Potstickers, Gyoza…there is seriously nothing more delicious than a hot and fresh little dumpling!

Groupie that I am, I was the first one to arrive in class and pretty much the last one to leave. My persistence paid off though, as I got a picture with the dumpling goddess herself…love Andrea Nguyen!

Miso Chive Gyoza

Everytime my hubby and I go out for Japanese food, we’re always offered some miso soup to slurp along with our meal. Although I love drinking miso soup with my meal (which is often a chirashi bowl), I don’t actually like it when it’s served before my meal. By itself, miso soup can be really salty, especially when it only has a few scant cubes of tofu to balance out its pungent brininess.

The deliciousness of miso is most apparent when it’s used with a variety of bland, one-note ingredients. Tofu, noodles, and vegetables all benefit from miso’s almost meaty flavor, which is exactly why I’ve mixed all these ingredients together to create a veggie-based version of everyone’s favorite Japanese dish…gyoza!

Miso is very much like a thicker, full-bodied soy sauce. Instead of using the thick paste version of miso to make these gyoza, I’ve opted to use miso concentrate, which is a lighter, liquid version of real miso. The thinner consistency of miso concentrate means that it melds with the rest of the filling ingredients easily and evenly.

Another great thing about miso concentrate is that you can find it without making a special trip to the Japanese market. Since it’s not a refrigerated product (before opening), it can be found in the Asian section of well-stocked markets or even online. If you want to use regular miso paste in this recipe, use less of it and dilute it with 1-2 teaspoons of hot water before proceeding with the recipe.

Flowering chives are the main veggie showcased in these Miso Chive Gyoza. These chives are thicker and sturdier than the more common version of Chinese chives, and have a small white bud attached at each tip. In my opinion, flowering chives have a much more pronounced garlic flavor compared to the flat chives that look like super long blades of grass. Both types of chives will work in this recipe, so feel free to switch up using either variety depending on which type you find (or which one is cheaper, because Asian chives are never cheap!).

Do you ever wonder why chives are always used in Asian dumplings? The simple answer is that thin veggies like chives make flavorful fillings without one having to go chop crazy. A pierced dumpling means that flavor will be lost, so it’s important that a filling be relatively homogenous and not bulky so that it won’t poke out through the soft dumpling skins.

Feel free to use this dumpling filling with store-bought wrappers–the dumplings will turn out every bit as delicious. To finish these yummy pan-fried pockets, dunk them into some homemade Ponzu Dipping Sauce, which gives the veggie filling a hit of salty citrus. Instead of making ponzu the traditional way, by boiling the sauce with konbu and dashi stock, I make an easy version by throwing in some seaweed furikake and bonito flakes with the other sauce ingredients just before serving.

These Miso Chive Gyoza are just perfect when served with a crisp Matcha Mojito or some grassy, bold Japanese green tea. If the summer heat has you craving a chic meal with lots of fresh and bright flavors, then this is definitely the meal for you! I’ve decided to bring these over to celebrate Fiesta Friday over at my friend Angie’s beautiful site, The Novice Gardener.  It’s my first time showing up to the party, so I’m ready for a good time!

Miso Chive Gyoza with Ponzu Dipping Sauce

Makes 32 dumplings.

Ingredients:

{Dumpling Skins}

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup glutinous rice flour

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup hot water

bench flour

{Filling}

2 Tbsp peanut or canola oil

1/3 lb. garlic chives (nira), finely cut into 1/4″ pieces

5 large, dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 2 hours, then finely diced into 1/4″ pieces

1/4 block extra-firm tofu, drained, dried, then cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 oz saifun (bean thread noodles), softened in warm water for 15 minutes, then drained and finely cut into 1/4″ pieces

1 tsp garlic, grated

1 tsp ginger, grated

1/2 Tbsp michu (rice wine)

1/2 Tbsp mirin

1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp chile oil

1/2 tsp sesame oil

4 Tbsp miso concentrate

{Ponzu Dipping Sauce}

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

{Garnishes- to taste}

shichimi togarashi

furikake

bonito flakes (optional)

Equipment:

stand mixer with dough attachment

large zip top bag

Asian rolling-pin 

work surface

1 Tbsp measure

large skillet with lid

large sheet pan

spatula or tongs

Directions:

1.)  Make the Dumpling Skins. Combine all the dry ingredients for the skins together into the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn mixer on low and add 1 cup and 2 Tbsp of hot water in a steady stream. When the dough starts to come together after a few minutes, check the dough. If the dough looks dry, add the last 2 Tbsp of hot water as necessary, so that the dough just comes together to form a ball. Let the dough mix for a total of 5-7 minutes on low until the dough is soft and supple and doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch the surface. Place the finished dough into a large zip top bag to rest for at least a half hour and up to 1 day before using. If you plan on using the dough the next day, place it in the fridge after placing into the zip top bag.

2.)  Make the Filling. Place the chopped chives in a large mixing bowl. Mix the michu, mirin, soy, sugar, pepper, chile oil, sesame oil, and miso concentrate in a small bowl. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil on high heat in a large saucepan until the oil just starts to ripple. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and ginger and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the tofu, then cook for another 2 minutes. Now add the saifun and cook for another minute before adding the miso liquid mixture. Cook for another 2 minutes, then take off the heat and place the mixture on top of the chopped chives in the mixing bowl. Mix everything together evenly.

3.)  Wrap the Dumplings. Divide the dough into 32 equal pieces. The easiest way to do this is to roll the dough into a log, then cut it in half. Cut each half into half again to make a total of 4 large dough balls. Roll each dough ball into a log, then cut each log into 8 equal pieces. Each dough piece will be roughly the size of a cherry tomato, and will make 1 dumpling. Use an Asian rolling-pin to roll each ball into a 4″ circle/slight oval with a slightly puffy center. With an oval piece of dough laid flat in one of your hands, fill the center with 1 Tbsp of the filling, then use your other hand to seal the wrapper into half-moon dumpling. At this point, you can add pleats to your dumplings, or simply prop them up on a sheet pan lightly scattered with bench flour. If you are looking for ways to improve on dumpling making, please check out my Tips for Making Asian Dumplings!

4.)  Cook the Dumplings. Heat 2 Tbsp of peanut or canola oil in a large skillet. Distribute the oil evenly in the pan. When the oil starts to shimmer, carefully place the gyoza in the pan. It does not matter if they touch or not. After you’ve placed all the gyoza in the pan (a large skillet should fit about 16 dumplings), let them cook for 30 seconds, then pour 3/4 cup of cold water into the pan. Immediately cover the pan with the lid, and continue to cook the gyoza on high heat for about 8 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and easily pull away from the skillet.

5.)  Make the Ponzu Sauce. Mix all the Ponzu Sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. If you like, scatter some togarashi, furikake, or bonito flakes on top of  the gyoza or in the Ponzu Sauce itself just before serving.

Matcha Mojitos

I don’t normally drink many alcoholic beverages, but when I do mojitos are my drink of choice. I like that mojitos taste light and crisp without tasting overly sweet, and I also like that the ingredients used to make these cocktails are not the least bit fussy or hard to get.

There’s really nothing to making a mojito, which makes it perfect for a Monday evening wind down. It’s typical to use a muddler to mash up the mint and lime wedges of this drink, but since I don’t have one of those I’ve taken a shortcut to extract the flavors out of the ingredients. In the first step of the recipe I use hot water to create a smooth honey simple syrup. I then use the residual heat from the water not only to brew my matcha but also to help wilt and release flavor from the mint leaves. It’s an untraditional method that does a great job of melding all of this mojito’s refreshing flavors together.

The matcha in this recipe will give the mojito more body and a gentle bitterness which is balanced by the sweet honey. As always, an added benefit of the matcha is that it will give you a bit of extra pep to get you through the rest of your day (or evening). Matcha Mojitos are the drink to have when your day has been tireless and exhausting. Smooth and crisp with just a bit of edge to it, this simple cocktail is a refreshing finish to any hot and busy summer day.

Matcha Mojito

Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

2 tsp honey

1 Tbsp hot water

1 tsp matcha powder, sifted

1 sprig of mint (5 leaves)

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

6-7 large ice cubes

3 Tbsp rum, chilled

6 Tbsp club soda, chilled

Equipment:

large glass

sifter

spoon or muddler

Directions:

1.)  Pour the honey into a large glass (the one that you plan on serving with), then add 1 Tbsp of hot water and stir until you get a thinned honey water. Add the sifted matcha, then mix with spoon until the matcha is thoroughly incorporated and there are no lumps.

2.)  Squeeze the juice from each lime wedge into the mixture, then throw 2 of the wedges into the mixture (discard the other 2). Add the mint leaves to the matcha honey mixture, then slightly crush the leaves and lime wedges with the back of the spoon.

3.)  Add the rum, then mix again. Add the ice cubes, then top off with club soda and give the Matcha Mojito one last mix before serving.

Quilted Petit Fours

Have you ever heard of the children’s book, Le Petit Prince? I hadn’t paid much attention to it until just a few weeks ago, when my very good friend asked me to create a celebratory cake for her sister’s baby shower.

Today’s recipe for Quilted Petit Fours are the miniature version of the Petit Prince cake that I created last weekend. The cake recipe is adapted from Sweetapolita’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake recipe, which works great for regular sized cakes or, in this case, one half-sheet pan cake. The texture of this cake is light and fluffy, and yet it keeps a tight crumb, which makes it ideal for making petit fours.

The key to getting your petit fours to look distinctively French is to use food coloring in shades of pale pastel, very sparingly. Here, I’m using a blue food coloring named Delphinium Blue, a shade very much like a color you’d find on a box of tea at Ladurée in Paris.

Luxurious gold dragées are placed on the points where diagonally scored lines on the fondant intersect. By lightly piercing each intersection with a toothpick, the large gold sprinkles will easily tuck into the fondant to create a tufted diamond pattern. The softer the frosting under the fondant, the more pooufy the pattern will look.And here is a glimpse of the cake that inspired today’s recipe for Quilted Petit Fours. The double layered cake was frosted with strawberry buttercream before being covered with fondant. The asteroid (middle) part of the cake was made from moulded rice crispy treat, which was also covered in fondant and then sprayed with edible gold dust. Finally, the cake board was covered in gold sprinkles for an extra dose of glitter and glam. With the use of some small cupcake liners, I placed some of these same sprinkles at the base of my petit fours for a similar effect.

Petit Prince himself was made entirely of fondant held together with toothpicks. I gave him a glossy finish by painting him with a mixture of corn syrup and clear colored framboise (raspberry liquor). People remarked that at first glance, he looked like a plastic toy…what do you think?

If I muster up the energy to, I’ll have to do a tutorial for how to build fondant figurines some day soon. It’s a process that requires a bit of improvisation and an incredible amount of patience, but it’s also highly rewarding if you can get it right.

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

If you haven’t ever read Le Petit Prince, I highly recommend it. Above all, Le Petit Prince reminds us to stay child-like, open-minded, and with a full spirit of inquisitiveness. The drawings in the book are simple yet elegant, which was the look I was going for with these Quilted Petit Fours. Serve these fancy cakelets with Harney & Sons’ Paris black tea, a blend that’s fruity, flowery, and distinctively feminine.

I’m dedicating today’s post to all the lovely ladies that I met at the shower this past weekend, and to one special person in particular–the positively glowing and radiant mommy-to-be…Congratulations Jen!!

French Quilted Petit Fours 

Makes 12 large petit fours.

Ingredients:

{Cake- Adapted from Sweetapolita’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake Recipe}

2 1/2 large egg whites

1/2 whole egg

1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground vanilla beans

1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted

1 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pieces, chilled

non-stick spray

{Strawberry Frosting- Adapted from Patty Nguyen’s Strawberry Buttercream Recipe}

1 stick butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 oz freeze-dried strawberries, ground into a fine powder in a spice grinder

1 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch salt

{Decoration}

24 oz. white fondant

Delphinium Blue food coloring

4 mm gold dragées

Equipment:

large half sheet pan fitted with parchment

medium bowl

stand mixer with paddle attachment

large rubber spatula

off-set cake spatula

toothpicks

cooling rack

rolling-pin

2 1/4″ round cookie cutter

disposable, food safe gloves

quilting tool or knife

ruler

spice grinder

Directions:

1.)  Make the Cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray sheet pan and parchment evenly with non-stick spray. Mix together 2 Tbsp of milk, egg whites, egg, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl, then set aside. Place all dry cake ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, then mix on lowest setting for 30 seconds. Add butter, one Tbsp at a time, every 10 seconds to create a sandy mixture. Add the milk, then continue to mix on low for 5 minutes, occasionally using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is mixing evenly. Add the liquid egg mixture in 3 additions, waiting for the batter to mix evenly before adding the next batch. Mix for 4 minutes, until the batter is light and evenly mixed. Pour batter into large baking sheet, then smooth the batter out evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is light golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. When the cake is done, take it out and let it cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a large cooling rack until it cools completely.

2.)  Make the frosting. Cream butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the sifted powdered sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt, then mix until evenly incorporated. Grind the freeze-dried strawberries in a spice grinder and immediately add the fine powder into the frosting mixture. Scrape the sides of bowl down periodically to make sure all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

3.)  Assemble the cake. Using round cookie cutter, punch out rounds of cake. Frost the top of 2 rounds with a thin, even layer of frosting. Stack one frosted round on top of another frosted round, then top this with an unfrosted round to create a stack of 3 cake layers. Repeat this process to create 12 cake stacks, then frost all 12 stacks completely with a thin layer of frosting. Frost the top and the sides of the cylinder-like petit fours, then set them aside.

4.)  Prepare Fondant. Use a toothpick to smear 2 large dabs of food coloring into the fondant. With gloved hands, start stretching and pulling the fondant to create a pale, evenly colored pastel blue fondant. Roll the fondant out to a 1/16″ thickness. Cut out 12-6 1/2″ round circles of the fondant, one for each cakelet. Use the quilting tool to create diagonal lines on each fondant piece. If you prefer, use a ruler to get evenly spaced lines.

5.)  Finish the Petit Fours. Place one piece of fondant on each cake stack smoothing the top and sides down with your fingers. Cut off any excess fondant around the base of the petit four by using a sharp knife to go around the base. Use a toothpick to pierce a small hole in each intersection where the diagonal lines meet. Push one dragée into each pierced hole. Repeat this process for all 12 petit fours. These are best served within a day or two. Store in the fridge in a bakery box or in slightly vented tupperware until ready to serve.

Hankook’s Brown Rice Green Tea

My mom came to stay with me a few weeks ago, and sure enough we ended up tasting some tea samples together.  There’s no better way to catch up with your mom than to chat over lovely cup of tea, right?

For as long as I can remember, Genmaicha, has been one of her favorites.  Also known as Japanese brown rice tea or popcorn tea, Genmaicha is nutty and savory yet light-bodied.  My mom and I have only purchased Japanese brands of Genmaicha before because they are the most common to find.

I received this Brown Rice Green Tea, also known as Hyunmi Nokchaas a sample from the Korean tea company, Hankook Teas.  As picky as she is with her brown rice teas, my mom was quick to mention that she thought that this blend was delicious.  Unlike traditional Genmaicha, Hankook’s Hyunmi Nokcha mixes equal proportions of green tea and toasted rice.

Genmaicha traditionally has a higher ratio of roasted rice to tea leaves.  In Hankook’s blend, a greater amount of green tea means that the rich, vegetal flavors of this brew are more pronounced than they would be with Japanese Genmaicha.  Also, the rice in this blend is roasted instead of being popped, which helps to develop deep, almost buttery notes in the tea.

Jaksulcha is also known as “sparrow’s tongue tea.”  It is thought that the shape of the dried leaf resembles a sparrow’s tongue, and the name is generally reserved for artisan Korean green teas.  As this Jaksulcha is harvested in June, it’s brew isn’t as delicate as it would be if the leaves were picked during the Springtime, but it’s bolder flavor and warmer undertones are ideal for complementing the toasted rice flavors.

I brewed Hankook’s Brown Rice Green Tea in my favorite double-paned Korean glazed teacup that I specifically reserve for brewing good quality Jaksulcha.  This type of traditional tea ware is also known as Celadon, which refers to its jade-like color and characteristic hairline cracks that appear across its thick, shiny surface.  I’m not gonna lie, this cost me a pretty penny when I bought it at Hwa Sun Ji in L.A.’s Koreatown last year, but hey, at least I only bought one right? With such unique character and museum-worthy looks, it’s one of the pieces in my collection that I cherish most.

Tasting Notes for Hankook Tea’s Brown Rice Green Tea:

ORIGIN:  Honam Tea Estates, South Korea

BREWING TIPS:   2-3 minutes @ 200 degrees F.

THE LEAF:  Pointed, twisty green tea leaves with an equal proportion of toasted brown rice.

THE SCENT:   Like dried seaweed mixed with freshly popped popcorn.

THE STEEP:  Brews to a soft yellow.  A rich, medium-bodied tea with a sweet and nutty finish.

GET IT:  The blend is available at Hankook Tea’s website.

FOOD PAIRING:  Serve this hot or over ice with Korean Sticky Wings or Bulgogi Gimbap.  The bold flavor of the tea is the perfect palette cleanser after a few bites of spicy Korean food!

Korean Sticky Wings

What!?  Where are the tea sandwiches!?  Yup, you read it right.  You may not think of chicken wings as your typical tea time fare, but I can assure you that tea goes with carnivorous bites just as perfectly as it goes with pretty little cucumber sandwiches.  There’s nothing like a cool, chilled glass of Jaksulcha (Korean green tea) or Boricha (Barley Tea) to take the edge off of those bold flavors that come with Korean cuisine.

These Korean Sticky Wings are the perfect combination of salty, sticky, spicy, and sweet.  Don’t be too intimidated by their red color though…they have just a bit of heat for flavor but aren’t actually hot (I’d give them a 3 out of 10 on the heat scale).  All you need are your fingers, a tall pile of napkins, and some good Korean tea, and you’re in for one of the best Asian tea snacks around.

The best part about these wings?  They’re baked!  No need for the calories or mess that come with deep-frying here.  Just mix, marinade, and bake and you’re pretty much done!  The broiling step of this recipe concentrates the marinade that drips off of the wings during baking to create a shiny lacquer-like finish.  After the wings have broiled for the first 5 minutes, I like to start checking on them every few minutes thereafter to see how they are coming along, just to make sure they don’t get scorched.

When you first start to see little bits caramelizing or burning at the edges of the wings, it’s time to take them out.  The broiling process creates an amazingly flavorful and meaty sauce that pools at the bottom the baking pan.  As the sauce cools it also thickens, and can then be brushed or spooned on the wings as a shiny glaze just before serving.

Finish the wings by throwing on some chopped green onions, cilantro, roasted sesame seeds, and Korean chili flakes, otherwise known as gochugaru.  If you can’t find gochugaru, then crushed red pepper flakes are a good substitute.  The sticky, lacquered surface on the wings acts like a magnet to any of the garnishes that you toss on them, so be generous!  You can’t go wrong pairing these wings with a glass of chilled Barley Tea or Korean Brown Rice Tea, which is a blend of Korean Jaksulcha and toasted rice.  With Korean Sticky Wings, your casual Asian tea time couldn’t get any easier or more delicious!

Korean Sticky Wings

Makes 12-16 wing pieces.

Ingredients:

{Wings}

1 1/2- 2 pounds chicken wing pieces

non-stick spray

{Marinade}

1 Tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp ginger, grated

{Garnishes}

chopped scallions

chopped cilantro

roasted sesame seeds

gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)

Equipment:

grater

large mixing bowl with cover

large sheet pan

tongs

brush or small spoon

Directions:

1.)  In a large bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients together well.  Add the chicken wings to the marinade, then cover and let sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.

2.)  When you are ready to make the wings, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place wings in a single layer on a large sheet pan lightly sprayed with non-stick spray.  Give each wing a quick shake to drain off any excess marinade, then place them on the pan so that they do not touch.

3.)  When the oven comes to temperature, place the tray of wings into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and flip the wings over, flipping just once. Place the wings back in oven to cook for another 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and flip the wings over one last time.  Increase oven to “broil.”  Place wings back in the oven to cook for another 8-10 minutes, or just until the wings get very light burned edges and a dark, glossy finish (check every few minutes after the first 5 minutes of broiling).

4.)  Remove wings from the oven, then let them sit for about 5 minutes to cool.  For a bit of extra gloss, brush or spoon some of the thickened cooking juices/sauce on each wing.  Scatter on green onion, cilantro, roasted sesame seeds, and gochugaru and serve.

Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls

For me, the best of summertime eating always involves making plenty of spring rolls.  In hot weather, there’s nothing better than enjoying a light, fresh meal that won’t leave you feeling heavy or guilty.

This Matcha Monday, I’ve created Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls with a savory Matcha Dipping Sauce.  A few weeks ago, I created a recipe for Rainbow Spring Rolls served with an oolong tea-based Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.  Today’s recipe highlights the umami flavors of matcha green tea in another spring roll recipe.  Where my oolong dipping sauce is fruity and bright, today’s matcha dipping sauce is earthy and rich.

When you think of smoked salmon you might be thinking about bagels or tea sandwiches, but it’s actually perfect for using in spring rolls too.  With its brilliant orangey-pink color and salty flavor, it can transform your everyday spring roll into a unique delicacy.  An added bonus is that it’s ready to use straight out of the package.  In today’s recipe, smoked salmon adds savory richness the same way that fish sauce does when you make Vietnamese Spring Rolls the traditional way.

What I love most about these Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls is their texture.  When you bite into these rolls, you’ll sink your teeth into a variety of soft textures first.  The rice wrapper, mung bean noodles, and salmon give the rolls a tender, bouncy bite.  After you’ve gotten through the softer layers, you’ll reach the thin, snappy stalks of haricot vert, otherwise known as French string beans.  These stalky, bright green veggies basically taste like less-starchy green beans. Here, they add an unexpected fresh crunch to the rolls and help to balance out the saltiness of the smoked salmon.

If you want to mix the dipping sauce up using proper culinary technique, you’d want to drizzle the olive oil into the other ingredients slowly, using a wire whisk.  The lazy way is throw all the ingredients into a jam jar and shake away.  The dipping sauce won’t be as thick and emulsified as if you had done it the correct way, but if fast and easy is the name of the game (hey, it’s Monday) this is the way to go.  Any fan of smoked salmon will love these spring rolls.  Feel free to play around with the proportions of the dipping sauce to make sure it’s just the right balance of flavors to suit your palette.  The sauce should be light, bright, and slightly thick, just like a good cup of matcha is.

Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls with Matcha Dipping Sauce

Makes 16 spring rolls.

Ingredients:

{Spring Rolls}

8 oz.smoked salmon, sliced

4 oz. mung bean noodles

8 oz. haricot vert, rough edges trimmed

16 large basil leaves

16 spring roll wrappers

{Matcha Dipping Sauce}

2 Tbsp olive oil

few drops sesame oil

juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp matcha powder

1/4 tsp salt

cracked black pepper to taste

Equipment:

work surface

large casserole or deep, large dish

medium pot

medium bowl with ice-cold water

wire mesh sieve

strainer

small bowl and whisk or jam jar

Directions:

1.)  Fill a medium pot with water, then bring to a full boil.  Boil the noodles for 2 minutes, then remove from hot water with wire mesh sieve.  Place in strainer, rinse with cold water, and set aside.  Blanch the haricot vert by throwing them into the same boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove the haricot vert with a wire mesh sieve, then plunge into another bowl filled with ice-cold water.  Drain the haricot vert and set aside.

2.)  Fill a large casserole or deep, large dish with about 1″ of warm water.  Submerge 1 spring roll wrapper in the water completely, wait for it to soften for about 10 seconds, then place the sheet on a clean work surface.

3.)  Stack 3-4 stalks of haricot vert in the lower 1/3 section of each sheet, towards the center. Add some mung bean noodles on top of the haricot vert, then top with a piece of smoked salmon and one basil leaf.  Roll up spring roll and fold right and left sides of the wrapper in towards the center of the roll.  Continue rolling upwards (away from you) until you get a completed roll. If you prefer visuals, please check out Andrea Nguyen’s instructions on how to wrap rice paper rolls.  Repeat this step for the rest of the 15 rolls.

4.)  In a small bowl, mix all of the dipping sauce ingredients together, except the olive oil.  Use whisk to stir the ingredients together, then gradually add the olive oil in a stream.  Alternatively, throw all the sauce ingredients in a jam jar and shake well.  Serve the dipping sauce along with the rolls.