Asian Dumplings – Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More

Asian Dumpling

by Andrea Nguyen. Ten Speed Press 2009. Hardcover. List $30 ($20 on Amazon; $13 kindle)

This was my first Andrea Nguyen book; it’s a large hard-bound book with lots of enticing color photos and diagrams. But it is not at all plant-based – so you have to make the decision as to how much the process is worth, knowing that you will have to make substitutions for a lot of the meat (there are one or two all veg options in each chapter but some of the other recipes lend themselves to replacing the ground pork, beef or lamb with soy burger or seitan and the broth with vegetable stock). Nguyen provides exceptionally clear instructions for each type of dumpling along with all the possible shapes – filled dough (like wonton, pot stickers, steamed dumplings), thin skins (like wonton, siu mai and Cantonese spring rolls), and stuffed yeast buns. But when she gets to the rich pastries that use a lot of fat, it gets harder to keep it plant-based. But you could substitute vegan sticks or buy ready-made puff pastry (which happens to be vegan). The Translucent Wheat and Tapioca Starches and the rice paper chapters are pretty fascinating – even if you decide to buy your rice paper ready-made. And the Sweet Treasures section offers plenty of unusual options for dessert or tea.

The whole book is a well-thought out education on dumplings of all stripes – as long as you are easy with the concept of having to make substitutions in the overwhelming majority of the recipes. Even the front-of-the-book ingredient lists are enlightening – and I have read hundreds of these – but, perhaps, since this was written in 2009, she anticipated that the reader might not be too familiar with Asian cuisine. Her lengthy, detailed descriptions always contain a new nugget or two. In the equipment section she expands her recommendations to tools from other cuisines that can be used in dumpling making – like pasta machines and tortilla presses. And touts the benefit of metal steamers over bamboo (now I wish I hadn’t sent mine to GoodWill).

My conclusion – keep an eye out for a good buy and put this book on your shelf. Nguyen will teach you a wide variety of basic and complex dumpling-making skills that create “holders” that you can fill with easily modified recipes. Then you can mark up most of the recipes with the improved veg fillings – and the result will be about as authentic as we can get and still be meat-free.

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