This traditional dish is especially popular during holidays. The dumplings can be poached in chicken broth and served as a soup, or they can be fried or baked and served with a dipping sauce of vinegar and soy sauce mixed with Japanese hot mustard, hot red chile pepper, or a sprinkling of Oriental herbs.
• 1 101/2-ounce box firm tofu
• 1 pound bean sprouts
• 1 bunch spinach
• 3 whole chicken breasts, bones removed
• 1/2 pound lean ground beef or ground sirloin
• 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, toasted and ground
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon each fresh Thai basil, Dark Opal basil, cilantro, and curly parsley, or 1 teaspoon each minced fresh garlic chives and mint
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup dark sesame oil
• 1 package wonton wrappers, preferably round
1. Place the block of tofu between two thick layers of paper towels and cover with a plate weighted with a heavy bowl or can. Let it stand for 15 minutes, then crumble the tofu and reserve. Blanch the bean sprouts, several handfuls at a time, in boiling water for 10 seconds, then douse with cold water and gently squeeze out the water by hand. Finely chop the bean sprouts and reserve. Repeat the procedure with the spinach and reserve.
2. In a food processor or by hand, finely chop the chicken breasts, then place in a large mixing bowl. Add the beef, the reserved tofu, bean sprouts, and spinach along with the sesame seeds, garlic, scallions, herbs, soy sauce, and oil. By hand, combine the ingredients well.
3. For each dumpling, place about a teaspoon of the meat mixture in the center of a wonton circle. With your fingers, moisten the edges of the wrapper with a little water, then fold into a crescent and press the edges closed. (If using square wrappers, bring two opposite corners together to form a triangle.) Continue in this manner until you have used all the filling. (You may freeze the dumplings at this point. Freeze them separately on a tray, then enclose them in a plastic freezer bag.)
4. To poach dumplings, add a few at a time to a quart of briskly boiling chicken broth. They are done when they rise to the surface. Or fry a few at a time in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of hot vegetable oil until lightly browned.
Carole Saville is a Los Angeles writer and landscape designer who specializes in herbs.
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Asian Herbs and Their Many Uses