Today I sent out the last recipe chapter to get tested for Asian Tofu. Whew! Relaxation time. I wanted to make a little Asian dumpling for fun, not for tweaking multiple times for print. I wanted the pleasure of fooling around with dough to create a satisfying afternoon snack. No pressure.
I picked these little guys. For months, I'd been thinking about trying these chewy-soft rice dumplings in Elizabeth Andoh's Japanese vegan cookbook, Kansha. The dough is fast and easy to prepare.
Elizabeth formed her sweet rice flour dough into little balls for a classic Japanese sweet dumpling called shiratama dango. I decided to make the dumplings larger and dimpled so that they'd have tiny wells for holding thick brown sugar syrup – called kuro mitsu in Japanese. Plus, I could also pile on some adzuki beans in those indented dumplings. Sweet adzuki bean paste is commonly eaten with shiratama dango but canned beans and the brown sugar syrup do the trick.
The above combination of poached dumplings, buttery beans and sweet syrup was good. However, it was splendid with the addition of nutty toasted soy flour (kinako), which I had to make on the fly. Here is my afternoon dumpling snack for you to try.
Sweet Rice Dumplings with Brown Sugar Syrup, Adzuki Beans and Kinako
Serves 4 to 6
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt
2 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) glutinous rice flour, any Thai brand
2 ounces (1/3 cup) Mochiko sweet rice flour
About 6 tablespoons water or unsweetened soy milk
3/4 to 1 cup cooked adzuki beans (canned is fine)
About 2 tablespoons purchased or homemade toasted soy flour (kinako), optional
1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Heat over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to vigorously simmer for about 3 minutes, until the syrup has thickened a fair amount. Dip a spatula or spoon into the syrup and it should cling before dripping off. A dark shiny film should remain on the spatula or spoon.
When the syrup is done, take it off the heat and wait for the bubbling action to subside before stirring in the salt. Pour the syrup into heatproof glass jar or bowl and set aside to cool. You should have about 1/2 cup.
2. For the dumplings, combine the two rice flours in a bowl. Drizzle in half of the water (or soymilk) and use your fingers to stir and moisten the ingredients. Then gradually work in the remaining liquid, kneading the dough into a PlayDoh type of consistency that’s firm yet soft and smooth. Toward the end, add the liquid slowly as a little of it can affect the dough dramatically. This dough can dry quickly and crack. Take care to cover it if you’re going to walk away for too long.
3. To shape the dumplings, work with half of the dough at a time, covering the other half with a dishtowel to prevent drying. Roll the dough into a 12-inch-long log. Cut it crosswise into 12 pieces. Roll each one into a 3/4-inch ball and then flatten it into a thick disc, about a scant 1/2 inch thick.
Use your index finger or thumb to make an indentation in the center. Set aside and repeat with the remaining dough. You’ll form two dozen 1-inch-wide dumplings total. When done, cover them with the dishtowel.
4. Fill a large saucepan or pot with about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Depending on the size of the pan, drop in half or all of the dumplings. (In a 3-quart pan, I do 2 batches.) After all the dumplings float to the top, let them cook for another minute, then use a skimmer to scoop them from the water. Drop them into a bowl of cold or room temperature water to let them cool.
The dumplings are tastiest within 30 minutes after they are made. They will still be at their peak soft-and-chewy selves. If you leave them in the water longer they’re gradually firm up. To revive them, drain them and dunk them in boiling water to soften (essentially a quick recooking) or warm and soften them in the microwave oven.
5. For each portion, put 2 to 3 tablespoons of adzuki beans in a small shallow bowl. Top with some dumplings, and a drizzle of the sugar syrup. Then finish with about 1 teaspoon of the toasted soy flour. Eat with a spoon to ensure that you get some of each of the ingredients in every bite.