Monday, April 14, 2014

Vegetarian Hong You Chao Shou! Boom!

These spicy Szechuan tempeh wontons are amazing. Full stop. Ordinarily, these are made of pork, but this tempeh version is just as good (seriously). The origin of these dumplings (according to the interwebs) is that the Sichuanese traditionally wore wear large robes in cold weather under which they put their hands in the opposite sleeves to keep warm. This gesture--chao shou translates to 'folded hands'--resembles the shape of the dumpling with opposite corners of the wrapper pinched together. In fact, you can go into a restaurant in Sichuan to this day and wordlessly cross your arms and they'll bring you this dish, knowing exactly what you've just asked for by gesture alone. However, if you make it at home, you'll likely associate a massive fist pump and a dance around the dining room with this dish because that's what you'll do after tasting the first bite. It's that good.

Prep time: 3 cocktails

4 TBSP peanut oil
8 ounces tempeh, crumbled
2" piece of ginger grated with Microplane or finest side of cheese grater
5 cloves garlic, minced
White parts of 4-5 scallions, chopped
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
3 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP rice wine
1 egg, beaten
Store-bought wonton wrappers (you can use small for pot-stickers or big for egg rolls)

1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 TBSP Hong You (Szechuan chili oil), recipe here
2 TBSP soy sauce
2-3 TBSP Zhenjiang (or Chinkiang) black vinegar (available at any Asian grocer)

A small drizzle of toasted sesame oil
Green parts of 4-5 scallions, sliced into small wheels
Sesame seeds (optional)

Heat peanut oil over medium-high heat in frying pan or wok. When hot, add tempeh and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and scallion whites. Continue to stir fry until tempeh begins to turn golden brown, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in white pepper, soy sauce, and rice wine and cook for a few more seconds. Remove from heat and stir for a few more seconds.

Start the sauce by combining all sauce ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally. Also, put medium to large pot with water on the stove to boil--this pot will be for boiling the wontons.

Now fold your mixture into wontons. If you're using big egg roll wontons, you'll use about 1/4 cup of tempeh mixture; if you're using small pot-sticker-size wontons, it'll be more like a TBSP of mixture. Place the mixture in the middle of each wonton sheet, then brush the edges of the dough with egg using a pastry brush. Now fold the wonton over to make a triangle and use your fingers to firmly seal the edges. Traditionally, you'll also fold the two points of the longest section of triangle back together and connect these tips to make a "cap" shape, but this step is optional.

Now gently lower the wontons into your pot of boiling water. Boil until they have had time to cook through--about 3 minutes for small wontons or 5-6 minutes for large wontons. Remove with slotted spoon. Serve with generous portion of sauce and add garnishes.

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