How do you judge a book? Quickly judge? There’s the cover, of course. And this cover is quite beautiful, emblematic of the enticing photos inside.
And you can judge a book fast by just looking at the very first recipe: Pork and Napa Cabbage Dumplings, shown in the photo at the bottom of this book.
If you are like me, it is tough to get off that first page of the menu at an Asian restaurant. I could just dine on the dumplings and spring rolls and spareribs. I think it was the Chinese who invented tapas, or at least perfected it.
Author Andrea Nguyen is a Vietnamese food writer and author in California where she can merge California harvests with themes from across Asia, from India to China to the Philippines to the bounty of Vietnam. Somewhere in this book, or somewhere, there are recipes to bring that dumpling satisfaction to your mouth.
Andrea begins with the hope that you’ll do it all from scratch. Yes, making your own wrappers and doughs in addition to her lovely fillings. The essence of Asian cuisine is freshness and she encourages you to embrace freshness from the outside container to every inner layer.
The first chapter, Filled Pastas, begins right with those dumplings you crave:
Pork and Napa Cabbage Water Dumpling
Meat and Chinese Chive Pot Stickers
Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers
Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings
Spiced Lamb Dumplings
That’s a serious spectrum of ideas: all the way from vegetarian with cheese to that spiced lamb.
Dumplings, of course, are loved because of both the filling and the dough. That mouth feel as you work through the dough, to be greeted by meat or veggies and spices and vinegar, is the epitome of comfort food. At the other extreme, you have Thin Skins idea where the transparent wrapper is only there to hold the “goop” inside for your first bite:
Siu Mai Open-Faced Dumplings
Cantonese Char Siu Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls
Filipino Shrimp, Meat, and Vegetable Spring Rolls
Other chapters in Asian Dumplings give you a bounty of Asian fare:
Steamed Filled Buns [you’ll need a steamer!]
Filipino Chicken and Egg Buns
Beef, Sweet Potato, and Raisin Turnovers from the Philippines
Spicy Potato Samosas
Beef and Orange Rice Rolls
Sticky Rice and Spiced Chicken in Banana Leaf
And the book provides a wealth of accompaniments for you dumpling delights:
Tamarind and Date Chutney
Coconut Dessert Sauce
Green Chutney with Mint and Cilantro
This is one of those “gotcha” books. You start to skim, you see a picture or a recipe title, and it’s over. You are hooked. You’ll drive to your Asian market, book in hand, and some nice man or woman is going to knowingly stock up your shopping cart as you wander up and down aisles of god-knows-what. Go ahead. Enjoy the shopping, the cooking, that first bite, and the sauce drippling down your cheek.
These recipes are from cultures thousands of years old that understand the importance of food, not just for nutrition, but for your total well-being. Look, you can choose between doing yoga or eating dumplings. You probably know my preference.