Archive for the 'savory' Category


Maple-Sugar Yam and Chicken Pizza (Steam Baked)

The difficulty with pizza is that the cheese topping dries out if dry baked at low temperature for long periods. That’s why I was so excited about steam baking a pizza, because the superheated moisture would keep the cheese moist long enough to melt, while the crust browned. As the above picture shows, the recipe was a success. The cheese had a lovely drippy quality, fresh from the oven.

This recipe was also a test of a new yeast: Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast, a rapid-rise yeast with dough-relaxing enzymes, for a lower-rise, dense but chewy, crust. I liked it very much, for very easy to make dough with just 4 minutes of hand-kneading. Fleischmann warned against using Pizza Crust Yeast in other bread recipes. but I’ve seen excellent results in other kinds of breads. This product should be great with soft pretzels too. Substitute regular rapid-rise yeast, if not available locally.

The maple sugar yams were yam slices, steamed and then marinated in a bit of maple syrup. Likewise, the chicken was steam cooked, shredded and marinated in soy sauce. For both, I would marinate for at least an hour. For tomato sauce, I had a jar of Prego mushroom pasta sauce in the fridge.

Makes 6 servings
– 125 calories per serving
– Oven Temperature: effective 250°F/121°C (steam baking)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3+ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon pizza yeast or rapid rise yeast (see text)
  • 1/4 cup sliced cooked broccoli
  • 1/4 cup sliced maple sugar yams (see text)
  • 1/4 cup soy-marinated, cooked chicken pieces (see text)
  • 3/8 cup tomato sauce (see text)
  • 3/8 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Menudo spices

Dough Method:

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast until evenly distributed.

2. Mix in 1/3 cup warm water and 1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil to form a moist pebbly dough (add more water, by the teaspoon, if necessary).

3. Knead dough for 4 minutes until smooth.

4. If using fast rise yeast, cover and allow to rise until double in volume, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Pizza Method:

1. Flatten dough into an 8-inch disk and set inside a greased 8-inch cake pan.

2. Spread the tomato sauce over the top of the dough.

3. Arrange yams, broccoli and chicken on the pizza.

4. Top with the mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil over the cheese and toppings.

5. Prepare oven for steam baking. Fill the water tray with boiling water, enough for at least 40 minutes of baking (about 1/4″ deep in my tray). Do not cover the tray. Heat oven to 300°F/149°C (effective temperature of 250°F/121°C with the water tray uncovered, checked with a thermometer). Put the pan on a trivet, so that it doesn’t touch water.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, until the crust is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, and the cheese has melted.


Cactus Hominy Polenta Cake

[ Equipment: steam oven, steamer or low-temperature-capable convection oven, an 6-inch (2-cup) round cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths. ]

This steamed cake is a savory companion to the Maple Polenta Cake with Chamomile Hominy. The batter mixes cornmeal and rice flour for a softer polenta than from cornmeal alone. The tomato bullion contains chicken bullion with dried tomato essence, and regular chicken bullion with a spoon or two of tomato sauce should substitute fine. My local market sold jars of prickly pear cactus nopalitos, cooked and cut into strips. They have a light vinegary flavor and a mucilaginous texture, a great match for the soft polenta. If cactus isn’t available, substitute chopped string beans.

Makes 4 servings
– 105 calories per serving
– Oven Temperature: effective 250°F/121°C steam baked

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons tomato bullion powder
  • 3 tablespoons plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour
  • 1 cup prepared (canned) hominy
  • 1/3 cup chopped cactus nopalitos (cooked cactus strips)

1. In a small bowl, whisk cornmeal and rice flour until evenly combined.

2. In a saucepan, heat water, bullion and tomato sauce until simmering.

3. Whisk in cornmeal-flour and continue whisking until mixture has thickened and coming away from sides of saucepan.

4. Mix in hominy.

5. Mix in chopped cactus.

6. Pour into greased 6-inch pan or 2-cup baking dish. The polenta cake can be steamed or steam baked. For steam baking, leave the water tray uncovered and place a trivet or stand to hold the dish above the water line. Steam bake at 250°F/121°C for 70 minutes.

7. Cool. Slice and serve.


Daikon-Chana Mochi Rice Cake (Steam Baked)

Daikon radish cakes are staples in Chinese restaurants, from pan-steamed batters of rice flour and daikon radish puree. This version substitutes glutinous rice flour (mochi flour) for white rice flour. Because mochi flour cooks up sticky and gooey, a regular daikon mochi cake does not slice well. Slices of my first daikon cakes, even when refrigerated, melted on the plate. This cake gets its firm structure from two egg whites mixed into the batter.

Chana are chickpeas. I puree them into the batter and add whole chickpeas as a sort of solid leavener. I get my prepared chickpeas from a can: whole, solid, soft without any grittiness. Home-cooked chickpeas should be similarly soft, but without dissolving into mush. They add variations in texture. Pinto-bean daikon cakes work well (daikon-uzura cake), and they’re a big hit too.

Traditional daikon rice cakes are steamed; this one is steam baked and has a light crust. If desired, it could be made in a standard water steamer.

Makes 4 servings
– 250 calories per serving
– Oven Temperature: effective 250°F/121°C steam baked

  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 oz daikon radish, sliced into chunks
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (drained)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup shrimp soaking liquid
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 green beans, steamed, rough chopped

1. soak shrimp in hot water for about an hour. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid. Chop shrimp.

2. Cut daikon into small chunks. Steam for about 10 minutes.

3. In a small bowl of a food processor, puree 1/2 cup chickpeas and the steamed daikon.

4. Add egg whites, 1/4 cup shrimp soaking liquid, salt and pepper or chili powder and blend until smooth, about 1 minute on high speed.

5. In a large bowl, mix the rice flour and daikon puree. Stir to form a thick batter.

6. Add chopped green beans and chopped shrimp and stir until combined.

7. Mix in 1/2 cup chickpeas.

8. Pour batter into a greased, 6-inch (2-cup) baking dish. If necessary, prepare oven for steam baking. Bake at effective 250°F/121°C for about 40 minutes. Cake should be translucent and firm. The top of the cake should have a light crust.

9. Cool and serve.


Soaked Grain, Jalapeno Soda Bread (Baked)

[ Equipment: oven or slow cooker with temperature control, a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 (inch) loaf pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

This savory sandwich bread has a texture and taste like that of a soft yeast bread, chewy with plenty of heat and tang from the pickled jalapeno peppers and sour cream. Leave out the peppers and it would make a great sourdough soda bread. For the same amount of flour, it doesn’t rise quite as high as yeast loaf could. It’s a heartier bread with an open crumb.

The flour was a blend of regular all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, about 25% by volume. My first LTB soda bread, a Harvest-Spiced Gluten-Free Soda Bread, contained a binder of egg and ground flax seed. This eggless bread didn’t require a separate binder. It wasn’t kneaded; instead the crumb got its chewy quality from long fermentation of the wheat flour – like a slow-rise yeast dough.

Soaking whole grain flour in an acid medium broke down phytic acid, which inhibited absorption of nutrients in the body, and improves digestibility and taste (for those who are partial to the taste of whole grain flour). It seemed to break down some of the gluten proteins, but may also have helped with texture – just as in slow-rise doughs, but without the yeast action to develop gluten bonds.

However, my main concern about soaked grains in LTB was that excessive exposure to moisture could produce a hard and/or dense bread with coarse texture, as happened in my early experiments with slow-rise breads. Too little moisture meant the dough would not rise as high, because the acid-soda reaction needed moisture. Too much moisture would weigh the dough down. The soaked grains worked well in this recipe, because only 1/4 of the total flour was treated, and because the soaked grains were evenly distributed throughout the dough. The loaf stayed moist and delicious for a day or two. Afterwards, I toasted slices for crunchy hot sandwiches.

The recipe lists a strong “soured milk”, which I made by mixing a 1% low-fat milk with a white vinegar (4% acidity). Traditionally, this is like the formula for a buttermilk substitute, and buttermilk should work too if combined with an extra tablespoon of vinegar. About the pickled jalapenos, my local market had cans of sliced pickled jalapenos under the La Costena brand. After chopping them, I pressed them gently on a paper towel to soak up any runny juices and prevent soggy pockets in the loaf.

This recipe was my first bread baked in a convection oven. As seen in the pictures, the crust came out a nice golden color – darker than what I could obtain in a slow-cooker oven. It has not been tested in a slow-cooker oven. None of my cookers will accommodate a 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan. Anyone who tries this bread in a slow-cooker should expect longer baking time and a lighter crust. If the loaf fails to rise fully in a cooker, try replacing the the foil cover with the one used in my original large potato bread.

Makes 1 loaf
– 1100 calories per loaf
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (6.4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.4 oz)
  • 1-1/8 cup soured milk (1 cup milk + 2 tablespoons white vinegar – see text)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (drained, see text)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1. In a small bowl, stir whole wheat flour into 1/2 cup soured milk. Cover and allow flour to soak for 12 hours. The picture above shows the soaked wheat flour before and after the 12 hour fermentation.

2. In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients until well combined.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the soaked flour (including all liquid), sour cream, chopped pickled peppers and remaining 5/8 cup soured milk.

4. Add to dry ingredients and stir to evenly distribute and a wet dough forms. Do NOT overmix.

5. Spoon the dough into a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pan and spread out evenly.

6. Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil. Cut out a rectangular opening in the foil, leaving a 1-inch border around the pan. Then cut a 1/2-inch diagonal slit at each corner to form 4 flaps (see areas circled in red in the picture above). The flaps should remain flat for now.

7. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes and check height of loaf. When the loaf is almost touching the foil, lift the foil flaps up and away from the loaf, using tongs or two spoons.

8. Continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes or until inside temperature of loaf measures about 205°F/93°C.

9. Remove foil cover and let cool. Unmold.

9. Slice and serve. Excellent toasted.


Pineapple Teriyaki Jerky Biscuits (Dehydrated)

[ Equipment: oven or food dehydrator. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

The inspiration for these chewy, crunchy, savory biscuits is the stir-fry classic: pineapple teriyaki beef. For the teriyaki beef, I mix in finely shredded teriyaki flavor beef jerky. The dried pineapple chunks add notes of sweet and sour. I balance the sweet binder of honey and peanut butter with salty bouillon powder that intensifies the jerky flavor with beef broth seasonings. The biscuits get their lift and crunch from puffed kamut. For vegetarians, non-meat alternatives can stand in for the jerky and bouillon.

For a long time I wondered if I could do a raw recipe with jerky, because exposure to moisture can ruin the dessicated meat. In my research online, I discovered a trail food called pemmican, a mixture of powdered dried meat in melted suet or tallow, made and carried by native Americans on long trips. As it solidified, the fat sealed the meat from moisture and extended freshness for anywhere from months to years.

In these biscuits, the tallow has been replaced with peanut butter loosened with honey, and the beef jerky has been coarsely ground into bits, but not a fine powder. The online search engines enumerated several brands of teriyaki beef jerky; my local market stocked the Oberto teriyaki jerky. I’ve read in the reviews that Oberto jerky can be a little dry for eating, but that’s not a problem for this recipe. Of course, the  jerky could be homemade instead of store bought – lots of recipes online. The key ingredients in the Oberto teriyaki are beef, soy sauce and brown sugar. A faux vegetarian jerky could work in these biscuits too.

While jerky can be cut with a knife, it’s too fibrous to chop easily with a knife. Instead, I grind it in a spice grinder. The chopped jerky should have the appearance of small shreds of dried meat. Do not grind it into a powder. If the pieces are too large, the texture of the biscuits will go from chewy to tough.

Peanut butter contains oil, not water. Honey has a small amount of water, but the high concentration of sugar acts as a preservative. The peanut butter-honey binder will not encourage bacterial growth in the jerky. However, these biscuits should not be stored in the cupboard for years. Over time, the puffed kamut could sop up moisture in the air and wet the jerky. Keep the biscuits in an airtight container and eat them within a few weeks.

The puffed kamut cereal functions as the solid leavening, aerating the dough and providing structure and crunch. It’s almost tasteless in this application and won’t compete with the other flavors in the biscuits. For substitutes, I’d try puffed wheat, puffed rice or puffed millet. The kamut grains are huge compared to rice or millet. Puffed kamut grains can measure up to 1 inch long. I lightly crush (or break in half between fingers) the kamut to reduce the grain size to about 3/8 inch before mixing it into the batter. Puffed rice or millet could be mixed in as-is.

I made my own bouillon powder by crushing a beef bouillon cube with a pestle. It can be purchased in powder form too. For a meatless alternative, try a vegetarian version. Make sure to tamp out any lumps, or the flavors won’t mix evenly and the biscuits may turn out gritty. The recipe specifies 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of powder, because the seasoning varies by brand (the recipe was tested with Hormel’s HerbOx). I recommend making the biscuits with 1/2 teaspoon first to check the balance of sweet-salty and flavorings. Also, more bouillon powder darkens the dough slightly.

Makes 8 biscuits
– 85 calories per biscuit
– Oven Temperature: 120°F/49°C

  • 1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/4 cup lightly crushed, puffed kamut cereal (see text)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon beef bouillon powder or vegetable bouillon powder (see text)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped, teriyaki-style beef jerky (0.6 oz) or vegetarian jerky (see text)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, dried pineapple

1. In a small dish, thoroughly mix the honey and bouillon powder. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix the almond meal, chopped jerky and chopped dried pineapple.

3. Stir the peanut butter into the honey-bouillon.

4. Add the peanut butter-honey binder to the jerky and thoroughly mix into a paste.

5. Gently fold/press in the puffed kamut.

6. Form the dough into a disk and divide the disk into 4 sections.

Note: Steps 7 and 8 prepare the biscuits for dehdyrating in my Presto Chango dehydrator assembled with a 9-inch heating area. For drying in a commercial food dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Turn an 8-inch cake pan upside down and sprinkle with 2 or 3 drops of water. To make a liner for the dehydrator, cut out an 8-inch circle of wax paper with a 1-inch center hole. Place it down on the cake pan and press. The water drops will temporarily glue the wax paper to the pan.

Divide each quarter portion of dough in half and form each half into a 2-inch biscuit (8 biscuits total). Arrange the biscuits on the wax paper liner.

9. Transfer the liner with biscuits to the dehydrator’s drying tray and complete assembly of the dehydrator.

10. Dehydrate the biscuits at 120°F/49°C for 12 to 24 hours, turning them over at the halfway mark. That 24 hour range is not an exaggeration. They dry very slowly. When ready, the biscuits will feel firm and dry on all surfaces, keeping their shape when handled.

11. Remove the biscuits from the dehydrator and cool them on a rack at room temperature for an hour or two. As they cool, they will crisp up slightly. Serve or store in an airtight container.


Brisa Del Mar Tamale Muffins With Lima Bean Frosting (Baked)

These muffins are basically tamale pies baked in muffin form with a center filling with a “brisa del mar” (“sea breeze”) from seafood permeating throughout. The main deviations from basic tamale pie are the chopped clams in the chili, the seaweed flakes in the cornmeal batter, the “frosting” of pureed lima beans, and the smokey paprika, which reminds me of barbecue. Like the zong-zi wrapped rice dumplings, these muffins are just about a complete meal in one package. Once the cornmeal solidifies, they can be handled without breaking apart, and can be put in a cupcake carrier and stowed in lunchboxes (with the salsa in a separate sauce container or in packets – like the fastfood ones – instead of garnishing the frosting).

Originally, this recipe instructed a homemade chili filling, but I decided to simplify it by using a canned chili instead. My local markets dedicate almost an entire aisle to canned chilis, so I didn’t lack for choice. As I was developing this recipe, it occurred to me that combining the chili with a seafood would be an interesting touch, since I live in a city with a seafood waterfront. Beef and clams were a classic combination. I also tried mixing in dried ground shrimp (shrimp powder) for a scent of seafood, but it tasted slightly bitter.

The “fiesta” frozen vegetables are a mix of carrots, broccoli, sweet peas, white beans. garbonzo beans, kidney beans, green beans and red peppers. I did try a frozen “stir-fry” mix as well (with such asian-style vegetables as water chestnuts, mung bean sprouts and snap peas), but found the asian flavors clashed with the TexMex flavors too much for my palette.

The frosting was originally supposed to be mashed potatoes, but I went with pureed lima beans when I discovered how close they were to real mashed potatoes (many of my bun and pastry fillings are based with lima bean puree). Thematically, the lima bean puree echoed the bean ingredients in the batter. The recipe makes more puree than absolutely necessary for frosting the muffins, but I like a thick layer of frosting on my tamale muffins.

For vegetarians, these muffins can be made meat-free by substituting a vegetarian chili for the beef chili. Although clams qualify as a type of meat, some vegetarians will eat clams. For those that do not, substitute an imitation seafood such as imitation crab or shrimp. Seaweed flakes are available in American markets, but I made my own flakes by roughly grinding half a sheet of a sushi wrapper (sushi nori)  in a spice grinder or by cutting it into confetti with a scissors (see the picture above). I haven’t tried a vegan cheese, but there are cheddar-like vegan cheeses that melt like a dairy cheddar.

Makes 4 tamale muffins

– 130 to 190 calories per muffin (frosted with 1 tablespoon of lima bean puree)
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

Tamale Muffins:

  • 1/4 cup prepared beef chili (canned chili)
  • 1/8 cup chopped chopped clams
  • 3/4 cup frozen “fiesta” vegetables, thawed (see text)
  • 1/8 cup chunky-style salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (see text)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin (see text)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/8 cup grated cheddar cheese or other soft cheese or vegan melting cheese (see text)
  • 3/8 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1-1/4 cup water
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons seaweed flakes (see text)
  • 1 cup seasoned lima bean puree (see below)

Lima Bean Puree (makes about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/2 cup dried baby lima beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pureed Lima Beans Method:

1. Soak lima beans in water overnight.

2. Drain beans. Put in sauce pot and cover with water. Simmer for about an hour or until beans are tender.

3. Drain and puree beans in a mini food processor or with an immersion blender.

4. Season puree with salt and chili powder or pepper to taste.

Muffins Method:

Preheat oven to 250°F/121°C.

1. If necessary, chop back any pieces of the fiesta vegetable mix larger than 1/2 inch.

2. Add salsa, hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt and mix. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix the chili, cheese, chopped clams and smoked paprika until well combined.

4. In a medium sauce pot, mix water, cornmeal and dried ground shrimp or seaweed flakes. On medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, cook the corn meal until it thickens into a paste and clears the bottom of the pot as it’s stirred (usually less than 5 minutes).

5. Remove from heat. Stir the vegetable mixture into the cornmeal.

6. Grease 4 muffin molds (1/2 cup capacity). Fill each muffin mold about 7/8 full with the cornmeal batter.

6. With a spoon, press a deep hole into the center of each muffin.

7. Put 1 tablespoon of the reserved meat mixture into the center of each muffin and press down until just below level of the mold.

8. Spread the cornmeal mixture from around the muffin to cover the fillling.

9. Optional: sprinkle the top of each muffin with grated cheese. Muffins that will be frosted with lima bean puree don’t need the cheese topping, which will toughen or harden as the muffin cools. To help the cheese stay moist, cover the top with disks of parchment paper, perforated with a paper hole punch to release steam.

10. Bake for 2 to 3 hours until the muffins are firm and the cheese is melted and lightly brown. Interestingly, if the muffins are refrigerated for several hours before baking, they may brown in as little as 1-1/2 hours, possibly because more water is absorbed into the cornmeal during the refrigeration. As is true of a corn pudding, the longer the muffins are baked, the more the cornmeal softens and smooths out.

11. Remove muffins from oven and cool for at least 45 minutes. If they aren’t cooled long enough, the muffins won’t hold their shape when unmolded.

12. Unmold each muffin and stand upright. Remove any paper covering from the baking process.

13. Frost each muffin with lima bean puree. If the muffins will be served hot, reheat them in a steamer or wrap them in a wet towel and reheat in the microwave, before garnishing them with salsa in the next step.

14. Just before serving, top each muffin with a spoonful of salsa.

15. An alternative way to serve is to put the muffin in a bowl and add a serving of vegetables, salsa and lima bean puree.


Zong-Zi Wrapped Rice Dumplings (Boiled or Steamed)

[ Equipment: steamer or large pot for boiling. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival takes place on June 16 this year. They don’t race dragon boats in the US, but people do celebrate by eating zong-zi (also written zhongzi and called jung in Cantonese), rice dumplings with assorted fillings, wrapped in bamboo leaves, that are boiled or steamed. In Chinatown markets, bakeries and from street vendors, zong-zi are sold year-round. Because the dumplings are wrapped, they can be held and eaten as a meal on the run (don’t forget the soy sauce packets). My favorite way to eat them is in bowl with an assortment of chopped vegetables.

Although supermarkets in the US dedicate a few shelves to Asian foods, two basic components of zong-zi are still rare: bamboo leaves and glutinous rice. Asian specialty markets stock them and esoteric ingredients for the filling, but I decided to make American-style zong-zi. That is, I would make them only from ingredients that were found locally.

Instead of bamboo leaves, I used dried Mexican tamale corn husks. Banana leaves would have been great as wrappers (being large and green), but I didn’t find any locally. Tamale corn husks are between a half and a third as long as the average bamboo leaf. Printed on the bag of medium grain rice (discussed next), the recommended serving per person is 1/4 cup of uncooked rice. Happily, one large corn husk will wrap that amount of rice plus a few heaping spoonfuls of filling. Smaller husks can be joined to make one large wrapper or even a super-sized wrapper.

In place of the glutinous rice, I substituted a medium grain rice (Hinode brand Silver Pearl). Because the dumplings in this recipe are boiled, the individual rice grains flow into each other and merge into a cake, with a texture very much like a glutinous rice dumpling. I have read of zong-zi made with a long grain rice, so the lack of speciality rices should not be a deterrent from making zong-zi. Sushi rice might have been a better substitute for glutinous rice. Both are short grain, sticky rices, although a couple of online sources insisted that glutinous rice is stickier than sushi rice. I didn’t look for the sushi rice because I discovered a bag of medium grain rice hiding at the bottom of one of my food bins.

Zong-zi can have a variety of fillings, from meats to sweet bean pastes. My dumplings were stuffed with a savory filling made of vegetables (mushrooms, green onions and bamboo shoots) and a meat or meat alternative. Traditionally, the mushrooms would be reconstituted dried Chinese or shitake-type mushrooms. I substituted white button mushrooms that had been steam cooked for 5 minutes and roughly chopped. The bamboo shoots bring in a crunch, scent and presence of bamboo, as a reminder of the missing bamboo leaves. Chopped water chestnuts would also add crunch. The meat component can be cooked chicken or pork or a Chinese sausage or an equivalent. The “meat” in the pictures below is actually slices of vegetarian riblet, each one about the size of a mini sausage link. To bind everything together, I mixed in a few spoonfuls of prepared hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is sweet and tangy. For a more savory taste, oyster sauce or a thick stir-fry sauce would be good binding sauces as well.

The shape of a zong-zi can be the simple rectangular package or the famous pyramidal or tetrahedron forms. Because the corn husks are so small, it was much easier to wrap the rectangular shape. The tying technique shown below is efficient and traditional, but the dumplings can be tied any way that holds the husk flaps down.

Zong-zi can be steamed or boiled. However, unless the rice is pre-cooked, steaming may not evenly cook the rice inside the dumplings. Thus, for steamed zong-zi, pre-cook the rice first by steaming it for 30 minutes in a dish filled with water to cover the rice. Dumplings stuffed with uncooked rice will expand during boiling and could burst through the wrapping, but dumplings containing pre-cooked rice are more stable because the rice is already plumped.

This starter recipe makes only 2 dumplings. It’s far more convenient to assemble and cook a large batch of zong-zi at a time. Double, quadruple or otherwise multiply the quantity of ingredients as desired. For the Dragon Boat Festival, home cooks may devote an entire day to preparing different varieties of zong-zi, hung all around the kitchen to dry. Large batches of zong-zi freeze well, and quickly reheat in the microwave.

Makes 2 zong-zi dumplings
– 250 calories per dumpling (varies with filling)
– Oven temperature: boiled or steamed

  • Dried Mexican tamale corn husks (or dried bamboo leaves)
  • 1/2 cup medium grain white rice (or glutinous rice or sticky short-grain rice)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped white mushrooms (or shitake mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onion
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon julienned bamboo shoots (or chopped water chestnuts)
  • 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce (or stir-fry sauce, oyster sauce or other thick dipping sauce – see text)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce (see text)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 mini sausage links (or equal amount of cooked meat or meat alternative about 3 inches long)
  • 2 three-foot lengths of cotton kitchen twine

1. Soak rice in water for 3 or 4 hours or overnight. Drain.

Raw rice is for boiled dumplings. For steamed dumplings, the rice should be pre-cooked (see text above).

2. Soak corn husks in warm water for about an hour. Put in more husks than actually needed, in case some of them have splits, which are difficult to see when the husks are in dried form. The husks should be very pliable after soaking or they will be hard to fold.

3. In a small bowl, mix vegetables. Drain off any excess water. Add chili powder and hoisin sauce. Add soy sauce to taste, but not so much that the mixture turns runny. In a second small bowl, put the mini sausages or meat alternatives.

4. Place husk on flat surface or over a small baking cup. Husks measuring about 6 inches wide at the top and 9 inches long or larger are the easiest to wrap.

Overlapping Two Smaller Husks To Make A Big Wrapper

Two small husks (less than 6 inches wide) can be overlapped top to bottom to form a rectangle and hold one dumpling.

5. Spread two tablespoons of rice on the husk starting about 2 to 3 inches from the top and in an area about 2-1/2 x 3-1/2 inches.

6. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the vegetable mix over the rice. Put a sausage link (or other meat or meat alternative) over the vegetables.

7. Spoon 2 more teaspoons of the vegetable mix around the sausage or to cover it. Spoon 2 tablespoons of rice over the filling.

8. Fold sides of husk closed to cover the filling.

9. Fold the bottom flap over against the dumpling.

10. Fold the top flap over against the dumpling, overlapping the bottom flap. Secure the top flap with a loop of cotton twine tied in a half knot.

11. Place more loops of twine and half knots along the dumpling to secure both flaps and bring string around the bottom of the dumpling and back up over the top. The tension should be sufficient to hold the dumpling together but allow for some expansion. If the dumpling is tied too tightly, the rice could split the corn husk when cooked.

15. If needed, wrap one more loop at the top of the dumpling. Then tie the string ends together.

16. For boiled dumplings, bring large pot of water to boil and drop dumplings into the water (two dumplings will fit in a 2-3 quart saucepan) and boil on medium heat for 2 hours. For steamed dumplings, put dumplings in steamer and steam for 1-1/2 hours.

17. Remove dumplings and cool.

18. Serve by removing the string and unwrapping the husk or leaves. Sprinkle with soy sauce.

19. Refrigerate or freeze extra dumplings for later.