OPEN-FACE STEAMED DUMPLINGS (SHAO MAI)
Yield: 15 servings
2/3 cup All-purpose flour
2 tbsp Hot water, plus:
2 tsp Hot water
5 oz Regular or firm tofu mashed
1 1/2 tsp Tientsin preserved cabbage minced (packed)
1 tbsp Presoaked & minced tree ears
1 tbsp Presoaded & minced lily buds
3 tbsp Black or shiitake mushrooms (presoaked & minced)
1 1/2 tsp Green onion, minced
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 tsp Vegetable oil
1/8 tsp Salt
2 tsp Soy sauce
3 tbsp Water chestnuts, minced
3 tbsp Black mushrooms, minced (presoaked)
3 tbsp Bamboo shoots, minced
3 tbsp Carrot, minced
2 tsp Green onion, minced
1/2 tsp Gingerroot, minced
1 tbsp Soy sauce
1/4 tsp Cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp Sesame oil
Mushroom soaking liquid
WRAPPERS: Combine flour and hot water. Knead a couple of minutes into a smooth dough; cover and let rest at least 1 hour. Place on a lightly floured board, and knead for 2 minutes or so. With palms of your hands, roll it into a long, cylindrical shape, 7-1/2 inches inches long, 1 inch in diameter. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces; you will have 15. If your climate is dry, keep the dough covered. Shape these, cut-side up, into a round shape. Flatten them with the palm or heel of your hand on a flour-dusted board. With a pastry roller, small rolling pin, piece of dowel, or even an empty jar -- all of these should be wielded under the palm of your hand -- roll each into a round wrapper, 3-1/2 inches in diameter, thicker in the center, thinner toward the edge. This is easily done by rolling the pastry roller from the edge of the piece of dough to the center, and back again, turning the dough counterclockwise a little with your left hand after each roll. Continue all the way around several times, also turning the dough over once or twice, until you have a thin, 3-1/2 inch wrapper.
Prepare Filling A or B by combining the ingredients. Place approximately 1 tablespoon filling on the center of each wrapper. Holding the wrapper on your left fingers, encircle it from below with your right thumb and index finger, gathering the wrapper up around the filling. Squeeze gently around the middle to make a kind of neck; some of the filling should emerge at the top. The bundle should hold together securely or it will collapse during steaming. Pat the bottom with your left hand to make a flat base. If the skin is not too floppy, you can also turn the edge slightly outward (like an open flower), pinching it if necessary to make it secure.
Place a layer of damp cloth in a bamboo steaming basket or on a flat, perforated race (you can use a heatproof plate if you have neither of these, but circulation of steam is somewhat impaired this way). Arrange the shao mai on it. With the rack well above the boiling water in a steamer, steam for 10 minutes (if frozen, do not defrost first). They will stick to the cloth, but if you wash and reuse the same cloth each time, they will not stick as much.
Serve while still hot, before the skin hardens -- as is, or with small dipping saucers of soy sauce and mushroom liquid (from the black mushrooms), mixed in equal proportions. Add a few drops of sesame oil.
Advance preparation: These can be assembled in advance, frozen, and steamed just prior to serving.