I finally got around to trying Kite Hill’s third stuffed pasta offering, their Vegan Ricotta Tortellini. My review of their outstanding Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli is here, and my review of their Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli is here. The origin of tortellini is disputed; both Bologna and Modena, cities in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, claim to be its birthplace. Traditionally Tortellini are filled with meat and cooked and served in a broth. It is the larger cousin, the Tortelloni, that classically is filled with cheese and vegetables like spinach and mushrooms and served dry.
Cooked tortellini added into the sauce pan
Final plating of tortellini and sauce
Like the other Kite Hill products, the pasta was excellent, it was slightly thick and had nice chew to it. The almond milk derived ricotta filling was a little bland and needed some additional salt. I think because of the blandness I found myself wishing for a larger amount of filling so I could taste the cheese. I think the ravioli is a better sized vehicle for their cheese. Having said that, this is a strong option for a vegan cheese tortellini, especially if you serve it with a robust sauce. I sauteed tomatoes with garlic in white white and added capers at the end.
Overall I admire what Kite Hill has done to create and market a line of vegan ricotta stuffed pastas. Their cheese is an excellent simulacrum of cow’s milk ricotta, especially with the larger filling size in the ravioli, and they paid attention to creating a great pasta. The Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli is the best of the line, they have a really good pasta wrapper and the filling is creamy with an umami earthy flavor and strong flavor notes from the shiitake mushrooms.
The ill planned re-openings in Southern and Western states and the abdication of the federal government in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has undone the hard won gains of the State level stay at home orders of March to May, so the eating out hiatus and home cooking festival continue.
Steamed scallion buns
This weekend I tried making Hua Juan, aka steamed scallion buns, aka Flower Buns, aka Mandarin Buns. These savory buns are a traditional break fast dish in China. I changed up the traditional recipe by adding garlic sauteed in oil from Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp Hot Sauce. The addition of chili oil gives the buns a slight reddish hue. The recipe below works really well and makes six buns, which will keep in the fridge for several days. To re-heat these buns, microwave them for 30 seconds and then pan-fry the bottom of the buns until they are crispy and golden colored.
- 250 g all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp dried active yeast
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 130 ml lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cooking oil
- 2 tsp oil from Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp Hot Sauce
- Mix flour, yeast, and baking powder in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed until a very smooth dough forms (about 8 minutes).
- Saute the garlic in a mix of the cooking oil and Chili crisp oil and pour the hot oil and garlic over the chopped scallions.
- Dust some flour over your worktop. Roll the dough into a very thin, rectangle shape.
- Evenly coat the dough with the scallion, garlic, and chili oil filling.
- From the long side of the rectangle, fold the dough twice making it a three-layer strip. Then cut it into 12 pieces.
- Stack up two pieces of the folded stuffed dough. Use a chopstick to press the middle line length ways. Hold both ends and
- Hang the stretched dough on the chopstick. With one hand pinch and hold the two ends. With the other hand twist
the chopstick 180 degrees.
- Put the roll on the worktop, press the chopstick then slice it out of the roll.
- Leave the rolls to rest for around 30 minutes.
- Place the rolls in a steamer basket making sure to leave ample space in between each roll and steam for 10 minutes.
Pan fried Kimchi wrapped tofu and veggie jun
This dish is inspired by a variant of Kogi Jun, in which the meat patty is wrapped in Napa cabbage kimchi leaves before being coated in flour and egg wash and pan fried – Kimchi wrapped Kogi Jun. We made a vegan version of this variant on the classic Kogi Jun, and created Kimchi wrapped Tofu Jun, which is thus two degrees of separation from the classic Kogi Jun. For this recipe large Napa Kimchi leaves are wrapped around a stuffing of tofu, mushrooms, carrots and chopped kimchi, all of which is seasoned with sesame oil. The wraps are then dredged in flour and a wash of Just Egg and then pan fried fried on both sides. They are reminiscent of a tofu fried dumpling.
The ingredients are:
- 1/4 of a sweet onion
- 10 oz of firm tofu
- 1 medium carrot
- 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chopped Napa kimchi – inner leaves
- 1 Tbsp Sesame oil
- Large, long outer leaves of Napa kimchi
- Just Egg
Squeeze as much water as possible out of the tofu and crumble it into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the onion and carrot and add them to the bowl along with the chopped kimchi. Sautee the mushrooms to brown them and remove their water and then add them to the mixing bowl. Mix the filling ingredients and season them with salt and the sesame oil.
Place some filling on a Napa kimchi leaf and fold the leaf around the filling to make a wrapped parcel. Dredge the parcel in flour and then Just Egg (or regular egg). Pan fry the parcel one side and then flip the parcel to fry on the other side.
Traditional veggie Pasty
Pasties, the smaller one is filled with Japanese curry glazed vegetables.
Ultimate Japanese Curry
I have said it before, (and here) the Cornish Pasty counts as a form of dumpling. As part of my COVID-19 stay-at-home cooking regime I made a large vegan traditional a Cornish Pasty and two smaller Japanese Vegan Curry Pasties. For both of the Pasties I followed Spruce Eats recipe, “The Perfect Traditional Cornish Pasty” for the pastry dough using Earth Balance buttery spread rather than actual butter. To keep it vegan I brushed the Pasties with Just Egg. Following the EU Protected Geographic Indication Specification, for both fillings I used equal parts onion, potato and rutabaga (Swede), all finely chopped. The filling for the traditional pasty was seasoned with salt and lots of black pepper, and was wrapped uncooked with the pasty dough.
For the Japanese Curry filling, I briefly sauteed two cups of the onion, potato and rutabaga mix and then added 3/4 cup of water and 1 chunk of S&B Golden Curry (1/5 of the Curry package). My goal was to coat the vegetables in a thick glaze of curry sauce and to avoid having a lot of liquid curry.
I found the dough was pretty challenging to work with and I think that Earth Balance doesn’t bring the same dough making qualities as butter or lard. So the pasties looked a little mutant, but tasted great and when cooked, the pastry shell was flaky and layered. The traditional Pasty tasted just how I remember the vegetable Pasty from the famed Ivor Dewdney Pasty shop in Plymouth England. The Japanese Curry version was everything that I had hoped for, lots of mild curry flavor in flaky pastry pocket.
I tried the Kite Hill Mushroom ravioli a few weeks ago and thought they we excellent, so I just tried their spinach ravioli. To recap on Kite Hill, the company was founded by Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino and Dr. Pat Brown to create artisan vegan cheeses and has since branched out to make yogurts and stuffed cheeses. I am a fan of Tal Ronnen’s book “The Conscious Cook” and love the Impossible Burger which was co-founded by Pat Brown, so I started off somewhat biased towards their ravioli.
While I thought their mushroom and ricotta ravioli was really flavorful, the spinach variety were kind of bland. The almond milk ricotta was really good, but the spinach did not add any flavor, just some green color. As with the mushroom ones, the ravioli wrapper was sturdy enough to stand up to boiling and then pan-frying and a had satisfying mouth chew to it. One thing I have noticed about the Kite Hill ravioli is that the packaged portion size seems off, the package is a little too much for one entree sized serving but not quite enough for two satisfying entree servings. I prepared the ravioli with sautéed tomatoes, garlic and capers in white wine.
Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with sauteed tomatoes and capers
During the COVID-19 stay at home lock down I have become obsessed with Delicious Rendezvous, a Korean cooking show on the Viki streaming service. The conceit of the show is that a celebrity chef, Baek Jong-won, and a group of young Korean celebrities tour farming and fishing regions in Korea and develop new recipes to promote consumption and improve the perception of local specialties. A lot of the regional food specialties they feature have fallen out of favor with younger generations or have dwindling profitability due to over production or challenges from typhoons, climate change and COVID-19. The casting of the show is amazing and the food is incredible, which has inspired a lot of home cooking, all of which has been vegan.
The show has been filming since Dec 2019 and over the course of the episodes you can see how life in Korea has changed as COVID-19 spread. Over the course of the episodes crowd scenes got smaller, face masks appeared, hand sanitizing became frequent and road side temperature check stations appeared. In episode 25 they focused on radish, which is consumed in massive quantities in school lunches, but now that schools have been closed down the farmers have no where to sell this crop. This episode was particularly moving.
Tofu being braised
Sujebi Soup with hand torn noodles
Baked tofu with miso glaze
Tteokbokki (Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes)
Soondubu (Spicy tofu stew)
Stone pot bibimbap
Braised tofu and vegetable stew
Seitan cooked in the style of stir fried spicy pork
As a I guy who runs a blog dedicated to dumplings and also studies ceramics, I was captivated back in 2018 when photos of Stephanie Shih’s porcelain pot sticker dumplings went viral. I recently discovered her Instagram feed and her work over the past two years to create ceramic homages to Asian grocery staples like bottles of soy sauce, Sriracha and chili paste. Her use of glazes and under-glazes to create hand painted versions of labels and contents of the bottles is quite amazing.
One of my favorites: Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp
According to her artist statement she is trying to create the food items from her youth in the 80’s and she spends time researching the bottle labels used back then. As she writes “The result is a pantry from the ‘80s——filled with with fingerprinted surfaces and shakily painted labels——that looks at once familiar and hazy, like an old memory”.
Her work has been shown at the American Museum of Ceramic Art (Pomona, CA), Wieden+Kennedy (Portland, OR), and Hashimoto Contemporary (San Francisco, CA) and featured by NPR, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, The New York Times, and The New Yorker.
Kite Hill Mushroom Ravioli
Kite Hill was founded by Tal Ronnen, Monte Casino and Dr. Pat Brown to create artisan vegan cheeses and has since branched out to make yogurts and stuffed cheeses. I am a fan of Tal Ronnen’s book “The Conscious Cook” and love the Impossible Burger which was co-founded by Pat Brown, so I started off somewhat biased towards their ravioli. The ravioli are filled with portabella and shiitake mushrooms and almond milk ricotta. I really dislike almond milk, but Kite Hill’s almond milk ricotta was very good. The ravioli wrapper was sturdy enough to stand up to boiling and then pan-frying and had satisfying mouth chew to it. The ricotta and mushroom filling was creamy with an umami earthy flavor with a strong note from the shiitake mushrooms. I prepared the ravioli with sautéed tomatoes, garlic and capers in white wine, dressed with torn basil leaves and the combination was delicious.
Kite Hill mushroom and ricotta ravioli with with sautéed tomatoes, garlic and capers in white wine, dressed with torn basil leaves
COVID-19 has me home doing a lot of cooking, some of which you can see on the Dumpling Hunter Instagram, but not so many dumplings thus far. My first home cooked dumplings was a take on Woon.Heng’s recipe for Crispy Bottom Buns posted in Instagram. I changed the filling to tofu and sauteed bok choy and mushrooms and I flavored the filling with sesame oil and soy sauce. I pan-fried the buns on both sides, then threw some water in the pan and steamed them and then fried them some more to crisp them. The buns came out really well, but I made two mistakes – not squeezing out the water from the bok choy after I sauteed it and not pressing the tofu enough to get all the water out; you want to the filling to be as dry as possible. Also I found that the pleated side of the bun, which is thicker, cooks slower and the pleated dough of two of my buns came out under cooked.
For much of Feb I fought a cold and lived on order-in dumplings. Then just as I got better two weeks ago COVID-19 started being diagnosed across the U.S., so my hiatus from eating out and seeking new dumplings continues. I had a trip planned to Chicago for C2E2 and pierogi eating for last weekend but I cancelled it (Pierogi and dumplings from my last trip 1, 2, 3) . Now I am trying to minimize my subway usage and social contacts. Stay safe and follow CDC recommendations: wash your hands a lot, get all you prescriptions refilled, and stock up on some shelf-stable staple foods.
So below is a montage of the dumplings I order in or found in my freezer and cooked up while I battled the cold. All bowls and plates were thrown and glazed by yours truly.