Food: ‘Dumpling surprise’ for a healthy take-along meal

Have lunch, will travel

Try a delicious dumpling surprise for your next take-along lunch. PHOTO BY TOM CASTRIGNO.

By Tom Castrigno

Often, people ask me for ideas about a healthy lunch that travels well. It has to be easy to make ahead, too. They’re looking for a change of pace from a sandwich or soup in a thermos. My wife, Kathy, often takes two meals with her when she goes to work. Seeing patients from midday into the evening at her practice, Frisco Acupuncture, leaves virtually no time to go out, and little time to stop and eat. The food she takes needs to be good at room temperature and easy to eat on the run if necessary.

One of her favorites that I make every other week or so is what we call “dumpling surprise.” In a restaurant, dumplings are typically served on a bed of thinly sliced cabbage. This is a great start. I also add shredded fresh ginger, and minced jalapeno. These two ingredients give a warning, savory element. Sometimes I’ll mix in some grated carrot (using a box grater) or sliced red bell pepper to add color. To finish the dish I sprinkle toasted sesame seeds, minced green onion or fresh cilantro over the top.

Rice vinegar and Mirin sauce are the 'secret' ingredients for a tasty side dressing.

The real secret to success with this dish is the dressing. I aim for a sweet and sour combination to enhance the cabbage and complement the ginger. I have found a simple way to do this is with mirin, a sweet Japanese cooking wine, and rice vinegar in equal parts or to taste. A drizzle of toasted sesame oil on the dumplings also adds a nice touch. All of these are available at City Market.

The dumplings we use are the Ling Ling brand found in the frozen aisle at City Market. The company was founded in 1986 by Clarence Mou, an immigrant from Taipei, Taiwan, who began selling the dumplings at his dim sum restaurant in California.

As convenience foods go, I give them a very good score for quality. They are a little high in sodium if you eat a full serving of five dumplings. They are very tasy and very popular. We find that 3 to 4 dumplings make a sufficient serving, and cuts the sodium down to a reasonable level. It takes about 15 minutes to bring the water to a boil and cook the dumplings. During this time, the cabbage surprise can be prepared.

Whether making the dish the night before or in the morning, be sure to pack the dressing separately. This will ensure the cabbage stays fresh and crispy. Be sure to rinse the dumplings under cold water after cooking to keep them from getting mushy. A drizzle of oil at this point will keep them from sticking together. I recommend packing the dumplings separate from the cabbage. This way they can be warmed if you choose in a small bowl of hot water or in the microwave if necessary.

Kathy’s need for meals two or three days per week keeps me on my toes. Sandwiches, soups and salads make up the basics. Dumpling surprise is one dish that helps add some variety. When you co-workers ask where you bought your lunch, you can casually reply, “Oh, I made it myself. It was really easy.”

Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at  Leave your questions or share your thoughts on this post in the comment box below.



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