UPDATED with a new variation after the recipe.
Two weekends ago, we were at the grocery and, at the vegetable section, Sam asked if we could buy spinach. How would we cook it, I asked. She said we’d mix the spinach with cream cheese and use the mixture as filling for fried dumplings. Genius, I thought, and she got my attention, naturally.
I wasn’t aware that she got the attention of someone else — another shopper, a mommy, who was standing near enough to overhear our conversation. After picking a couple of bags of spinach, Sam walked off to find dumpling wrappers. The stranger-mommy approached me, told me how she heard parts of Sam’s idea of a spinach and cream cheese dumpling, and asked if I could repeat the whole thing to her. I was happy to oblige. Then, she asked if Sam were a culinary student and I told her no, she was not.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make the dumplings before Sam went back to the condo. I could have made them, of course, but Sam would have gone into a fit — her idea and she wasn’t going to get a bite? So, the bags of spinach were used in some other dishes. Then, two weeks later, the spinach and cream cheese dumplings finally became a reality. My goodness, they were very, very good.
Spinach and cream cheese dumplings
- Chop the spinach. Take a few pieces of kitchen paper, place over the spinach and press down to remove as much of the water as you can. I had to do this three times. Yes, even after squeezing the spinach after blanching, it will still contain a lot of water. And you want all that water gone because it will make the filling too wet and the dumplings soggy.
- Lightly beat the cream cheese. Stir in the salt, pepper and garlic.
- Then, mix in the spinach. Taste and adjust the seasonings, as needed.
- Separate the dumpling wrappers and place a teaspoonful of the filling at the center of each one. Wet the edges with a little water and fold to seal. Remember to squeeze out any air pockets that form inside.
- Now, a little tip. How should the dumpling be shaped? If you have round dumpling wrappers, half-moon shaped dumplings would be the most logical and the easiest too. But with square dumpling wrappers? I made one spring roll-style and when I fried it, the inside layer of wrapper didn’t get cooked through. Why? Cooking time is very, very short because the frying part is only to brown the wrapper and to heat the filling. There’s nothing in the filling that needs to get cooked. If the wrapping is thick, as it would be if made spring roll style, the short cooking time won’t be enough to cook the inside layer of wrapping. So, it’s best to keep the wrapping thin. With square wrappers, triangle-shaped dumplings are best.
- When you’ve filled all your wrappers or run out of filling, whichever comes first, heat the cooking oil. Fry the dumplings, a few at a time, and drain the cooked dumplings in a strainer or a stack of kitchen paper.
- Serve the dumplings immediately. No, they don’t need a dipping sauce.
Sam’s recent variation
Sam having created the original recipe, it follows that she’d come up with a variation sooner or later. A couple of weekends ago, she asked me to cook spinach and cream cheese dumplings again with a few additions to the filling — lentils and mushrooms. I did as she asked and the result was even better than the original. The lentils made the filling firmer while the mushrooms added an earthiness that enhanced the taste of the cream cheese. Other than the additional ingredients, the rest is the same as the original recipe.