My leafy friends are usually the likes of chard, kale, and spinach and they wrap me in fronds of comfort - a hermitic sanctuary brimming with gustatory habits and occasional visitors with weird names and even weirder textures.
For a quick moment my roost of repose was filled with saluyot. I bought it from a farm stand whose advertisement of ‘okra greens’ enticed me with a bizarre mucilaginous vision; I didn’t know what the chimera looked or tasted like but surely it would be slimy.
Neither of us knew what to do with each other, so for a large portion of two days we exchanged curious glimpses and posed wordless questions. Even when I did decide the fate of those serrated leaves, there was an inquisitive,yet peaceful pause wherein the storm of intent hurdled me towards dumplings unfamiliar.
I began the saluyot de-stemming two hours before it was finished. Obviously, I had much more than anyone should have for a small experiment so the experiment ballooned… avalanched even. By the time I added shiitakes I had enough for 24 gyozas, a miserable number if the experiment proved unsuccessful.
Words will fail me here, but I shall try to describe the Thing I created. I’ve had plenty of vegetable dumplings. I’ve have plenty of mushroom dumplings. I’ve also been fed pork dumplings ages ago. This lies somewhere between all those: scallions lent the fillings a rare crunch, shiitakes made a fatty presence infused with a healthy dose of soy sauce, and saluyots bounded everything together in an eerie way that vegetables ought not to do. I fed my boyfriend a handful and he said it tasted like pork dumplings, a big exaggeration but the dumplings certainly possessed an indescribably flesh-like quality. It was rather bizarre.
If you are curious, try this recipe and visit the uncanny valley of sticky saluyot dumplings. I also have a dozen in my freezer… come visit?
Saluyot and Shiitake Gyozas
If you look up saluyot, you’ll quickly discover that it is a cochorous, or jute. The stems and branches are much too tough to eat but make an affordable natural fiber, which is spun into coarse thread of admirable strength. Only the mallow leaves are eaten. They have a mucus-like juice that is noticeable when raw or cooked. Saluyot is an old world vegetable that is eaten for its anti-aging properties.
4 generous cups of coarsely chopped saluyot leaves (spinach or chard things would work great without slime)
1 c. shiitake, thinly sliced
2 TB finely chopped ginger
2 TB finely chopped garlic
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB mirin
2 TB sake
2 TB corn starch
1 egg (optional)
1 pt. soy sauce
1 pt. rice wine vinegar
a dash of hot sauce
a dash of sesame oil
+ Using about 1TB of oil, cook saluyot until tender. Allow to cool and squeeze out as much liquid from the saluyot as you can.
+ In a skillet with some oil, cook shiitakes with garlic and ginger until tender. Add soy sauce, mirin, and sake and stir to mix. Allow seasoned shiitake to cook for about another two minutes on low heat.
+ In a bowl, combine mushrooms, saluyot, scallions, egg and corn starch. Fill each gyoza wrapper with a teaspoon of this filling – it will be a little runny and sticky. Here is a nice photo tutorial on how to fold gyozas.I keep my work surface clean by wiping after each wrap with plenty of paper towels. Keep a clean, wet towel over the wrappers to prevent them from drying.
+ To cook, brush lightly with oil and steam in a bamboo vegetable steamer until the wrappers are transparent – about 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of your wrappers. Another method is to fry them until golden in a tablespoon of hot oil, adding a scant 1/3 -1/2 cup of water to steam them in the same pan for an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.