Story and photos by Marisa Baggett: Zayde’s NYC Deli

Stations are an elegant and efficient way to feed guests when a formal dinner isn’t your idea of a party. When trying a nation of stations how about going Asian?

Fragrant Egg Rolls

Herbs and shiitake mushrooms produce such a flavorful result that it’s hard to keep these from being snatched up right away. Luckily, the recipe is easily doubled or tripled. It is best to use super-thin egg roll or spring roll pastry wrappers. And for best results, you’ll want to make sure that the wrappers are fresh, pliant and without holes or tears. This will help you get a very tight roll to keep excess oil from entering and bogging down the delicate interior.

Makes about 10 egg rolls

2 oz (50 g) shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Ten 8 x 8 in (20 x 20cm) egg roll wrappers
1 medium carrot, shredded
One 3 ½ oz (85 g) package shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 green onions (scallions), green and white parts, thinly sliced
Ten 4 in (10 cm) lengths of fresh coriander (cilantro)
10 large shiso or basil leaves, chiffonade
1 teaspoon potato starch or corn starch (corn flour), dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

  1. Toss together cabbage, ginger root, garlic and soy sauce in a small bowl.
  2. Spread 3 wrappers on a clean, dry workspace so that the edges look like a diamond. (Keep remaining wrappers covered with a barely damp cloth.) Place a thin line of cabbage near the bottom of each wrapper. Top with a pinch of carrots and mushrooms. Add to each a few green onion slices and 1 fresh coriander leaf (cilantro) length. Sprinkle some basil chiffonade across fillings.
  3. Fold the bottom corner of wrapper tightly over filling and roll towards top. About halfway through, fold the side corners towards the center. Dip finger in potato starch mixture and wet the top corners of wrapper. Continue rolling tightly until egg roll is sealed. Repeat with remaining fillings and wrappers.
  4. Heat 1 in (2.5 cm) oil in a skillet over high heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Fry 3-4 egg rolls at a time until golden brown or about 2 minutes. Turn egg rolls, if necessary, to brown evenly on all sides. Drain on a wire rack.
  5. Serve warm with Sweet Chili Sauce or your favorite soy sauce.

Chicken Dumplings (Gyoza)

Everyone deserves tasty dumplings. Store bought frozen dumplings are convenient when in a hurry, but nothing compares to a fresh out-of-the-skillet dumpling. One bite into the chewy-one- side, crisp-on-the-other-exterior that leads to a flavorful steamed interior and you’ll wonder why you ever purchased them before. And if you have leftovers (though I doubt you will), they can be cooled then frozen.

Makes about 30 dumplings

1 lb (500 g) raw chicken thighs, boned, skinned and cubed 2 oz (50 g) shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 green onions (scallions), green and white parts, sliced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
½ teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
½ teaspoon dark sesame oil
About 30 dumpling (gyoza) wrappers
1 tablespoon potato starch or corn starch (corn flour), dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
High heat oil for frying, such as peanut or sunflower

  1. Place chicken thighs, cabbage, fresh ginger root, garlic, green onions, soy sauce, fresh coriander leaves, sesame seeds and sesame oil in a food processor. Pulse several times, then process until mixture resembles smooth peanut butter. (Note: After mixture is removed, be sure to wash thoroughly and sanitize food processor before next use.)
  2. Lay 6 dumpling (gyoza) wrappers on a work surface covered with waxed paper. (Keep remaining wrappers covered under a damp towel until ready to use.) Place 1 teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of each wrapper. Dip finger in potato starch mix and wet the outer rims of wrappers. Fold edges over to form halfmoons and press tightly to seal. Set aside and cover with a damp towel. Repeat in batches of 6 with remaining mixture.
  3. In a skillet with a fitted lid, heat just enough oil to coat the bottom. Place 6 dumplings in the pan and allow to sear until bottom begins to turn brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Use the lid as a shield and pour ¼ cup (65 ml) water into the skillet. Cover quickly with lid. Cook dumplings at least 3 minutes or until water is almost gone.
  4. Remove dumplings from skillet with a spatula. Dry out skillet and repeat steps for cooking with remaining dumplings.

5. Serve warm with soy sauce for dipping.

Quick Cucumber Salad

Sushi Rice Dressing has just enough tang, sweet and salt to elevate nearly any vegetable into a delicious marinated salad. If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding thin slices of other vegetables and fruit with the cucumbers. Daikon radish, carrots, broccoli stems and under-ripe mango pair quite well. Add a teaspoon or two of garlic chili paste if you like a kick of spice.

Makes 4 servings

2 English cucumbers, seeded and thinly sliced
¾ cup (185 ml) Sushi Rice Dressing (see below)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Sushi Rice Dressing
¾ cup rice vinegar
⅓ cup sugar
3 teaspoons sea salt

Mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, and sea salt in a small non-metal bowl. Whisk it vigorously for about 2 minutes or until most of the sugar and sea salt have dissolved. Set it aside until ready for use.

In a small non-metal mixing bowl, toss together cucumbers, ¾ cup Sushi Rice Dressing, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Allow flavors to develop for 10 minutes at room temperature. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate up to 2 days.