These chewy-crisp pockets of goodness are fun to make and even better to eat. They are a popular Chinese snack filled with the slight garlicky bite of Chinese chives and the savory depth of seasoned pressed tofu. Clear cellophane noodles add body and egg binds the ingredients together. Some cooks add dried shrimp, but I prefer to avoid muddling the flavors.
The turnovers are a great snack or can be served with a bowl of soup, plate of dumplings, and/or a salad. Use regular grocery store flour for the best results. The bit of oil in dough yields a slightly rich finish.
Click here for 5 Unusual Ways to Use Tofu.
To prepare the dough in a food processor, put the flour and salt in the processor. Combine the water and oil in a measuring cup. Remove the feed tube and run the machine, adding liquid in a steady stream through the feed tube. Let the machine run for 20-30 seconds after a ball of dough forms; don’t worry about the straggly bits. Transfer to a work surface.
Or, make the dough by hand. Set a bowl atop a kitchen towel to prevent slippage, then put the flour and salt in the bowl. Make a well in the center. Use a wooden spoon or bamboo rice paddle to stir the flour while adding the water and oil. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough feels dry. Gather the dough and all the bits into a ball.
Regardless of method, knead the dough, adding flour as necessary. Work machine-made dough for about 2 minutes and handmade dough for about 8 minutes. The finished dough should feel smooth and be elastic. Place the dough in zip-top plastic bag and seal tightly, expelling excess air. Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. After resting, the dough can be used right away for the turnovers. Or, refrigerate it overnight and return it to room temperature before using.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the noodles, tofu, and chives in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, stir together the salt, white pepper, sugar, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Add the egg to the seasonings and mix well, then pour into the bowl with the noodles and tofu and combine well. You should have 2 packed cups. Set aside.
Make the turnovers in 2 batches. Working with half of the dough, cut it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then smack it down to form a 3-inch-wide disk. Dust both sides with flour.
Use a rolling pin to form a 6 1/2-inch-wide circle, sprinkling on flour as needed. Roll from the center to the edge, giving the dough a quarter turn after each pass. Don’t worry if the result is not perfect. Maintaining a "belly" (a thicker area) in the center is not important here.
For each turnover, scoop up a packed 1/4 cup of the filling and center it on a dough circle. Spread the filling out toward the edge closest to you, leaving a 1-inch border. Bring the upper edge of dough over to meet the lower edge of the dough to form a half-moon. Gently pat the turnover to evenly distribute the filling. Then press the edges closed and use your thumb to seal well. (If the dough does not self-seal, wet the edge with a bit of water.) Check the other side to ensure a good seal. If you want an even, neat edge, invert a bowl over the rim, press, and use a knife to trim off excess dough.
Lightly dust the bottom and put the turnover on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Cover with a dishtowel to prevent drying. Repeat to fill and shape the remaining turnovers before working on the other half of the dough. (Once you get the hang of it, panfry the turnovers in pairs as you roll, fill, and seal them.)
Pour about 1/4 cup of oil into a large nonstick skillet to film the bottom. Heat over medium heat.
Panfry the turnovers in pairs for 3-4 minutes per side, flipping them with 2 spatulas when they are crisp and golden brown. They should gently hiss and sizzle while frying; adjust the heat if they don’t. Because the turnovers rise up as the second side cooks, that side will not brown all over. Near the end, you can use tongs to hold each turnover upright to cook its spine.
Drain and cool on a rack placed atop a baking sheet. If you want, slide the baking sheet into a warm oven to keep warm as you fry the remaining turnovers. Add more oil as needed and adjust the heat between each batch.
When done frying all of the turnovers, you can make them extra crisp by refrying at high heat for 30 seconds per side. Cut in half or quarters and eat with chopsticks or out of hand.
These turnovers lose some of their charm with refrigeration, so enjoy them the day they are made. You can prepare them several hours in advance, loosely cover them with parchment or plastic wrap, and keep them at room temperature. Reheat them atop the rack in a 350 degrees oven for 12-15 minutes, until hot and crisp. They will turn a lovely golden.