Rice Dumplings, Coconut Curry, Tempeh, Persimmons

Their texture is more like rice gnocchi than rice dumplings or rice cakes. And their flavor is concentrated like nothing else - if you use jasmine rice you really do taste jasmine. This recipe is from the Dumpling book, and even though I wasn’t a fan of the Indian stew they made these with, the dumpling recipe was spot on. I have some plans to make these italianish sometime soon, but for now, here’s a nice red curry, based on one I found in David Thompson’s uncompromising book: Thai Food.  In this picture, I used Chinese black rice, which has it’s own unique flavor. And although I used a perfectly ripe hachiya persimmon - a fuyu one or pineapple chunks or pomegranate seeds would also work.

In almost every neighborhood in New York City, the vegan options include good-to-great Thai food and Indian food. And depending on where you are you may have to travel to get to any other kind of vegan food. Sadly, Philadelphia lacks both decent Indian and decent Thai - in fact we have a plethora of shitty options for both. The kinds of places where you ask yourself whether the cooks can read the instructions on the back of the canned curry paste or curry powder. But even in New York, I was never served anything like these humble gems.


  • 1½ cups medium or long grain rice
  • White rice flour for dusting


  • 8 short dried red chiles (like chile de arbor), soaked, drained, deseeded
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 t chopped galangal
  • 2 T chopped lemongrass hearts
  • Zest of one lime
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 teaspoon scraped and chopped coriander root
  • 2 large red shallots
  • A small head of garlic, peeled
  • 2 t yellow miso
  • 2 t coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 t black peppercorns


  • 1 block tempeh
  • 1 cup mushrooms, fresh chantarelles or dried shiitakes or oyster mushrooms
  • 3 cans coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado
  • 1 tablespoon shoyu
  • 1 cup cooked and sliced bamboo shoot
  • 2 ripe Hachiya persimmons, cut into wedges
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves 
  • Handful of thai basil leaves and/or perilla and/or tong ho 

Thompson’s book has a whole lot to say about the proper way of pastefying these ingredients. I’m positive that it ends up with superior results. That said, I don’t have a mortar and pestle at home, so I started everything in a small food processor, with about 2 teaspoons of water, and then putting it through my spice grinder in small batches. It turned out just fine. You want it ground fine enough that all the flavors meld, but none of the fibrous ingredients get stuck in your teeth.

Grind the rice in a spice grinder. Place the ground rice and salt (for white rice 1 teaspoon, for whole rice 2 teaspoons) in a small pot and pour in 2 cups of water. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring continuously until it forms a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the pot - about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, move the dough into a bowl and let cool, slightly.  Line a tray with parchment paper and sprinkle it with the rice flour. While the dough is still warm, pinch off pieces and roll them into balls about 1 inch in circumference. Dust them with flour and place them on the prepared tray. Set up your steamer according to the manufacturer’s directions and cover the cooking surface with cheesecloth.  Arrange as many dumplings on the cheesecloth as you can without them touching, cover and steam over low heat for 15 minutes for white rice, 25 minutes for whole rice. Taste to make sure they are done all the way through. You will probably  have to do these in batches. Once they’re done, carefully remove them in a singe layer on a sheet pan, sprinkling them with some water to prevent sticking.  

In a small pot combine whatever scraps you have from the paste ingredients - lemongrass stalks, ginger peel, garlic ends, etc. Fill the pot with water. Add a large pinch of salt. Slice the tempeh into wide strips ¾“x2”x1/8.”  Drop the tempeh into the pot and bring the water up to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile fill another small pot with 1½ cups of coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a very low simmer. When the tempeh has been cooking for 20 minutes transfer it to the coconut milk.  Rinse out the first pot and drop in ½ cup of coconut cream (the fat heavy plug at the top of the coconut milk can) and a tablespoon of oil. Cook that over high heat until it‘s bubbling, add in 4 tablespoons of the curry paste and lower the heat. Fry this for about 10 minutes, moving it around to prevent any one part from burning.  At the same time that you drop the curry paste into pot 2, add the mushrooms to pot 1 with the tempeh.  When the paste is very fragrant with the cumin and coriander hitting your nose, add in the turbinado.  Cook for 2 minutes as it darkens the paste and caramelizes.  Then add the soy sauce.  Wait 20 seconds and, using a slotted spoon, add the tempeh and mushrooms. You want to add a controlled amount of the coconut milk - about 1 cup - and about 1½ cups of water to get the consistency just right. Season with salt and/or soy sauce. Add in the dumplings and cook on low for about 5 minutes. Add in the bamboo shoots, persimmons, kaffir lime leaves, and herbs.  Simmer just to heat through the bamboo shoots.