These natural wrappers, long used in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South-east Asia to enclose food for steaming, are most widely available in Latin American markets. They come fresh or frozen-fresh are best. Rinse and dry fresh leaves before using them, and cut away their fibrous stems. Already-cut 1 pound packages of frozen leaves are convenient; defrost these at room temperature, unfold them carefully, and cut them to size. Wipe all banana leaves gently with a damp cloth before using them.
Available fresh and frozen in several shapes and thicknesses, these come most often in 1-pound packages. Labels usually indicate the kind of dumpling-potstickers, boiled dumplings, and so on-for which the skins are intended. Most of these are round and about 3 ½ inches in diameter, but thickness varies from about 1/32 to 1/16 inch thick. When substituting these wrappers for the homemade versions in the book, use wrappers designed for the dumplings you're making. All dumpling wrappers keep well for up to a week in the fridge, or for one to two months, frozen. Defrost frozen wrappers overnight in the refrigerator before using them.
Taken from the lotus plant, which grows throughout Asia, these large leaves (11 to 14 inches in diameter) add both flavor and a subtle perfume to foods they're added to (when fresh) or enclose (when dried). They're available in Asian markets and will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place.
Sometimes called Shang-hai-style egg roll wrappers, these skins are used typically to prepare lumpia, savory Filipino egg rolls. The wrappers are made from flour and water, or cornstarch, eggs, and water, and are sold frozen in 1-pound packages of about thirty-two wrappers. Although they can be eaten as is, they deep-fry to a delicate crispness I really enjoy.
An essential ingredient in Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian cuisines, rice paper is used to make spring and summer rolls, and other savory tidbits. The wrappers, which are prepared from rice flour water, and salt, are sold in packages of 50 to 100 and must be softened in warm water before use to make them pliable. You'll need 8 to 10-inch round sheets for the recipes in this book.
Available in Ming's Pantry
These skins, made from flour, eggs, and salt, come packaged in a variety of forms-round and square, thick and thin. I use square wrappers for the recipes in this book and prefer the thinnest available-usually labeled "extra thin." The skins can be used to make shu mai and ravioli and will last refrigerated for about a week, or frozen for up to two months.