The Princess turned her attention away from the glorious feast with its mile-high dumpling towers and baskets of freshly steamed mandoo. She had eyes only for the dancers, who had entered the pavilion in troupes of twenty, wearing blue, gold, and green silk costumes from their provinces. They wore different masks as well, angry red-faces from the northern mountain region, laughing white ones with red circles on their cheeks from the south, and staid wooden masks from the inland forests. But nowhere did she see the man who had appeared before her in the pewter mask. Panic rose within her as the drumbeats accelerated and the dancers whirled around the stage in dizzying circles, blurring into a collage of colors and moving flesh.
And then, before she could even blink, a shout came, just a few feet from where she sat. The dancers drew long, curved swords from behind vases and under palace pilings. There was a flurry of movement as the colors spread out and positioned themselves at the noblemen’s tables, their swords pointed at the head official of each province. The King and Prime Minister glanced quickly at each other, as if to determine that it wasn’t treachery planned by the other, before rising to their feet.
“What is the meaning of this?” bellowed the King.
The man in the pewter mask strode into the center of the pavilion.
“Your nobles have held your people hostage long enough. It is time the tables were turned. We demand to be heard.”
It was the voice she had grown to know too well over the past months. The Princess’s heart ached as her mind flitted through everything that could happen next.
“You impudent scoundrel!” yelled the Prime Minister. “Guards! Seize him!”
Palace guards moved towards the rebel leader, but he gestured to the dancers who drew their swords towards each noble’s neck. The guards froze and looked to the King, who raised his hand.
“Surely there is no need for such antics,” said the King. “Put your swords down. I will allow you to hold audience with me to voice your concerns.”
A wry smile appeared underneath the man’s mask. “A tempting offer, your majesty. But you know that I cannot trust your offer.”
“Insolence!” shouted the Prime Minister. “Show your face, low-class pig! You cannot remain shrouded while speaking to the King.”
The Princess yearned to cry out, beseech him not to reveal himself. She sought the rebel’s eyes and was rewarded with their warmth…but that was it. The rebel leader turned back to the King and removed his mask.
“I knew it!” screamed the Prime Minister. “Your majesty, it is the insurgent leader! The same rebels who have been terrorizing the countryside…who we suspect of kidnapping the Princess!”
The King turned towards her. “Do you recognize this man?” he demanded.
The Princess stood and turned coolly towards the rebel. “No. He is not one of those that took me.”
The Prime Minister gnashed his teeth. He could not accuse her of lying, not in front of the King.
“Father,” said the Princess suddenly. “Perhaps it is worth hearing their grievances. I saw many things in my time away from the palace…I believe it is true what they are saying. There are many injustices at the hands of our nobles.”
A shocked murmur echoed through the assembly at the Princess’s words. The King’s face grew dark.
“It seems the Prime Minister is correct – you have been brainwashed by the rebels. This must be their leader! Guards!” The palace soldiers flew forth. The dancers had clearly been instructed not to actually harm the nobles, despite their threatening posture, and instead turned to repelling the palace guards, while the rebel leader fought on his own, a flying figure in the middle of an ever thickening circle of men. More imperial soldiers poured forth from other parts of the palace, and the rebels were backed into a corner together, a few of their number lying fallen on the banquet tables.
The King, seeing the affair as finished, stood up to leave. He shot the Princess an ominous glance as his personal guard ushered him back to his quarters.
“Lock them all in the palace prison!” screamed the Prime Minister. “They will be tortured to death tomorrow.”
The guards marched the rebels away, and the Princess was left shivering, the image of the rebel leader’s sweaty, blood-streaked face all she could see in the darkness.
[To be continued! Of course…
For past installments of the Princess & the Rebel saga and related recipes, click here.]
Addendum: Added a different dumpling dough recipe based on reader feedback and variability with tigernut flour - the 2nd one should also work for steamed dumplings (and uses only cassava products).
- Original dough recipe:
- 1 c tapioca flour or arrowroot starch
- 1 c tigernut flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tb olive oil or avocado oil
- ½ c water (start with this and add more in small amounts as needed to bring dough together/keep it moist)
- Alternative dough recipe:
- 1.5 whole pieces boiled cassava (~1+ cup when blended + packed after cooking)
- ½ c Otto's cassava flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tb avocado or olive oil
- Whatever your heart desires...standard is ground meat mixed with scallions or chives, you could do sausage, or a veggie option. (I personally used these to get rid of a random stir fry of chicken livers, kale, golden beets, onion & garlic. Not traditional but still tasty 😉 ).
- Prepare filling (if in doubt saute some ground beef/pork/turkey in olive oil with onions, garlic, cabbage, and scallions. I like to pre-cook my filling but it's also not necessary as long as you steam thoroughly).
- Make dough by adding the ingredients in order listed. Pliable dough ball should form. If dough seems too sticky/wet, add more tapioca/arrowroot starch until it doesn't stick to your hands. If dough is too crumbly, add more water. (You may need to re-moisten the dough a bit as you go along.)
- For alternative dough: blend/food process cooked cassava until smooth, then add in cassava flour and other ingredients. Workable dough ball should form. Continue as follows.
- Tear off quarter sized pieces of dough and flatten into 5-inch circles (you can roll out the whole dough and cut out circles, or just do them individually/manually). The circle edges should be a bit thinner than the interior. Spoon 2 tsps - 1 tb of filling into the center each, and seal the edges to form a semi-circle. (With no gluten, they're more delicate than wheat-skin dumplings, so this process is a bit delicate).
- Connect the points of the semi-circle to form the dumpling shape (or keep them as semi-circles if you want to steam or fry them as potstickers). (Helpful instructional video here.)
- Steam for around 10 minutes in a steamer pan/basket lined with parchment paper. (You can also fry & steam these like potstickers.) Serve with coconut aminos and mild or homemade kimchi!
This post has been shared on Phoenix Helix’s Paleo-AIP Roundtable.