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Vegetable Dumplings

Vegetable dumplings

I have quasi-fond memories of making dumplings. Fond in that it was quality time spent with my mom and I loved having a freezer full of dumplings for the coming weeks. Quasi in that it was basically child labor. My tired little fingers folding dumplings for hours on end, with only meager sips of tea to fortify me. Okay, maybe that last part was a bit melodramatic.

Growing up, we only made pork dumplings. MEAT. For our dim sum potluck, however, we had a vegetarian in the crew. I decided to make vegetable dumplings so that she’d have something else to eat. Vegetarians are people, too!

For these, I cobbled together veggies that I had in the crisper, using a combination of bok choy, carrots, leeks, bell pepper, and dried mushrooms. Don’t like bell pepper? Feel free to leave them out. Don’t have bok choy? Feel free to sub in spinach. You can use whatever veggies you like. The most important thing about vegetable dumplings is that you pre-cook the vegetables so that they release the bulk of their water before you wrap them in the dumplings. You can blanch, steam, or stir-fry the vegetable mix, whichever you prefer.

Vegetable dumplings - filling

The thing that seems to be mildly controversial about dumplings is the skin and whether it’s homemade or store-bought. My mother long ago switched to buying store-bought wrappers, so I feel no guilt whatsoever in buying them. I gladly pay the $1.50 for 16 oz., enough for roughly 50 dumplings. You can buy wrappers at any Asian grocer and you’d be surprised at the variety. This time around, I used two different kinds:

Vegetarian dumplings - wrappers

The default ones are the wrappers on the right, the “sue gow wraps.” “Sue gow” roughly translates to water dumplings, i.e. boiled. You would not want to use these wrappers if you intended to fry your dumplings as they are too thin and would have the wrong consistency. I picked up the H.K. Style wrappers because they were right next to the sue gow ones and I’m an impulse buyer like that. The H.K. style ones were a bit thinner, so I thought they had a nicer texture once cooked. They’re also a touch smaller, so your filling will go further. The big negative for me, though, was that they were too delicate and tore easily while I was working with them, resulting in much swearing on my part. I don’t think the benefit in texture was worth the added hassle while wrapping.

Lastly, when making dumplings, you should consider making a lot and freezing most of them for later. They freeze very well and there’s enough effort put in to making the filling and wrapping them that it really does make sense to make extra. As a very rough guide, for each cup of filling, you can make a dozen dumplings. It may vary depending on the wrappers, but if your wrapper takes approximately one tablespoon of filling, it works out.

Vegetable Dumplings
- makes about 60 dumplings -

2 large heads of bok choy, stalks finely diced and leaves cut into bite-sized ribbons
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 medium to large carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, finely diced
16 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbsp. grated ginger, to taste
4-5 Tbsp. oyster sauce, to taste
2 Tbsp. soy sauce, to taste
1-2 Tbsp. sesame oil, to taste
1 Tbsp. corn starch
ground white pepper
kosher salt
2 packs of dumpling wraps
egg wash, for sealing dumplings

1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms by soaking in hot tap water for 30-60 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, set a pot of water with a steamer insert to boil.

3. As you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil, prep all of your vegetables. If you have a food processor, now would be a great time to use it. You don’t have to go crazy dicing the vegetables, but keep in mind that they’re going to be in the wrapper and I generally prefer a fine dice.

4. I prefer to steam the vegetables separately by type, starting with the bok choy, then the bell pepper, then the carrots. I do not pre-cook the leeks. As you put each vegetable in the steamer insert, make sure to season with salt. Steam until the vegetables are bright in color, and they begin to collapse and give up their water, anywhere from 3-5 minutes. You do not have to be as anal with the bell pepper or carrots as you do with the bok choy.

5. As the vegetables finish steaming, spread onto a sheet pan lined with paper towels and allow to cool.

6. While the vegetables are cooling, stem the rehydrated mushrooms (re-use the stems for stock or compost) and dice the caps. Reserve 2 Tbsp. of the mushroom soaking water, strained of any debris.

7. Once the steamed vegetables are cool, roll in the paper towels to remove excess water and combine in a large bowl. When you are rolling the bok choy in the paper towel, make sure to squeeze the water out. Add the leeks and diced mushrooms to the bowl. At this point, you should have approximately 5 cups of filling.

8. Season the mixture to taste by adding the oyster sauce, soy sauce, grated ginger, white pepper, sesame oil, and salt. This may take a little tweaking, but season and taste until it’s just right.

9. In a small dish dissolve the corn starch in 1 Tbsp of the mushroom soaking water. You may need a teaspoon or so more of water, but do not use more than 2 Tbsp. Add the corn starch solution to the filling and mix to combine. The corn starch is a little bit of extra insurance against a soggy filling.

10. Have the wraps ready along with the egg wash (beat 1 egg and mix in 1 Tbsp of water). Spoon approximately 1 Tbsp of the filling onto the center of the wrap, leaving approximately 1/2″ of wrap all around. Using your finger, smear the egg wash along the edge of half the wrapper. Fold the wrapper over and firmly press the edges together to ensure they’re sealed.

Vegetarian dumplings - wrapping1 Vegetarian dumplings - wrapping2

11. As you finish wrapping each dumpling, place on a sheet pan covered with a sheet of parchment paper, ensuring that the dumplings do not touch. I find that dusting the parchment paper with flour isn’t necessary as long as you don’t move the dumplings around again until after they’re frozen. When the sheet pan is filled, place directly into the freezer, uncovered. Once the dumplings are completely frozen (2-3 hours), you can take them off the sheet pan and place into ziploc bags. In theory, they’ll keep for up to 6 months in the freezer, although I’ve always eaten them before that.

12. The cooking instructions are the same whether the dumplings are fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost before cooking). Bring a pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the dumplings to the pot. Cook until the dumplings float, the dumpling is cooked through, and the skin is translucent. Usually no more than 5 minutes if from frozen.

13. Serve either plain or with black vinegar as a dipping sauce and enjoy!

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