Friday, October 3, 2014

Veggie Pan-fried Dumplings

Have a picky eater? Dumplings are a great way to get those veggies in!
I've tried a few times to move away from the traditional pork and vegetable dumplings that I've been making for years, to a vegetarian option, but haven't had much success, as those dumplings always tended to fall to pieces when boiling them. My good friend, Karen, who has been vegetarian for over 20 years gave me the tip to cook all the vegetables first in order to remove all the excess water before stuffing the wrappers. I like preparing a big batch of dumplings to have in the freezer, as my "go to", especially now that the weather is starting to cool down. While I've never had the time to make my own wrappers, I'm sure I will get there one day, making a batch of gluten-free ones. ;) The dumpling filling is definitely tastier when pan-fried or steamed, especially for these farm-fresh veggie-licious ones. 

1 teaspoon tapioca or corn starch
2 Tablespoons of filtered water
Sunflower seed or coconut oil for frying
A very large handful of spinach, bok choy, kale or other leafy green of choice, finely chopped
1 cup super-finely diced butternut squash
6 oz extra-firm tofu, finely chopped
2" knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
Tablespoon low-sodium tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) 
Tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 Tablespoons tapioca or corn starch
1 package circular wonton wrappers
  • In a small bowl, dissolve one teaspoon of tapioca or corn starch with the water and set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet on high. Add a Tablespoon of oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the kale, squash, tofu, ginger, green onion, tamari sesame oil, salt and white pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until slightly softened and any liquid is evaporated. Transfer this mixture to a large plate to let cool for at least 30 minutes. Add the tapioca starch and mash the mixture with a fork to incorporate the powder evenly and to release the steam. This must be about room temperature, before wrapping. 
  • Have a seat, get comfortable with a clean, dry "work" space. Place one wrapper in the palm of your hand. Spoon one scant tablespoon of the filling into the center of the wrapper. Don't make this too full, or the filling will come out whilst sealing the dumpling.
  • Dip your fingertip into a small dish of starchy water and “paint” along the entire perimeter of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half, into a semi-circle pinching the edges together to seal firmly. The important thing here is to have a good seal so that nothing falls out when cooking.
  • Place finished dumpling onto a baking tray, lined with wax paper. Make sure they are spaced slightly apart from one another, in a single layer. Loosely cover the assembled dumplings with cling film to prevent them from drying out. 
  • Continue until you run out of wrappers or filling. At this point, you can place the tray into the freezer. After 2-3 hours, when the dumplings have frozen, place them into a freezer bag and freeze for future use. Or you can pan-fry them right away.
  • Heating up a large frying pan. When hot, add 1 Tbsp of high-heat oil (sunflower or coconut oil) swirling the pan around to coat the entire surface. Add the dumplings, in a single layer, so they're not touching each other. (You may have to do this in batches depending on how hungry people are and how big your pan is. Add more oil in between batches if necessary to keep the surface well coated.) Gently shake the pan to ensure that they do not stick. Turn the heat down low and cover, you will be letting them sit for a long time so that the filling gets cooked, and the wrapper gets lightly toasted, not burnt, so check that the heat is not too high. Let it gently toast for 7-8 minutes. Turn the dumplings over, shake to loosen from the bottom, and cover again. Cook for a further 7-8 minutes. 

OTHER COOKING METHODS (for fresh and frozen, a little longer for the frozen)
  • BOILING: Cover and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir the water with a wooden spoon while you are placing the dumplings (fresh or frozen) in, a few at a time, keep stirring to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. Do not overcrowd the pot. Bring to a boil again and cook for a further 10-12 minutes. Serve in bowls with a tiny bit of the cooking liquid to keep the dumplings from sticking together and drying out.
  • STEAMING: In a deep pan, with a steamer (I use my metal basket steamer, sprayed with oil), fill pan with, about 1/2" - 1". It's important to make sure the dumplings do not touch the water. Either use vegetable oil spray or dip the bottom of each dumpling in vegetable oil to prevent sticking to the steamer and to each other. The dumplings expand slightly while steaming, so make sure they are spaced apart from each other by a half-inch (1 cm) or so. When water boils, cover and steam for 12-15 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on this, to make sure the water does not evaporate completely. If using the traditional bamboo steamer baskets, stack them on top of one another and rotate from top to bottom halfway through, to ensure even heat distribution. 

Prepare in advance for stronger flavors.

3 Tablespoons low-sodium tamari
1 teaspoom sesame oil

1-2 red chilis, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar


1 stem scallion, super-finely chopped
1" knob fresh ginger root, peeled and super-finely chopped
2 Tablespoons light sesame oil
Pinch of sea salt

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