Sunday, 5 February 2012

MLLA Nicki's vegetarian dumplings with fried rice

Dumplings.  The ultimate comfort food! Fun finger food!  Heaven in a wrapper!  Yes, I love them.  Last year I posted about making steamed vegetarian dumplings and received some very useful feedback.  My friend Nicki sent me her recipe and a few people suggested a dumpling press.  So I am now revisiting dumplings with far more experience after making them many times last year.

I was intrigued by the idea of a dumpling press and rushed out to buy one.  Actually I had to look around but Min Phat at the Vic Market had them.  I had to ask about 4 people before I could find someone who spoke English.  Which perhaps explains the odd grammar on the instructions.  My colleagues who work in editing were rather amused by this.

I tried the dumpling press and found it clunky.  Worse still, I cut my fingers by continually pressing them into the press when I folded it over (see below picture).  Even working out what size to use was tricky.  (I think I found that smaller was better).  After chatting with Nicki I persevered and found it got easier.

One thing I learnt (and this isn't in the photos as they are from lots of different times I made them) is to fill the cup of the press, then use the back of the spoon to pack it down and level it off.  This seemed to help make sure that I didn't overfill.  Nicki says she doesn't need any water to seal the dumplings using a press but I do.  Just a drip on my fingertip that I run over the edge.

Getting to know the dumpling press was easier than experimenting with recipes.  I tried quite a few things.  I tried roasted pumpkin, tofu puffs, chilli non carne, tamarind, silverbeet and grated zucchini.  Not all at once.  But over the months that I was finding a recipe.  Then Nicki said that she had a tried and trusted recipe that she makes regularly.

Quite a few of the recipes I had been trying involved cooking up vegetables first.  This one doesn't.  It involves lots of tofu, dried shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and spring onions plus seasoning.  I was dubious. Yet I have now abandoned all other recipes and make this one regularly.

You can see the filling in the red bowl in the above photo.  It is full of flavour and vegies without having to do too much preparation.  Nicki suggested serving with soy sauce.  I have found that kecap manis (sweetened Indonesian soy sauce) is more flavoursome for an easy dipping sauce.  I tried a Sam Stern ginger sauce late last year and it was a bit thin so I think the kecap manis will probably remain our sauce of choice.

I'd love to tell you that Sylvia loves the dumplings too but she doesn't in the way I wish.  She does in other ways.  She loves helping to make them.  In fact the dumpling press is easy enough for her to use.  And she loves to eat the wrappers and leave the innards.  You don't even want to imagine the mess it makes.  (She would eat the raw wrappers too but I discourage this).  The other child-friendly part of these dumplings is that if you steam them they are forgiving.  I have steamed them for 15 minutes, turned off the heat and left them there while I sing Sylvia to sleep.
 
At first when I served the dumplings I would have a communal dipping bowl.  But then I bought some little Asian teacups with no handles and they were perfect to have as individual dipping bowls.  This is especially useful as sometimes we eat them on the run, serving them as they come from the pot rather than as a sit down meal at the table.

Lastly I found that serving dumplings was like serving an entree and then E was wondering where the main meal was.  They aren't so satisfying by themselves.  Then I discovered that, if I made half of Nicki's recipe, I would get about 30-40 and I could make fried rice with the leftovers.  Usually I just put the filling and rice in the frypan with a little extra seasoning and fry until hot.

I am sending these dumplings to My Legume Love Affair (#44), founded by Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook and hosted by Vanessa of Sweet Artichoke this month.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Gang of Four meme
This time two years ago: Emergency Zucchini and Rice Burgers
This time three years ago: WTSIM … Fruit kebabs
This time four years ago: PPN #52 Gyoza and Salad

Nicki's Vegetarian Chinese Dumplings
Nicki says it makes 60-80, I half the recipe and get this many but as she says it is a different amount every time.

- 1 kg hard tofu (pressed tofu is ideal) crumbled
- about 40g (1 small packet) of sliced dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped
- 1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 bunch coriander or basil, chopped (I don't use)
- 1 x 225g can of shredded bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
- a piece of ginger, finely grated, or more if you love it
- 1 egg for binding (1 egg is fine to use even if you half the other quantities, but an alternative vegan binder could be used such as chia seeds?)
- 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, or to taste
- 1 carrot finely grated (optional)
- 60-80 gyoza or wonton wrappers*

Mix everything in a big bowl (except the wrappers!).

Fill your wrappers with a heaped teaspoon of filling, then pinch together in half-moons, or better still use a dumpling clamp. Wet the edges of the wrapper with a fingeritp dipped in water just before pinching or clamping (NB Nicki says you don't need to wet edges if you have a clamp but I find I do).

To freeze the dumplings without having them stick together, place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper (touching one another as little as possible), and freeze on the tray. When frozen, put into bags or containers.

To cook:

Steam: arrange fresh or frozen dumplings on baking paper in a steamer insert and steam for about 15 minutes.  This is my preferred method.

Boil: drop fresh or frozen dumplings into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and enjoy dipped in a sauce.  Nicki does this mostly.

Fry: (NB: if frozen, boil first.)  Pan fry fresh or boiled dumplings in a bit of oil with a dash of sesame oil. Nicki calls this crispy deliciousness!

* In Melbourne you can buy large amounts of dumpling wrappers at Min Phat and other Asian groceries.  Alternately you can make them.  I am yet to try this but I have seen a traditional recipe at Poh's Kitchen (5 Oct 2011) and a gluten free recipe at Where's the Beef?

Ginger drizzle
From Sam Stern's Eat Vegetarian

- 2 tsp graed fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp castor sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine (I used mirin)
- 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I only used 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar and 2 tbsp ginger-infused vinegar)

Mix in a small bowl.

On the stereo:
Assembly: John Foxx

40 comments:

  1. WOW!! I am SO impressed!! I've never attempted dumplings before, always having been rather intimidated... Yours are perfect!

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    1. Thanks Astra - they are not that hard and I find steaming means they don't burn in an instant or fall apart in boiling water - highly recommend it

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  2. Oh oh, these look so very very good. It's just the sort of food I love, but am unlikely to make as I find it too fiddly. Mind you not having to cook the filling first makes it a whole heap easier. I had a pasty press that looked very similar to your dumpling presses. It sat in my cupboard unused for years and years - just wondering if it's still there or I got rid of it. Will have to investigate :-S

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    1. Thanks choclette - it isn't the quickest of meals but I find it relaxing rather than fiddly - definitely easier when the filling is straightforward - hope you find that press

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  3. dumplings are ulimately my favourite food! These look so delicious, I am currently starving.

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    1. Thanks vegiebug - I think dumplings are one of my favourite things to eat too

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  4. I'm very impressed by these - it looks like you've perfected them now - must have been a real labour of love, but it looks like it was all worth it!

    And I suppose at least Sylvia likes to help make them - perhaps one day she will come round to eating them!

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    1. Thanks C - not exactly perfect but close enough for jazz - and I hope that if sylvia keeps eating around the edges one day she will be distracted or hungry enough to eat the inside too :-)

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  5. I have never seen a dumpling maker - how cooL!

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    1. Thanks Lisa - I expected something fancier - but simple and practical is fine with me

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  6. they look wonderful, and I love the little asian tea cups, how sweet are they!

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    1. Thanks Brydie - the asian little tea cups are gorgeous but I am sure they are cheaper in an asian shop than in tea too

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  7. Ooh now I want to get one of those presses! And hehe what funny instructions :P

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - am sure you would have a ball with the presses and the instructions :-)

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  8. I've never had a true passion for dumplings but these do look good! And teehee, if you love that strange English then you need to visit Japan and do nothing but read the hilarious English signs everywhere :)

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    1. Thanks Hannah - have you ever seen content on the web that is translated into an asian language and back again - it happened to one of our web announcements at work and kept up well amused - and maybe you would be passionate about dumplings if you had excellent fillings like this - so many are dull

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  9. I'm really impressed Johanna! I now want a dumpling press, although your comment about your fingers leads me to think I may not be trustworthy with it. These look worth persevering for though.

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    1. Thanks Kari - definitely worth persevering - I think I was being paranoid that they wouldn't stick and so I pressed too hard - now I am more relaxed

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  10. I love my dumping press which I got from the Japan centre.

    I am now going to get some wrappers out of the freezer so we can have dumplings for supper!

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    1. Thanks Helen - I actually haven't made dumplings since late last year and I really want to make some after this post

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  11. I think I have the same set of dumpling presses, the instructions are hilarious. It took me a while to get the hang of the dumpling press too, I recall having sore fingers after my first attempt!

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    1. Thanks Mel - glad it isn't just me who was a total novice with the dumpling press - I think I remember seeing you use yours on the blog and was impressed before I got mine

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  12. I am so totally impressed that you made dumplings by hand--and with that press, too!! (and sorry about your fingers--ouch). They look fantastic. I love the idea of individual dipping bowls, too.

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    1. Thanks Ricki - I rarely buy them when out because so many are quite bland and so many are full of meat so making them seemed the only way to enjoy them - individual dipping bowls is fun - though I quite like sharing too

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  13. These look fabulous! I have a dumpling press, but have never used it.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - hope you give it a burl soon - dumplings are so delicious

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  14. Waw, What a great & easy way to use up my tofu in my fridge! :)

    The dumplings look fabulous even & that ginger drizzle looks the max! Yum!

    A while ago, you asked me what I would do with my cashew nut pulp from making my own cashew milks? Here is already a answer:

    http://sophiesfoodiefiles.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/vegan-pear-and-cashew-nut-pulp-spelt-muffins/ Enjoy them, my friend! :)

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    1. Thanks Sophie - one of the best ways to use tofu and I must experiment more with the ginger drizzle - thanks for the link re the cashew pulp - such lovely muffins as well as your cashew milk - win win

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  15. I've been meaning to make my own dumplings for a while now and you've convinced me that it needs to happen...and that I NEED a dumpling press because yours turned out so pretty!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - you do need to make dumplings - they are not so hard without the press but it is fun and makes it a bit easier and every little helps!

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  16. I love to eat these little guys but I've never attempted to make them from scratch. Well impressed ;0)

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    1. Thanks Chele - being a vegetarian probably gives good incentive to make dumplings because there are very few interesting veg dumplings out there (or I don't go to the right places)

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  17. Ooo I love that little dumpling press! I've only made dumplings once and sealed them just with water and my hands. For dipping, I love dark vinegar! Not sure if you guys would like that. The Indonensian soy sauce sounds like it would be a good dipping sauce too.

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    1. Thanks Ashley - don't know that I have every had dark vinegar but am curious to try it but I think the press is worth buying - esp if you can find one as cheap as I the one I bought

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  18. Those look goooood. I used to hate dumplings, I never understood why people ordered them at restaurants as they always seemed tasteless to me. Then I tried some at a vegetarian restaurant and I’ve loved them ever since. Making them at home is something I’ve yet to attempt.

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    1. Thanks Maggie - I know exactly what you mean - I have had my fair share of tasteless dumplings - definitely better at home

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  19. Thanks for sending this delicious recipe to MLLA! The filling sounds very flavourful!
    ... and thanks for giving me a great idea on how to use the dumpling press I have had in my kitchen drawer for ages :-)

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    1. Thanks Vanessa - you really need to use that dumpling press :-)

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  20. Mmmmmm, this gets me into the mood to make dumplings again! :)

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