Dumpling some dumplings

There’s nothing like sort of butchering the recipe for elaborately made traditional foods to express my complicated relationship with my ethnicity! JK, I just really like dumplings.

Last weekend, I enslaved a number of my friends to fold dumplings for an hour. (I made a huge bowl of filling and bought 252 dumpling skins beforehand.) Then, we gorged ourselves on dumplings, and I sent everyone home with a little bag of frozen leftovers for later. It was quite a success, and now I want to open a Chinese restaurant.

I’ve settled on my favorite vegetarian dumpling filling by combining aspects that I like from recipes and, of course, my mother’s versions. It withstands my somewhat finnicky preferences: mostly traditional ingredients, no super mushroomy mushrooms, no summer squash, not entirely nutritionally devoid, enough flavor to stand on their own, but not enough to overpower a simple sauce. It is not easy to make, unfortunately.

If I were really a rockstar, I’d make my own skin, too. But usually I end up making a small batch with homemade skin and then just buy the rest. Because who has the time.

dumpling flower!
dumpling flower!

Vegetarian Dumpling (Jiaozhi) Filling
Makes enough for about 100 small dumpings

1/2 large napa cabbage
1 package of medium firm tofu
10 to 15 button mushrooms
1 large bunch of Chinese chives (ends up being ~4 cups chopped)
1 small bunch of thin dried mung bean noodles, soaked in water for a few hours
5 large eggs
1 or 2 stalks of scallion/green onion
1 T ginger, minced
1 T garlic, minced
soy sauce
sesame oil
Chinese five spice

Making filling is simple if tedious. The general idea is to chop everything quite small (but not so much that it’s a puree) and combine.

For the napa cabbage, chop into small pieces, then lay in a strainer or steamer bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes, then rinse the salt off and squeeze the cabbage to help it release water. This will help keep the dumpling filling from getting too soggy, which makes the dumplings quite difficult to make.

For the tofu, slice into 6 pieces or so and lay out on a few paper towels to let some of the moisture dry out. Leave for 15 minutes or so. (This method for drying out tofu is courtesy Kenji at Serious Eats.) Eventually, you can just crumble the tofu with your hands.

The mushroom and scallions can be diced as normal.

The mung bean noodle/thread is quite difficult to dice, since it sort of flies everywhere once you start chopping. If it’s too firm, boil it for a few minutes to soften it up further, which makes it easier to dice.

Beat the eggs together and scramble them, then break up the scrambled eggs into small pieces.

Combine everything into a large bowl and season to taste with soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and Chinese five spice.


Dumpling Wrappers
Guidance from Use Real Butter, makes enough for about 100 small dumplings

4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of warm water
Generous pinch of salt

Combine flour, water, and salt. Knead until smooth. You may need to knead in flour as you go. The dough should be moist but not sticky.

Let dough rest (covered with a damp towel) for at least 15 minutes.

Divide dough into four equal pieces. Loosely roll each piece out into a long, thick spaghetti, 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Break off pieces that are about 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll them into circular wrappers. (No need to make them too thin.)

I actually use the bread machine to make this while I do the filling — just set it on “dough” and then dump the ingredients in, and it’ll knead for you while you’re chopping. Take the dough out as soon as it’s done, because being in the warming chamber will not do it any favors. 

I also always buy some pre-made skins as backup… because rolling out 100 skins is really overwhelming.


To Make the Dumplings
Put a couple teaspoons worth of filling onto each skin and fold into half-moon shapes. I didn’t take any photos of this process I totally forgot. Use Real Butter has some great folding instructions.

To boil, drop dumplings into boiling water. Boil until they float. Be careful not to overfill the pot, or else they will stick. (About one layer of dumplings is enough.)

To panfry (for potstickers) heat generous amount of oil in a nonstick pan. Place dumplings in the pan and fry for a couple minutes, until lightly golden. Add about 1/2 cup of water to the hot pan (be careful) and cook over medium-high heat until the water is boiled off. Reduce heat slightly and fry for another minute until crispy. (I’ve tried this in other pans, and I’ve only gotten it to work in nonstick. They don’t call ’em potstickers for nothing.)

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