Delectable on the palate and pleasing on the eyes, pan-fried vegetarian dumplings are filled with vegetables and resemble vegetables. A perfect treat for festive gatherings.
As Chinese New Year (Spring Festival, 春节) approaches, we are entering the dumpling feast season. According to Northern Chinese tradition, dumplings (Jiaozi, 饺子) are served on New Year’s eve, New Year’s Day and the fifth day of the New Year. Today I’m sharing a recipe of pan-fried vegetarian dumplings / potstickers (素煎饺). Super tasty and resembling Pak Choi, these cute dumplings are truly delightful both on your palate and on your eyes.
Use spinach to dye the dough
I love food with vibrant colours but I’m not a fan of artificial food colouring. It’s unnatural and (in most cases) unnecessary. Spinach is an ideal ingredient to dye dough for making dumpling wrappers or noodles. It provides a beautiful green colour yet doesn’t change the taste or texture of the dough. Use a food processor to puree briefly blanched spinach then extract the juice through a sieve. Use the same amount of spinach juice to make dough as you normally do with water (Note: Don’t discard the left over spinach puree, add it to the filling instead).
Make two-colour wrappers
To achieve the Pak Choi (Bok Choy) look of these vegetarian dumplings, you will need to prepare two pieces of dough (white & green). This is how I combine them:
- Roll the white dough into two ropes.
- Flatten the green dough into two rectangle pieces (same length as the ropes).
- Wrap each white rope with a green piece. Seal all around to form a thicker rope.
- Cut the combined dough into small sections then flatten each piece into a wrapper with a rolling pin.
Here you are! White in the middle and green all round the side, a two colour wrapper is done!
How to avoid wet filling
Nice dumplings should have moist filling. However, it’s very difficult to assemble dumplings if the filling is too wet. This is a common issue when preparing vegetable filling as the cutting process and the addition of salt will draw extra liquid out of the vegetables. I have a few tips to help you minimize this problem.
- Vegetables like Pak Choi (Bok choy) or Chinese cabbage have a high content of water. After mincing, remember to squeeze out any excess water. Do the same to the rehydrated shiitake mushroom.
- Mung bean vermicelli noodles make a great addition to vegetarian dumpling filling. Not only does it provide a springy texture, it’s also a great agent for soaking up liquid.
- Don’t add salt to the filling until you’ve rolled some wrappers and are ready to assemble.
- If the filling does get too wet, tilt the bowl that holds the filling to allow the liquid flow to one corner. Use a spoon to squeeze the filling before placing onto the wrapper.
- Do not leave assembled dumplings to sit for too long. If you are not cooking them straightaway, freeze them immediately for later use. Otherwise the excessive moisture from the filling would make the wrappers wet and therefore easy to tear.
Follow simple steps to fry
It’s super easy to pan fry dumplings. Preferably, choose a frying pan that has a thick base and delivers heat evenly. Coat the pan with a little oil and brown the bottom of the dumplings. Pour in water then cover with a lid to keep the steam in. It’s done when the water evaporates completely. Voila! Enjoy immediately for best taste.
My vegetarian dumplings are very tasty on their own, but if you wish, serve them with a dipping sauce. Be creative! Mix and match any seasoning you like (Chinese chilli oil, black rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, spring onion, fresh chilli, coriander, etc.).
A Chinese slang says: Nothing is more comfortable than lying down and nothing is tastier than dumplings (舒服不如倒着, 好吃不如饺子). Wish you all a relaxing and yummy day!