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. This is how you make the green dough:
- Blanch spinach briefly in boiling water.
- Use a food processor to puree.
- Extract the juice through a sieve.
- Use the same amount of spinach juice to make the dough as you normally do with water.
Note: Don’t discard the leftover 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 combine the white & green dough.
- 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 around the side, a two colour wrapper is done!
For detailed instructions, please read my recipe on Homemade Dumpling Wrappers to learn how to make them from scratch. Also, I’ve shared a post on “Ten Ways to Fold Dumplings“. Check it out if you are keen to sharpen your dumpling skills.
How to avoid wet filling
Nice dumplings should have a 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 straight away, 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.
- Enjoy immediately for best taste.
If you are interested in boiling or steaming these vegetarian dumplings, please refer to my post “Cooking Dumplings in Three Ways” in which you can find detailed instructions and a tutorial video.
Serve with a dipping sauce
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.). Check out my Dumpling Dipping Sauce Guide which includes six different dipping sauce recipes.
Pan-fried vegetarian dumplings / potstickers (素煎饺)
For the dough
- 150 g spinach, 5oz
- 300 g all-purpose flour, 2 ⅓ cups, plus extra for dusting
For the filling
- 200 g Pak Choi, or Chinese cabbage
- 60 g carrot
- 5 dried Shiitake mushroom, pre-soaked (see note 1)
- 30 g dried mung bean vermicelli noodles, pre-soaked
- 1 egg
- 1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
- ½ tsp minced ginger
- 1 pinch ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp salt
You also need:
- Cooking oil , for frying
Prepare the spinach juice
- Briefly blanch spinach then transfer to a food processor to puree.
- Use a fine sieve to extract approximately 75 ml / 5 tablespoons of spinach juice (add anlittle water if necessary). Set the spinach puree aside for the filling.
Make the dough in two colours
- Divide the flour into two equal portions. Add about 75 ml / 5 tablespoons of water to one portion of flour then knead to a white dough.
- Add the spinach juice to the other portion of flour to form a green dough.
- Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes (see note 2).
Mix the filling
- Mince Pak Choi (Bok choy), carrot, Shiitake mushroom and mung bean vermicelli noodles (chop with a knife or use a food processor).
- Squeeze out the excess water from the vegetables with your hands.
- Stir in the spinach puree and egg.
- Place spring onion, ginger and ground Sichuan pepper on top of the mixture. Heat up the oil then pour it over the herbs and spice.
- Finally, add salt and mix(see note 3).
Roll the wrappers
- Roll the white dough into two ropes.
- Flatten the green dough into two rectangle pieces (same length as the ropes) then wrap the white dough all round and seal well.
- Cut into about 40 equal sections. Press each piece into a small disc with the palm of your hand.
- Use a rolling pin to flatten it into a thin disc. Dust with flour if the dough sticks (Please refer to the video demonstration).
Shape the dumplings
- Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of a wrapper.
- Fold the wrapper, then seal it. You may do it any way you like. Make sure there is no leakage if you plan to boil (instead of frying) the dumplings.
Fry the dumplings
- Coat a frying pan with oil and heat up over high heat. Place in the dumplings.
- When the bottom part becomes golden brown, pour in water (enough to cover ⅓ of the dumplings) then cover with a lid.
- Uncover when the water evaporates completely. Serve warm with a dipping sauce of your choice.
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!