Dumplings are different in each area of China, though all over China, the vast majority are filled with pork. In Shanghai, you can get dumplings that are also filled with a little broth in the bottom, though I’m never patient enough to wait for them to cool and I always end up scorching all of the inside of my mouth and breathing like I’m practicing Lamaze. It’s a pretty cute routine actually.

But by far my absolute favorites are ones we get on the street here. They’re the authentic version of what Chinese restaurants in the States call pot-stickers. As in, you know… they stick to the pot.  They’re browned on the bottom as opposed to just being steamed, which is the more often seen way to prepare dumplings.

I ran into trouble though earlier this year when I decided I wanted to stop eating so much meat. By in large, I haven’t missed it one bit. I eat vegetarian meals more than 2/3 of the time and I love it. But as I’ve mentioned before, China’s not really a great place to try to be a vegetarian. Meat gets added to everything as a way of showing hospitality or wealth. Why would you not want to eat meat? That would be like being poor.

Unfortunately, the heavenly scent of these dumplings waft a full block in every direction as you pass the open air shops. As I walk the dog, that smell is just almost too much for me to bear with those browning skins, and Walker almost always gives in, so it makes standing my ground about my meat consumption a little tough.

Well I found an alternative. Make my own, and instead of using pork, fill it with great vegetables. So pick your favorite filling and stock your freezer with some fantastic dumplings for many quick and easy dinners during the week! And just for the record, the vegetarian option satisfies Walker too, so it’s hardly girly rabbit food!

Carrot Filling

Ingredients

1 leek, sliced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup white cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrot, shredded
1/2 cup chopped garlic sprouts or chives
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and white pepper

Preparation

1. Toss all the ingredients together and press together, straining excess moisture from the mixture. Checks for seasoning and add salt and white pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to wrap dumplings.

Mushroom Filling

Ingredients

1 cup diced mushrooms – I used shitake because its what I had on hand
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced pickled ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
3 minced cloves garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

1. Saute the diced mushrooms in a hot wok until they start to soften. Toss in the red pepper and the cabbage and let wilt. Turn the heat down and add in the scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, salt, and pepper,  stirring to combine. Remove from heat and set aside to cool

2. Once cool, add the light beaten egg, and with your fingers, work into the filling. Press out excess moisture and refridgerate until ready to fill your dumplings.

Making the Dumplings

Ingredients

Two packages of store bought dumpling skins
Water
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preparation

1. Lay down plastic over a plate, and dust with flour. Set aside.

2. To form the dumplings, remove one wrapper from the package, and hold in the palm of your left hand. Take a scant tablespoon of whichever filling you like and put in the middle of the wrapper. Dip your right pinky finger in water, and trace the water around half of the circumference of the wrapper.

3. Bring the two sides together, first pinching at the very middle, and then working your way to the edges. However, leave the very ends open. At both ends, push the very tip in, until it meets the crease made by the center line you’ve just folded. At this point it will look like a “T.” Fold one of the arms of the “T” up to meet the top of the center line. Repeat on the other side, folding the arm of the T the opposite way, so that your dumpling will be shaped like a crescent.

4.  Place each dumpling down on the plate and freeze, even if you’re going to use them that day. I promise they’ll be three hundred times easier to work with. You won’t regret it.

5. Once you have filled what will feel like three thousand dumplings, and they’re all frozen, you’re ready to get cooking. Put a cold pan on the eye of the stove, and coat with a little oil. Place frozen dumplings, bottom side down, on the cold pan. It doesn’t really matter if they touch to be honest, just as long as they’re not stacked on top of one another.

6. When the bottoms begin to brown, add 1/4 cup of water and immediately cover, steaming the dumplings. Watch the dumplings and completely evaporate the water so that the bottom crisps up and sticks to the pan just a bit. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and let them toast a bit.

7. Serve hot with dipping sauce, a simple recipe follows.

Simplest Dumpling Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil or 1/2 tablespoon dark, 1/2 tablespoon hot sesame oil
1 small clove garlic, grated with a microplane
raw ginger root, grated with a microplane into the sauce, to taste

Whisk everything together with a fork, and serve. And take my measurements with a grain of salt. Really. Because if I’m being honest, I make this sauce with like a full inch of raw ginger and maybe 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. What can I say, I like mine spicy. But if you’re looking for something less potent, add each ingredient sparingly and figure out the best ratio for you.

Wow typing out these recipes were a bunch of work. I didn’t remember this process being so hands on, but I guess it kind of is. The best part about it though is that you freeze them. In fact, you’re supposed to freeze them, and you won’t get the same crispy bottom and perfect steaming if you don’t. So if you’ve got a lazy afternoon, and you want to save yourself a lot of time during the week, while having a fun project that everyone can help out with (okay maybe the dog shouldn’t help), this is the project for you.

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