Having lived in Melbourne, I got accustomed to being able to have vegetarian dumplings whenever my heart desired them. There is the infamous Camy Shanghai Dumpling House on Tattersall’s lane off Little Bourke St with its dinky staircases, Dumplings Plus on Swanston St where you can see the chefs make them and more authentic ones in Doncaster whose names I don’t know because I cannot read Chinese characters. You could get anywhere between 12 and 16 dumplings for AUD 6 and between my partners and his friends, they would easily wolf down 6 plates of these delectable dumplings.
There is something very comforting about these little steamed balls of rice filled with vegetables. Dunking them in dumpling sauce and biting into them while they are steaming hot always brought me great joy. Then we moved to England and where we live, dumplings are very hard to come by. When you do come by them, they are very expensive and not so great in variety and taste. As in most situations like this, I decided to have a crack at making them in our kitchen. The raw materials were very easy to find and while making them was a bit finicky, then end result was pretty satisfying. Do try them and let me know how you go.
Dumpling wrappers – Pack of 25
salt to suit your taste
1-2 teaspoons of oil for cooking
Filling 1 : Spicy vegetables
1 carrot, grated
6-7 string beans, thinly sliced
50 gms of marinated, fried tofu chopped into small bits
1/2 a zucchini, grated
1 inch thumb of ginger
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Filling 2: Mushrooms, chives and sesame seeds
7 shitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
6-7 springs of Chinese chives
2 tsp of sesame seeds
1. First make the fillings for the dumplings.
2. For filling 1, heat teaspoon of oil and toss all the vegies, ginger, chillies and tofu into the pan. Cook until the beans are soft and tender as they take the longest. Add salt if you’d like (Pictures 3-5).
3a. To rehydrate dried shitake mushrooms, boil water in a kettle and pour over mushrooms placed in a small bowl. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes until spongy. Give the mushrooms a squeeze and a couple of washes under cold water before chopping them.
3b. For filling 2, first sauté the mushrooms and when they are no longer moist, add the chives and sauté for 2 more minutes. Turn the heat off and add sesame seeds. Again, add salt if you’d like. Mix until the seeds are evenly spread throughout the mixture (Pictures 6-8).
4. Now for making the dumplings – the most time consuming part of this dish.
5. Figures 9-11 show you how to make it the dunce way but it works. I improvised and made them look like the ones in Figure 12 which is not easy to describe. What I’d recommend instead is that you watch this Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuWGVL_Wuq8 and follow those instructions instead.
6. Alternate between the two fillings so you can taste both types. Start cooking the dumplings only once you’ve used up all the wrappers.
7. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Gently drop the dumplings into the water. I put in 6-7 at a time.
8. The dumplings initially sink tot he bottom of the pot but will rise as they cook and go translucent (Picture 13).
9. Strain them out of the water using a slotted spoon.
10. Serve while hot with dark/light soy sauce or dumpling sauce.
11. If you have leftover filling (I had lots of Filling 1 leftover), make a stirfry-noodle or rice dish for your next meal.