Here’s my recipe for making vegetarian Chinese steamed dumplings and Chinese pan-fried dumplings (the latter are known as ‘potstickers’ in America). My husband and I prefer the latter, but the steamed version are of course healthier…
The general term for Chinese dumplings is jiaozi (Mandarin) or gau gee/gow gee (Cantonese). Before you start cooking, you might want to read my post on What are Chinese Dumplings or Jiaozi? as there are different types as well as different methods of preparing them. Apparently Chinese people rarely steam dumplings at home because they are more difficult to prepare. I was quite surprised to find out that my mother has never done this before! She follows the boiling technique (see her recipe).
It’s important to be organised when making dumplings. And it would really help to have two or more people doing this, as there is a lot going on at the same time. If everyone has his or her task, then it’s both easy and fun.
- wok or large saucepan, with lid
- metal rack, to be placed on base of wok or large saucepan
- bamboo steamer, to sit on top of metal rack – when buying this, bear in mind the size of your wok/saucepan. We have two of these so that we can alternate between them – as one is steaming, the other one can be filled with more dumplings
- greaseproof paper
- large non-stick frying pan with tight-fitting lid
- metal spatula for frying
- dumpling wrappers – you can buy these in a Chinese supermarket, but make sure they are ‘gau gee’/’gow gee’ or ‘jiaozi’ wrappers and not wonton wrappers. I prefer the ones in the refrigerated section to the frozen ones, which turn gooey when defrosted and don’t taste as nice. My mother makes the wrapper dough herself, which naturally tastes best (see her recipe). We bought 2 packs of 20 for two people
- vegetables – buna shimeji (brown beech) mushrooms, baby asparagus tips, courgette. You can use anything you like though (eg broccoli spears)
- garlic, finely chopped
- fresh ginger, grated
- Chinese chives
- coriander, chopped (optional)
- splash of Shaohsing cooking wine (optional)
- groundnut or vegetable oil
- salt, ground white pepper, ground black pepper
Preparing the Fillings:
The choice of filling is really up to you. As my husband doesn’t eat meat or seafood, we make only vegetarian ones, but the possibilities are endless. Chopped coriander can also be added to the dumpling fillings, but this is optional.
- buna shimeji mushroom – chop the base off the mushroom cluster and separate into individual mushrooms, leaving the stems on. Chop finely and cook in a little groundnut oil (or vegetable oil), with ground black pepper. Add a splash of Shaohsing cooking wine if you have some. Some chopped Chinese chives (or ‘nira’ in Japanese) added towards the end would also be lovely, if you can get them. Place in a small dish for later
- baby asparagus tips – finely chopped and fried with a bit of ground white pepper and a splash of Shaohsing cooking wine. Place in a small dish for later
- courgette – finely chopped, fried with one clove of garlic, a bit of grated fresh ginger and ground white pepper. Place in a small dish for later
More Preparation and Wrapping:
Dipping sauce – this is up to you. We usually combine soy sauce, Japanese rice vinegar, chopped red chillis and grated ginger. It’s delicious. But feel free to experiment!
Line the bamboo steamers with greaseproof paper. Cut into a circle to fit the base, then cut small holes into the paper to allow the steam to rise through the holes. Dab a little vegetable oil onto the paper to prevent the dumplings from sticking.
Pour a little water into a shallow dish, for dampening the edges of each wrapper before pleating. You’ll also need a small bowl of vegetable oil so that you can wipe a little onto the base of each dumpling before placing it into the bamboo steamer. Don’t open the packs of wrappers until you’re ready, because they will dry out, as I discovered.
Moisten the rim of a wrapper with a dab of water (you’ll know when you’ve used too much). Then place a large teaspoon of filling onto the centre, but not too much or the wrapper will tear when you pleat it. Fold the wrapper in half and press together to form a half moon shape. Pinch and pleat just one side of the wrapper, using your right thumb (if right-handed) to support the other side that will stay smooth. Seal tight so that there are no gaps. There are many different ways to seal up a dumpling and it will come with practice. Just don’t rush as the wrapper is delicate and will tear.
Dab a little oil onto the base of each dumpling and place into the bamboo steamer. Fill up the steamer but don’t let the dumplings touch, otherwise they will stick together. Add a couple of inches of water to the saucepan or wok – the level has to be lower than the metal rack. This will have to be topped up later, so make sure there is always enough water for the steaming process.
When the water is boiling, place the steamer onto the rack and put the wok or saucepan lid on for at least 12-15 minutes, until the wrappers become transparent – they should still be a little al dente though. If your bamboo steamer lid fits under the wok or saucepan lid, you can use that as well. Remove the dumplings from the greaseproof paper as soon as possible and transfer onto a plate. Serve hot with plenty of dipping sauce.
Heat one tablespoon of oil in the frying-pan on a medium heat (before it starts to smoke), add the dumplings flat side down and leave them for one minute or two until they are golden brown on the bottom. Pour in a quarter of a cup of boiling water. As this will give off a lot of steam, use the lid as a shield to protect yourself and cover the pan immediately to trap the steam. Keep the lid on firmly for three minutes, with the heat turned down, until the moisture has evaporated. The dumplings will be fried on the flat side and steamed on the pleated side. Serve hot with plenty of dipping sauce.
Let me know how your dumplings turn out. Any comments and suggestions welcome!
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