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Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers!)

Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers!)

Don’t get worked up about wrapping dumplings! Wonky dumplings taste just as great. And you can always just seal them flat. Fast. Easy. Effective!

Cooked Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
This hybrid method of cooking dumplings is my favourite – pan fried for crispy golden base then steamed in the same pan just by adding a bit of water and covering with a lid.

Vegetable Dumplings

There’s nothing quite like freshly-made dumplings. Reheated dumplings are never the same. The imperative for fresh-out-of-the-kitchen is right up there with freshly-made fish and chipsburgers and steak.

And while there’s no shortage of excellent dumpling eateries here in Sydney, the sad truth is that when it comes to vegetable (rather than meat) dumplings, they range from mediocre to just plain bad. The biggest offence is mushy, unidentifiable, tasteless fillings.

Not to mention cost. Din Tai Fung, a famous dumpling chain from Asia with branches here in Sydney, declares itself to serve the world’s best dumplings. To be fair, their signature xiao long bau (soup-filled pork dumplings) are rightfully revered and I adore them. But a serve of 6 modestly-proportioned vegetable dumplings at Din Tai Fung will still set you back $10.90.

By my maths then, today we’re making $63.60 worth of dumplings with ingredients that cost less than $10!

My team also declares these homemade ones to be better than Din Tai Fung’s. (I can say that without feeling like I’m boasting because this recipe has been a team effort – me, Chef JB and my brother!)

Showing the crispy golden base of pan steamed Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
Exhibit A: crispy golden base of pan-fried-steamed dumpling. This hybrid cooking method is my favourite.
Showing the inside of Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
Exhibit B: Proof of no mushy filling. It might look crumbly but it’s not – the vegetable bits are held together by a small amount of grated potato. A secret vegetable dumpling filling trick!

What sets these vegetable dumplings apart from the competition?

The filling truly tastes like what you get at the best yum cha restaurants and top dumpling eateries. It’s fresh and flavoursome, with real textures of vegetables rather than mushy and insipid.

This is because we use raw vegetables for the filling, just like the best dumplings you can buy. Cooking the vegetables for the filling solves the problem of the filling falling apart, sure, but it’s at the expense of character and flavour in my view.

Our solution? Just 2 tablespoons of grated potato. Yep, really. A secret discovered on the label of frozen dumplings we bought for research! It acts as a binder for the filling as well as absorbing water leached by the vegetables as they cook, yet without making the filling soggy or mushy (which is what happens if you use rice flour, cornflour etc).

There was a LOT of gleeful bouncing around the kitchen when we discovered this. Let me remind you – I’ve been on this recipe for 4 years. 4 years!!!

What you need for vegetable dumplings

Here’s what you need to make Chinese vegetable dumplings:

 

Ingredients in Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  • Round dumpling wrapper (gow gee pastry) – see next section below.
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms – The primary flavour in the filling. Rehydrated in boiling water then finely minced, it brings a good hit of savoury flavour into the filling. Readily available these days even in the Asian section of large grocery stores in Australia.

    Substitute: Fresh shiitake mushrooms don’t have the same intensity of flavour so I really encourage you to seek out dried. But if you really can’t find it, use sautéd finely chopped fresh mushrooms. I’ve popped directions in the notes.

  • Cabbage – The other primary ingredient. Salted then squeezed of excess liquid, this is more about creating volume rather than flavour.
  • Firm tofu – It needs to be firm tofu as custard-like soft and silken tofu is just too delicate and will disintegrate into a watery mess. This provides much-needed texture into the filling.
  • Potato – The ingredient that cracked the secret of great vegetable dumplings! See above in the “What sets these vegetable dumplings apart from the competition?” box for more information.

    We just need 2 tablespoons of finely grated potato (including the liquid that leaches out while grating). It acts as the binding agent without turning the filling into an unpleasant mush which is what happens if you use starches like cornflour/cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca, or similar.

    Without the grated potato, all the finely chopped vegetables would tumble out of the dumpling. We can’t have that! We want them in our mouth!

  • Green onion – For colour and freshness.
  • Garlic and ginger – Aromatics.
  • Sesame oil – To add a bit of richness to the filling.
  • Soy sauce – For seasoning. Light or all purpose soy sauce is called for here. Don’t use dark soy sauce. Sweet soy can be substituted but skip the sugar. More on different soy sauces here.
  • Salt, pepper, sugar – More seasoning! I like to use white pepper because it’s more common in Chinese cooking but black pepper is just fine too.

Dumpling wrapper (gow gee pastry)

These round dumpling wrappers made of wheat flour are even sold in large grocery stores these days, in the Asian section of the fridge alongside fresh noodles. Here’s the brand I use which is sold at Woolworths and Harris Farms in Sydney, and sometimes Coles:

Vegetable dumpling wrapper

How to make Vegetable Dumplings

Heads up: this section on how to make Vegetable Dumplings is quite long as I walk through making the filling, wrapping and cooking the dumplings.

I promise it isn’t hard if you don’t get too hung up about perfectly shaped dumplings. Remember – it will still taste fantastic even if yours are a bit lopsided. Beauty is only skin-deep (literally – it’s all about the fillings here!)

If you’re already a dumpling-wrapping master, feel free to skip straight down to the recipe or the recipe video.

Vegetable Dumplings recipe quick look

  1. Wilt cabbage and rehydrate shiitake mushrooms. Mix with remaining filling ingredients.
  2. Wrap dumplings, pan-fry 2 minutes, then steam 5 minutes (same pan).

How easy was that?? 🙌🏻


How to make the filling

First up, the dumpling filling! Here’s how to prepare the components:

1. WILT CABBAGE

How to make Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  • Finely slice the cabbage then chop it quite small like you’re mincing garlic.
  • Toss through salt and leave for 20 minutes. This draws out excess water from the cabbage and makes it wilt. If you skip this step, the cabbage goes watery when steamed inside the filling. The cabbage is also too fluffy and voluminous which makes it impossible to wrap!
  • Grab handfuls of the cabbage and squeeze out the excess water.
  • Then place the cabbage into a large bowl to make the Dumpling Filling.

2. SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS

How to make Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  • Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in a large bowl of boiling water. It usually takes around 30 minutes but the stalk can sometimes be stubborn and take 45 minutes.
  • Grab handfuls and squeeze out the excess water.
  • Finely slice then finely chop the mushrooms.

3. FIRM TOFU

How to make Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  • Slice the tofu into 3-4 mm slices.
  • Stack the slices then cut into 3-4 mm batons.
  • Then stack the batons up to cut the tofu into 3-4 mm cubes.

Be sure to use FIRM tofu, not silken / soft tofu which is too delicate. It will turn into mush!

4. FINELY GRATED POTATO – FOR BINDING

The secret ingredient for the best vegetable dumplings filling! See above in the “What sets these vegetable dumplings apart from the competition?” box for an explanation for why.

How to make Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  • Peel the potato then use a microplane (pictured) or similar to grate the potato very finely.
  • You must use a fine grater, not a box grater which will shred the potato into large strands not grate it finely. The potato needs to be grated really finely and will be watery, like pictured above, in order to work as the binder for the filling.
  • Measure out 2 tablespoons of the grated potato and add it into the bowl.

Finely grated potato is the secret ingredient to the perfect vegetable dumpling filling. It absorbs water leached by vegetables and acts as a binder, without turning the filling into mush.

Note: I grate the potato just before adding into the mixture so it doesn’t turn brown/red from oxidisation. But it doesn’t matter if it does discolour because this does not mean the potato has gone off, and you can’t see the cooked potato in the end result.

5. MIX FILLING

How to make Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers) filling

Add all the above ingredients plus other remaining filling ingredients (soy sauce, seasonings, aromatics, green onion, sesame oil) and mix with a spoon until combined.

The mixture will be crumbly at this point, not sticking together and pasty. If the mixture was sticking together – like the countless times we made this with cornflour/cornstarch – then it ends up mushy once steamed. We want crumbly. We need crumbly!


How to wrap Chinese dumplings

I could spend a lot of page inches explaining how to wrap Chinese dumplings. But I won’t because there’s a recipe video below worth a thousand words instead!

Don’t get too hung up on the wrapping. I know the pleats look lovely and authentic, but if it’s too much of a challenge, just skip the pleats and seal the dumpling with a flat seam. It still tastes the same and is also much faster to make!

Along with the video, here’s a quick description and step photos explaining how to wrap dumplings:

How to wrap Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)

Dominant hand – Right hand in my case; Non-dominant hand – My left hand.

  1. Place a wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water then run it along the lower edge of the wrapper, as marked in the photo above. This is for sealing.

    The dumpling seals more securely if you wet the bottom half of the wrapper as this is the side you pleat-and-seal. If you do the top rim, the pleat folds don’t seal as well. If you do the whole rim, you’ll understand quickly why you shouldn’t (spoiler: too much stickiness!).

  2. Place a loosely-packed tablespoon of filling in the centre of the wrapper. The filling doesn’t shrink much so you don’t need to overstuff the dumplings.
  3. Keeping the wrapper in your non-dominant hand, use your dominant hand to fold the bottom half of the wrapper over the filling but don’t let it touch the top half of the wrapper (as soon as the water edge touches anything, it wants to glue itself to it).
  4. Starting from the far left, use your dominant hand to fold one pleat, pressing to seal. Repeat, folding more pleats along the edge, working from left to right until you get to the end. If this is proving too difficult for you, just fold the wrapper over without pleats and seal flat. Your dumpling will look different but it will still taste GREAT!

The filling doesn’t shrink much as it cooks so you don’t need to overstuff the dumplings.

  1. Here’s a close up of me pleating. Notice how I use the thumb of my non-dominant hand to create the pleat with my dominant hand.
  2. One finished, stand the dumpling with the pleats upright. Then squish it down slightly to flatten the base, and shape it into a slight curve.

    Place the finished dumplings on a tray lightly dusted with cornflour/cornstarch (to prevent them from sticking). Keep covered with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out as you wrap the remaining dumplings.

Hand holding uncooked Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)

How to cook dumplings (pan-steamed)

These dumplings can be steamed, but pan-fry + steaming is my favourite method of cooking because you get the best of both worlds: crispy base plus moist tops and insides!

How to pan-steam Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers)
  1. Pan fry first – Use a non-stick skillet with a lid. The lid doesn’t have to match that skillet, just any lid that as large as or larger than the skillet is fine. You’ll see in the video that the lid I use is larger. Don’t have a lid? Use a baking tray or similar. Anything that will trap the steam in to cook the dumplings!

    Heat oil in skillet. Now place 12 to 15 dumplings in the pan and cook until the base is golden brown.

  2. Golden brown base – This is your goal. It doesn’t need to be as golden as pictured in step 2 above. This is just the way I like it. Crispy from edge to edge!
  3. Water for steaming – Once the base is golden brown, pour in 1/4 cup of water then quickly place the lid on to trap the steam in the pan.

    During this steaming phase, the crispy golden base does go soggy. But don’t worry! It comes back to life after the water evaporates.

  4. Steam for 5 minutes or until the water has evaporated. The wrapping should be semi-transparent once cooked.
  5. Remove lid. At this stage, you can leave the dumplings for another 30 seconds or so until the base really dries out to resurrect the crispy base.
  6. Transfer the cooked dumplings to a serving plate using a spatula and serve with a dipping sauce.

    Dipping sauce – I like to serve with soy sauce mixed with chilli paste. A mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar is also common.

Dipping Vegetable Dumplings (Potstickers) in chilli soy dipping sauce

What to serve with Vegetable Dumplings

With pork dumplings, I always feel like I need to add a side of vegetables. I think this is because my mother did such a great job of brainwashing me as a kid into believing that a meal is unbalanced without a sufficient representation of vegetables.

Isn’t it great then that these little babies are jam-packed with vegetables? So, mum, I’ll just have a big plate of these for dinner, thanks!😂

OK, OK, getting serious though. If you want to fill out the meal and make the dumplings go further, try it with a side of fried rice or Supreme Soy Noodles, and steamed Chinese Greens with Oyster Sauce (like you get at yum cha, and PS it’s not just Oyster Sauce in the sauce!) For a fresh salad, my go-to are the Chang’s Crispy Noodle Cabbage Salad (get an extra-big cabbage for the dumplings!) and my leafy Asian Side Salad.

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