Vegetable Dumplings

The quest for hunger-satisfying meat alternatives progresses as we trudge on through this vegetarian challenge. It has been two and a half weeks, not without relapses. I admit to taking the path of least resistance when I was offered a slice of pepperoni pizza at work, and the chicken empanada did not help either. Although neither I nor my husband foresee a long lasting meatless dining adventure, we have decidedly enjoyed discovering new vegetarian recipes together over the course of the past few weeks.

One such scenario where I miserably failed at resisting temptation was when we went out to our favorite ramen place for lunch. The bowl comes with chashu, and though I gave almost half of it to Mike, I still happily digested the first half before deciding that it was enough. I was brainstorming of alternatives to chashu meat, without getting the vegetarian bowl, when I came across this idea: Chashu donations to lucky Mike, and I will simply order a side of vegetarian dumplings to eat with my ramen. Which then had me thinking about vegetarian dumplings, the makings of which could not wait until the next ramen date. So I embarked on a journey to make my own.

Aligned with my practice of avoiding plastic like the plague at the grocery store, I have given up frozen foods for over a year now, amongst other things. Which also means passing up on extremely convenient, pre-made dumpling wrappers that my mother used to get when I was a child. I had to make these dumplings from scratch. Considering my new baking habit, it wasn’t all that foreign to me to make dumplings using flour and water. Off course, one could go the convenient route, but with Mother Nature in mind, I decided to make this recipe in the kindest I knew how.

The Ingredients

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Fresh Dumpling Wrappers

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup boiling water
Dumpling Filling:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 peeled and minced garlic clove
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1½ cups chopped green onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • sesame oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste

The Process:

 

  1. While the water is boiling, mix the salt and flour in a bowl. Add the water, and using a stand mixer with a ceramic paddle attachment, mix the water into the flour. It will still be crumbly when you switch to the dough hook, and knead the dough for 7-8 minutes. After kneading the dough, cut the dough in half. Make each half into a round bagel shape but forming it into a ball and then using both thumbs to push a hole through the center. Allow the bagel rounds to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
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  2. Meanwhile, cut up all the veggies. Once everything is chopped, heat vegetable oil in a wok. Add cabbage, ginger, and garlic. Stir fry over medium-low heat until cabbage has wilted. Add mushrooms, green onions and carrots, and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Add soy sauce and a bit of sesame oil to your taste. I typically don’t even add salt and pepper, but you can.
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  3. At this time, the dough should be ready. Using a tortilla press, I shape the dough into small rounds. I then make the dough even thinner using a rolling pin, compressing the dough into a very thin, flat disk. Depending on the consistency of the dumplings that you prefer, you can go as thick or thin as you want. Typically, if I am going to fry the dumplings, I go for a thinner wrapper. If I am going to steam the dumplings, I like a thicker piece.
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  4. Place a scoop of the vegetable mixture in the center of the dough wrapper, and then fold the dough in half. Wet one edge with water, and then fold the other edge over and over again to create the dumpling design.
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  5. You can immediately cook them, but I prefer to lay them out on a tray and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can package them in a Tupperware and they can stay frozen for up to a few months.
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When we want to cook them, we just toss them on a hot frying pan, or steam them while the rice is cooking in the rice cooker. This time around, we decided to eat them with a bowl of hot ramen, summer nights notwithstanding.

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Vegetarian Coconut Curry

We’ve kind of took it upon ourselves to create a frugal challenge that requires us to become vegetarian for a week. The progress report: Grocery bills have been less than $40 for two, sufficiently providing three meals per day, seven days a week. Frugal challenges for the win! As if this wasn’t enough, the past few weeks, I’ve indulged myself in an even bigger challenge, one spurred by a visiting 24-year old cousin from Virginia. Her recent visit divulged the fact that she has been pescatarian for two years, in an effort to be non-contributory to the food industry’s ways. I did give up beef one year ago, along similar lines of reasoning, but could not fathom giving up anything more (this fear driven by a love of bacon). But her youth and drive to make a difference was very inspiring. I have a lot of friends who have gone pescatarian. Additionally, I know of two people who gave up meat at 8 years old. If I could be whole-heartedly against plastic, why can’t it be the same of food? I bade farewell to my far-off cousin with the promises of at least trying it. Off course, I decided to time my first week of trials with this month’s frugal challenge of vegetarian meals for one week.

The results are two-fold. Extreme sadness and ill-conceived hunger at all times. Giving up chocolate was easier than this. It’s not like I haven’t gone vegetarian for a week before. It’s just that I’ve never done it knowing there’s possibly of a week (or lifetime) or pescatarianism after. On the other side, experimental recipes galore unleashes an innate happiness that only creation can.

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Before we grocery shop, we always write a list. Firstly, because I am type-A. Secondly, because I despise wasting time in uncertainty. And lastly, to avoid getting any unnecessary items. Especially junk food and snacks! So when we were brainstorming for a week of vegetarian dishes, it was Mike who suggested trying an Indian dish. Some may call us crazy for trying a curry in mid-summer heat, but I wasn’t mad about the results. Plus, any excuse to eat rice is welcomed in my culture.

We’ve made curry before, but usually in the fall and winter, filled with squashes and, well, meat. We decided to try something a little different, with more summery ingredients. This recipe contains a good blend of spices, including bold Cayenne pepper. There’s a kick with every spoonful, balanced by Jasmine rice. It does already contain potatoes though, so if you are bothered at all by endless starches, maybe skip the rice. It tastes just as well as a soup! The carrots was Mike’s addition, and the spinach was mine. As with everything, personalize it however way you wish with your own selection of greens. Our recipe, below:

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon crushed cayenne pepper 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 bunch of fresh spinach, washed and chopped

The Process:

  1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine the oil and tomatoes and simmer for four minutes. You don’t want to burn the tomatoes, but you do eventually want their juices to come out. The tomato paste will go a long way with this dish.
  2. Stir in the spices and cook for another 4 minutes.
  3. Add the water and potatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. It may be that you’d need to add more water. Don’t let the dish dry out.
  4. Add in the green beans, cover and cook 5-8 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender.
  5. Stir in the coconut milk and increase heat to medium. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the spinach and stir, allowing the spinach to wilt, about 15-30 seconds. I personally still like spinach looking vibrantly green. The color makes it taste better, or so I tell myself. Once the spinach is wilted, it is ready. Serve and enjoy!
  6. Optional: Globs of Jasmine Rice on the side, stray rice included.

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