[Readers, thanks for voting my recipe up to number 1 position on Foodbuzz Top 9 today (26 January). You are the best!]
Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals in Hong Kong. Red and golden are auspicious colours during this time. People start cleaning their houses a few days in advance. They buy flowers and even gift them to their near and dear ones in family get-togethers. This is the year of dragon. Red envelope/pocket money or lai see is distributed by married people to the unmarried ones (or by a boss to his subordinates). And yes, eating good food is of course a part of all this!
This is my first post after the Chinese New Year, so this has to be special! I made these vegetarian dumplings for a vegan couple whom we invited over for Chinese New Year holiday breakfast here. They liked these very much, which is why I thought of sharing the recipe with you all as well!
My vegan friends told me that they have had a hard time searching for yum cha restaurants (dim sum restaurants) serving vegetarian food in Hong Kong. Actually, even the so-called vegetarian Chinese food is not 100% vegetarian. Sometimes, for additional taste, chicken powder, chicken stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce or pork lard is added to cook the food.
So a vegetarian foodie in Hong Kong finds it a little challenging initially. But, by being a little tricky and enthusiastic, you can always recreate that tempting non-vegetarian dish with vegetarian ingredients in your home kitchen, isn’t it?
Chinese shiitake mushrooms are very popular (and cheap) here. They differ markedly in their taste from Swiss brown or white mushrooms. The shiitake ones are a little slippery when cooked and impart a distinct aroma to the dish. I decided to use these as the main ingredient for the filling for my dumplings, along with just a little amount of carrots, spring onion greens, garlic, ginger, cabbage (just 3 tbsp) and soybean sprouts.
Making dumpling skins at home!
I used local, non-frozen dumpling skins which I spotted in a local dry market here. But you can make your own by adding a little warm water to all-purpose flour and making a smooth dough. Make small balls out of the dough (half the size of a Ping-Pong ball) and roll each into thin (but not very thin) dumpling skins. The Asian stores even sell these frozen. Thaw them and they are ready to use!
Chinese New Year Vegetarian Dumplings (makes around 30 dumplings)
[I used traditional bamboo steamer here. But don’t lose heart if you don’t get one. You can use any kind of steamer or make your own at home. For this, tie a muslin cloth beforehand to the mouth of a shallow vessel or a double boiler with boiling water. You can place a few dumplings on this cloth carefully, so that the water doesn’t touch the dumplings. Cover with a lid and steam for 10 min.]
Chinese New Year Vegetarian Dumplings
- Store-bought dumpling skins or homemade ones: 30
- Chinese shiitake mushrooms (chopped into small pieces): 8
- Carrots (cubed into very small pieces): ½
- Spring onion greens: ½ cup
- Garlic (finely chopped): 1.5 tbsp
- Ginger (shredded finely): 1 tsp
- Light soy sauce: 1 tsp
- Vegetable bouillon powder: 1.5 tsp
- Cabbage (chopped finely): 3 tbsp
- Soybean sprouts (chopped): ¼ cup
- Light soy sauce: 1 tsp
- Sesame oil: 2 tbsp
- Salt: ¼ tsp (or according to taste)
- Cornflower-water mixture (not too runny): ¼ cup
Heat oil in the wok. When hot, add the spring onion greens, garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 min on a medium flame. Add the carrots and salt. Sauté for 2 min.
Add the chopped mushrooms and the vegetable bouillon powder mixed with 1.5 ts water. Fry till the mushrooms are semi-soft. Add the soy sauce and mix well.
Now add the cabbage and the sprouts. Sauté for one minute. Switch off the gas. This becomes the filling. Make sure that it comes to room temperature and is almost dry when you start stuffing these into dumpling skins. The cabbage and sprouts should be under-cooked to retain their crunchiness.
Take each skin at a time. Add 1 tbsp (or a little less) filling into the skin.
Fold the skin as shown. Make creases only on one side of the semi-circle in the way shown in the picture. The creased side is the outer side. Bend the semi-circled dumplings a bit and press down a little for that perfect shape! Seal the ends using cornflower-water mixture.
When all dumplings are ready, steam for 10 min. Serve hot with soy sauce, vinegar or a sauce of your choice (I love chilli-garlic sauce with this!). Enjoy the bliss!
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