If you’ve been to a dim sum tea lunch, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a truly carnivorous affair…a pork lover’s fantasy, to put it simply. The exceptions to this might be some braised tofu or bean curd specialties, some bright green stalks of Chinese broccoli (minus the oyster sauce), or the occasional deep-fried veggie egg roll. Even many of the desserts are made with animal-based ingredients like lard or gelatin.
Vegetarian dumplings are certainly available at dim sum restaurants, but for some reason they don’t have iconic or distinctive names like Siu Mai or Ha Gao do. I came across a Vegetarian Dumpling Recipe from an Asian food blog that I love called Coriander & Garlic, written by a gal with the pen name, Swisspris. After a quick run to the market this weekend and a minimal amount of time in the kitchen, I was in vegetarian dumpling heaven. The recipe was incredibly delicious and just as tasty as the ones that come off of those hot, steaming dim sum trolleys!
My recipe for Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings is adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe over at Coriander & Garlic, with 2 of my favorite ingredients added in: shiitake mushrooms and, of course…tea!
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are hands down my favorite Chinese vegetable. I love every bite of them. They have a meat-like flavor with a dense bite that you can really sink your teeth into. Since the original recipe at Coriander & Garlic calls for vegetarian oyster sauce (a.k.a. vegetarian stir-fry sauce in the US) which is made with mushroom essence, the shiitakes are a welcome addition here.
I’ve also steamed the dumplings in a strong green tea base. This steaming method gives a slight tinge of color to the dumpling skins, but more importantly it lends a very gentle, fresh fragrance to the dumplings.
Green teas are often described by tea experts and sommeliers as “vegetal,” which is exactly why I even thought to use the brew for steaming these dumplings. Today I’m using an organic Chinese green tea called Chun Mee for steaming these veggie pockets. Chun Mee has a bright, grassy flavor with a layer of smokey depth, so it’s the ideal tea for showcasing the delicate Napa cabbage, sweet carrots, and earthy shiitake mushrooms.
You can steam any dumpling with tea, just chose one that complements the ingredients being used. For a meat-based dumpling, I would consider using an oolong or even a Chinese black tea, as the flavors in the tea will be stronger, and bold enough to shine through.
Since we are showcasing the dumpling and not the tea by itself, it’s fine to use the more common, supermarket variety of tea here. The tea bag form also helps to make cleanup much easier. Save your best quality, full leaf teas for drinking. The humble (and economical) everyday green tea bag will work great here.
Part of the charm of making dumplings is that you can play around with how you package them up. My creations have taken on a pointy triangle looking shape, which were a bit easier and faster for me to get right. Swisspris’ pleated version were so perfectly executed that I just didn’t even want to go there.
Please also check out Coriander & Garlic’s simple recipe for a black vinegar-based dipping sauce to serve with these dumplings. Puckeringly tasty and healthy, the sauce helps to bring all the mild veggie flavors to life.
Celebrate springtime’s bounty of Chinese vegetables with a batch of steamy Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings! Thanks to a very delicious recipe adapted from the Coriander & Garlic blog, I’m happy to say that this is a time where both the words healthy and delicious can be used to describe this easy Chinese meal. Thank you Swisspris!!
Dim Sum Recipe #7: Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings
Adapted from the Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling recipe at Coriander & Garlic blog.
Makes about 30 dumplings.
4 Napa cabbage leaves, sliced thinly
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1 tsp salt
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and diced into 1/4″ pieces
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp light soy sauce
7 oz of firm tofu, well-drained and squeezed into a course purée
2 Tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce (also called vegetarian oyster sauce, I used Lee Kum Kee brand)
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp grated garlic
extra Napa cabbage leaves and shiitake mushrooms, for serving on the side (optional)
30 round potsticker wrappers
small cup of water for sealing potstickers
4 cups of water
5 green tea bags (I used Tazo’s Chun Mee)
grater, for carrots
large mixing bowl
large bamboo steamer, fitted with perforated parchment paper
wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer
1 Tablespoon measure
small pastry brush (optional)
large work surface for making dumplings
1.) Place wok on high heat, and add the vegetable oil. When hot oil starts to shimmer, add all the diced shiitake mushrooms. Stir-fry the mushrooms for about a minute, then add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the cooking mushrooms. Continue to cook on high heat until much of the excess moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms look slightly browned. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Place the cooked mushrooms into a large bowl to cool, and set aside.
2.) Place the Napa cabbage and carrot into a large strainer and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. Mix the salt in evenly and let this sit for 10 minutes in the sink to drain off excess water from the vegetables. After 10 minutes, rinse the Napa and carrots in running water, then use your hands to squeeze out any extra moisture in them (this takes some hand/arm strength).
3.) Add the Napa, carrots, tofu, vegetarian oyster sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, sugar, and garlic to the mushrooms sitting in the mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients together thoroughly.
4.) Lay out dumpling wrappers on a large work surface, then fill them with 1 Tbsp of the filling. Use a small pastry brush (or your fingers) to dab the edges of the wrappers with water, then seal the dumplings. For easier wrapping, it’s helpful to form the filling in a triangle shape before sealing the wrapper edges (please see picture below).
5.) Place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with perforated parchment, at least a 1/2″ apart from one another.
If you have a double layered steamer and have extra shiitake mushrooms and Napa cabbage, place them in the extra steamer to tea-steam along with the dumplings!
6.) Place the wok on high heat and add 4 cups of water. Monitor the water heat with the thermometer. When the thermometer registers about 175 degrees F, shut off the heat and add the 5 tea bags in to steep. Leave the tea bags to soak for about 3 minutes, then remove them.
Now bring the tea up to a full rolling boil over high heat.
7.) Place the steamer of dumplings (and the steamer of shiitake and Napa, if using) over the boiling water to steam for 10 minutes. Serve the dumplings with black-vinegar dipping sauce and enjoy!