Dim Sum Recipe #7: Shiitake & Napa Cabbage Dumplings

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.

Shiitake & Napa Dumplings chun mee

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.

Ingredients:

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)

Equipment:

large strainer

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

water thermometer

measuring cup

Directions:

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!

Dim Sum Recipe #5: Pork & Chive Potstickers

With all the Chinese New Year festivities going on this weekend, anyone celebrating is sure to find themselves short on time.

Potstickers are probably one of the simplest dim sum specialties you can make at home. From start to finish you should be able to get a golden heap of beautiful pan-fried dumplings out in less than an hour.

I love chives.  They are my favorite herb, and I try to sneak them into recipes whenever I can.  If you’ve ever had Chinese chives before, they have a stronger flavor than that of American chives, and are a darker shade of green as well.

Since Chinese chives are sometimes hard to come by, I’ve used a mix of both spring onions and chives in this recipe.  The chives bring a light freshness to the dumplings while the spring onions bring depth and vegetal flavor.  Both are used more as a vegetable than as a garnish, so they are added to the meat filling liberally.

Many potsticker recipes encourage you to get a fatty grind of pork to make dumplings with. After all, it’s that incorporated fat that makes the dumpling flavorful and juicy.  Luckily, even though this recipes calls for extra lean pork, you don’t have to sacrifice too much in the way of taste because I’ve sneaked in a secret ingredient here…tofu!

When tofu is combined with lean ground pork, the meat is able to retain more moisture during the cooking process.  The result is a luscious yet healthful dumpling that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.  You actually don’t even notice the tofu when biting into these yummy potstickers.  Don’t skip out on adding it though, if you do you’ll be missing a key ingredient to this recipe, and the meat will taste noticeably dryer.

Enjoy these potstickers for lunch, dinner, or even as an appetizer.  Easy to make and eat, potstickers are everyone’s favorite Asian tea snack, especially during Chinese New Year!

Pork & Chive Potstickers

Makes 4 dozen dumplings.

Ingredients:

{Dumplings}

1 lb. extra lean ground pork ( I used 95% lean)

1 1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp + 2 tsp oyster sauce

1 1/2 tsp white sugar

1/2 tsp powdered chicken bouillon

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 egg white

1 1/2 tsp grated ginger

4 green onions, sliced thinly

2-.75 oz packages of chives, finely chopped

5 oz. soft tofu

round potsticker wrappers, enough for 4 dozen dumplings

small cup of water for sealing potstickers

1 cup chicken broth, divided into 1/4 cup portions

8 Tbsp canola oil, divided into 2 Tbsp portions

{Dipping Sauce}

2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp vinegar

squirt/dab of your favorite Asian hot sauce

chopped cilantro

Equipment:

large non-stick frying pan with lid

1 Tablespoon measure

small pastry brush (optional)

large work surface for making dumplings

heat-proof spatula

Directions:

*** I cook 12 dumplings at a time for even cooking and because they fit into a large pan perfectly.  The directions reflect cooking 12 dumplings at a time.  If you are making all 4 dozen dumplings, repeat steps #2 through #5, 4 separate times.  

1.)  In a large bowl, mix ground pork with sesame oil, soy, oyster sauce, sugar, chicken bouillon, white pepper, egg white, and ginger.  After this mixture is thoroughly mixed, add in green onions and chives and gently mix into meat.  Squeeze tofu with your hand until it resembles a course purée.  Mix this mashed up tofu into the meat mixture until it becomes homogenous.

2.)  On a large work surface, lay out 12 potsticker wrappers.  With a 1 Tbsp measure, measure out 1 Tbsp of the filling and place it in the center of each wrapper.  Dip a small pastry brush in a small cup of water and apply a light coating of water on half of the outer edge of each wrapper.

3.)  Fold each dumpling in half to make half moons, attaching the “dry” side to the side that has been moistened with water.  Prop dumplings up on their base.

4.)  Place a large non-stick frying pan on stove top and turn on heat to medium.  Pour 2 Tbsp of oil in the pan and let it come to temperature.  Place dumplings onto heated oil so that they make good contact with the hot pan.  You can place the potstickers in the pan slightly separate from one another or snugly lined up so that they are touching depending on how you would like to serve them later.  Let the dumplings cook at medium heat for 3 minutes (uncovered).

5.)  After 3 minutes, place heat on high and immediately pour in 1/4 cup of chicken broth.  Place cover on and continue to cook the dumplings on high heat for about 4 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and you start to hear a lot of commotion going on in the pan.  Turn off heat, remove lid carefully, and run a heat-proof spatula under the potstickers, then transfer them to a serving platter.

6.)  To make dipping sauce, combine soy sauce, white vinegar, Asian hot sauce, and chopped cilantro.  Serve aside hot potstickers and enjoy!

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #3: Ha Gao Dumplings

The great thing about being Chinese American is that you can celebrate New Year’s, twice, every year.

It’s also ironic though, because just after creating all the these January New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and make better choices, by February the Lunar New Year is a time where stuffing yourself silly is definitely encouraged if not mandatory.

Dumplings, noodles, rice cakes…go for it!

You see, Chinese New Year’s is like Christmas for the Chinese.  It’s the no holds barred holiday of the year where even if you aren’t skinny you’ll be told that you are just to encourage more eating.  “Please, eat!!!” your Chinese aunties will say.  And to make the holiday that much more calorific, Chinese New Year festivities last for two whole weeks!

As you already know, I love my tea foods and dim sum and because this a fact, I find that making dim sum at home can be just the right time to lighten things up a little.One of the quintessential food items to feast on during Chinese New Year celebrations are dumplings.  My favorite are the steamed ones, and Ha Gao are at the top of that list (right behind Siu Mai).  These white, translucent little pouches might seem light and healthful when they arrive at your table delicate and steaming, but Ha Gao dumplings actually contain a fair amount of pork fat or lard.

Not all dim sum recipes are easy to make healthier.  Luckily, with the use of a special ingredient in this Ha Gao recipe, it can be done.  The secret ingredient?  Vegetable oil spread, which brings some richness to the shrimp filling by serving as a replacement for pork fat.

I know the dim sum masters out there are probably quite displeased with me right now, but the way I see it–balance is key, especially when it comes to food choices.  Oh yes, and there are no pleats on my Ha Gao.  I’ll leave the fancier tricks for those same dim sum masters to execute!

The slightly chewy texture of the homemade wrapper is what makes this recipe especially delicious.  The dough easily comes together in not more than 5 minutes.  It’s common to use a Mexican tortilla press to flatten the dough balls into flat wrappers, but it’s really not necessary.  Just use any flat bottom pot or bowl and press down evenly and deliberately.

The more pressure you exert the flatter (and thinner) the wrapper will be.  Especially if you are new to the process, don’t press the skins too thin otherwise they will be really hard to work with.  Slightly thicker than a nickel coin thickness is about right. The process is very similar to making homemade tortillas.

I’ve made two versions of Ha Gao here.  One type is the more traditional filling with a white wrapper.  The other kind has spinach in the filling and some emerald green matcha in the wrapper for taste and color.  At the end of 2013 I went matcha-crazy, and apparently I am still suffering its effects.  At least this time, I’ve ventured into the savory realm!

Celebrate Chinese New Year and your New Year’s resolutions with light and steamy Ha Gao shrimp dumplings.  There is nothing like opening a bamboo steamer lid to find these delicate pouches staring up at you.  This is one time where making a dish homemade is worth the extra effort.  Eat these elegant dumplings fresh out of the steamer without hesitation or guilt…hey, you can only celebrate New Year’s twice every year!

Ha Gao (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings)

Makes 24 dumplings.

Ingredients:

{Filling}

12 oz. peeled, deveined shrimp

2 tsp less-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp sherry

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp grated ginger

3 Tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread (I used Natural Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) @ room temperature

2 tsp white sugar

1/8 tsp white pepper

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 of 8 oz. can of sliced bamboo shoots, drained and diced

2-3 stalks green onion, sliced thinly

****Green Wrapper Variation:  2 cup spinach, microwaved for 1 minute (uncovered), then chopped finely

{Ha Gao Wrappers- makes 24 dough balls}

Note:  You can easily make both the white and green wrappers for one batch of filling by cutting the wrapper recipe in half and placing one portion of the ingredients in one mixing bowl, and the second portion (with matcha added) into another separate mixing bowl.  You’ll end up with 2 doughs, one dough ball making 12 white wrappers and another dough ball making 12 green wrappers. 

2 cup wheat starch

1 1/3 cup tapioca flour

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread (I used Natural Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)

1 cup water just before boiling (175 degrees F)

*** Green Wrapper Variation:  mix 1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder into hot water

Equipment:

bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

1 Tbsp measure

parchment paper, cut in circle to size of bamboo steamer and perforated with 1″ cuts throughout

food processor

one large ziplock bag

scissors

large flat-bottom pan or mixing bowl

Directions:

1.)  In a food processor, process 6 oz. of the shrimp with the 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil spread.  Cut the other 6 oz. into a 1/4″ dice.  Mix all filling ingredients together with shrimp, gently mixing in green onion last (and spinach if using).  Set aside in fridge to chill.

2.)  Place dry dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Add the hot water and oil and mix the dough with chopsticks (or a spoon) until you get a shaggy dough, then knead the dough for about 2 minutes until you get a smooth dough that is very slightly tacky without actually sticking to your hand.

ha gao wrapper dough

3.)  Divide dough in half and roll each dough ball into a log, about 12 inches.  Cut the log in half, then cut each half into half again.  Cut each of the 4 shorter logs into 3 pieces.  You will get 24 dough pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, then place in airtight container and set aside.

*** Green Wrapper Variation:  If you have decided to make both the white and green wrappers, you should execute steps 2 and 3 once for the white dough and again for the green.  As a result you will have 12 dough pieces from the white dough and another 12 pieces from the green dough.  

4.)  Cut all 4 edges off of the ziplock bag to create 2 squares of plastic.  You will use the two plastic sheet pieces to make wrappers.

5.)  Place a dough ball on top of one square of the ziplock bag, then place the other plastic sheet on top.  Using both hands on opposite sides of the flat-bottom pan,  press down directly onto the dough ball with a deliberate and even pressure.

Press dough ball until you get a 3 3/4″circle (or just under 4″) that is about 1/8″, slightly thicker than a nickel.

After the dough ball is flattened, peel off top plastic sheet carefully.  Flip the wrapper onto one hand, then peel off the second (bottom) plastic sheet to free the wrapper carefully and completely.  If your wrapper doesn’t detach from the ziplock sheet easily your dough has too much moisture and you should knead in some more tapioca starch into it to create a less-tacky/sticky dough.

6.)  Fill the wrapper with 1 Tbsp of the shrimp filling (regular filling for the white dough, and spinach filling for the green dough).  Fold half of the circle over the other half and press lightly to seal and create a half-moon dumpling.  Pinch the edges of the half-moon to seal.  Sit the dumpling up on its base and bring both edges in on one side.  Press edges of dumpling just off the vertical center of the dumpling, creating a propped up pouch-looking dumpling.  Repeat this process to make all 24 dumplings, then place the dumplings in a bamboo steamer lined with perforated parchment.

***  Make Ahead Tip:  Dumplings can be made up to 2 hours ahead of time and placed in fridge until steaming time.  Dust bottoms of uncooked dumplings with tapioca or wheat starch to prevent sticking.

Fill a large wok or stockpot half full with water and bring to a full boil.  Place bamboo steamer on top of wok or pot, then steam for 12 minutes while water is on full boil the entire time.  Eat Ha Gao fresh, right out of the steamer with soy sauce or chilli sauce for dipping.

Love Dim Sum?  Please check out my other recipes!  And as Chinese New Year comes closer there will be more to come!

Dim Sum Recipe #1:  Siu Mai Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers

Dim Sum Recipe #1: Siu Mai Dumplings

It doesn’t get more Cantonese or more delicious than this:  steamed siu mai dumplings, the “must-have” of any dim sum meal.  My parents live in Rowland Heights, an outer-suburb of Los Angeles, also known as one of the best places to get Chinese food in all of California. This city has become an Asian American ethnic enclave over the last 15 years, with many choices of Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese restaurants to choose from.  My parents often remark that they are “tired of eating” as a result of living there.  If you are ever in LA and stop by Rowland Heights, you will most certainly realize what they mean.

If you are going out for dim sum (aka to “yum cha” or literally, to “drink tea”) you will see bamboo steamers filled with piping hot siu mai at pretty much every table in the restaurant, with of course, a teapot of hot tea to share.

Getting dim sum is one of the times where “tea etiquette” takes on an entirely different meaning.  When ordering, it’s important to focus, know what you want, and be clear with the Chinese cart ladies.  If all else fails, point to what you want.  There is no time for dawdling or shyness here–for goodness sake, people are eager to get their siu mai fix on!  Above all, just don’t piss off the Chinese cart ladies, otherwise they won’t come back.

If you are wanting to forgo the weekend Chinese restaurant madness but are still craving some delicious siu mai, here is the recipe for you.  Of course it’s always fun going out to dim sum, but once in a while it’s really satisfying making your own set of steamy dumplings, especially since you can make them healthier and have lots of leftovers too!  These siu mai are simple to make, classic, and delicious…perfect with a cup of pu-erh or oolong tea.

Topping options for siu mai:  mini cubed carrots, thinly sliced green onions, a tiny blob of chili sauce, or my untraditional favorite…a single salmon caviar egg!

Siu Mai Dumplings (Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumplings)

Makes about 30 dumplings.

Ingredients:

6 oz fresh deveined shrimp

1 lb ground pork

1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (I used sliced but you can also use whole)

3 green onions, thinly sliced, white portions removed

2 egg whites

1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 Tbsp cooking sherry

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chicken bouillon

1/4 tsp white pepper

wonton or siu mai wrappers

non-stick spray

mini cubed carrots, thinly sliced green onions, chili sauce, or salmon caviar eggs to garnish (optional)

Equipment:

large bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

cookie scoop with 1 3/4″ diameter (2 Tbsp)

Directions:

1.)  Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 20-30 minutes depending on size.  When completely softened, drain off liquid, remove stems (if using whole mushrooms), give mushrooms a light squeeze to remove excess moisture, and cut into small pea sized pieces. Alternatively, place hydrated, drained, and squeezed mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until you get small pea sized pieces.  Set aside into a large mixing bowl.

2.)  Chop (or process) shrimp into small pea sized pieces.  Add to mixing bowl.

3.)  Add ground pork, green onions, egg whites, soy, sherry, sesame oil, cornstarch, sugar, bouillon, and pepper to the mixing bowl and gently mix until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

4.)  Prepare a large, clean workstation for assembling the dumplings.  This station should include a small bowl for water and the bowl of mixed meat filling.  Place a damp paper towel over the wrappers to prevent them from drying out.  Prepare the bamboo steamer by lightly spraying it with non-stick spray or by placing a round piece of parchment in the base of the steamer.  If using parchment, pierce or cut several small holes all over the parchment round so that the steam will circulate and cook the dumplings evenly.

5.)  To fill wrappers, place an even scoop of the meat filling in the center of each wrapper, then use fingers to wet all 4 exposed edges of wrapper.  Bring up edges of wrapper and stick them to the sides of center “meatball.”  Tighten the dumpling wrapper around the filling with your fingers, forming a cylinder-like shape with a flat bottom.

6.)  Place open-faced dumplings into prepared steamer, about 1″ apart from one another and away from the sides of the steamer.  When the steamer is full of dumplings, fill the wok or stockpot 1/2 full with water and place on stove top on high heat.  When water has reached a full boil, place the bamboo steamer (with top on) atop the wok/stockpot.  Steam siu mai for 10-12 minutes or until completely cooked through.

7.)  Garnish siu mai tops with carrots, green onion, chili sauce, or caviar.

Step-By-Step:

Simple ingredients for a traditional dumpling

My secret to professional looking siu mai…a cookie scoop!  Works for cookies so why not for dumplings?

Use generous dabs of water to stick skins to side of “meatball” centers

This completes my first post on dim sum…stay tuned, many more to come!

Dim Sum Recipe #2:  Honeyed Pork Buns (Baked Char Siu Bao)

Dim Sum Recipe #3:  Ha Gao Dumplings

Dim Sum Recipe #4:  Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)

Dim Sum Recipe #5:  Pork & Chive Potstickers