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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Vegan jiaozi (Chinese dumplings)

Annette
Annette Chan
Annette is a freelance journalist and copywriter based in Hong Kong. She has written extensively about food, travel, and culture in Hong Kong and Asia at large, and counts intersectional feminism, alternative music, and beauty as her some of her main interests.

Jiaozi are little pockets of joy. This vegan Chinese dumpling recipe gives you two options: a vegan pork substitute or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Makes 50 dumplings

Ingredients

50 round dumpling wrappers (storebought or homemade)

Vegan pork and cabbage

460g vegan minced pork (OmniPork works best)
150g shredded cabbage leaves
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 thin spring onions, minced
1-inch hunk of ginger, minced or finely grated
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp of sesame oil
1 tsp mushroom powder (optional)
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground white (or black) pepper

Garlic, chive and mushroom

10 small dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and finely minced
1 bunch garlic chives, finely minced and squeezed of excess liquid
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 thin spring onions, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1½ tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp sesame oil
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp of ground white (or black) pepper

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tsp Zhenjiang vinegar (white or rice wine vinegar work too, if you like tart flavours)
1½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Method

Assembly

  1. Place the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl. Stir the mixture thoroughly or knead it with clean hands until it reaches a paste-like consistency.
  2. Put a teaspoon of filling in a bowl and quickly zap it in the microwave until it’s cooked through. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Once you’ve made this recipe a few times, you won’t need to do this step.
  3. Set up your workstation. You’ll need a small bowl of distilled water, a clean damp kitchen towel to wipe your fingers on, and a clean baking sheet to hold the dumplings. (If you plan on freezing the dumplings, swap the baking sheet for airtight food containers — you can stack multiple layers of uncooked dumplings inside and separate the layers with parchment paper.)
  4. Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper. Dip your finger in the distilled water and moisten the outer edge of the wrapper – this will help the wrapper stick to itself.
  5. Hold your filled dumpling wrapper like a taco and start forming pleats on one half of the wrapper, making sure to firmly pinch each fold to the un-pleated half as you go. Work your way from one end to the other and make sure that the dumpling is sealed well.
  6. Keep forming dumplings until you run out of either the filling or the wrappers. (You can freeze any leftover filling for a future batch of dumplings, or sauté it for a quick topping for noodles or rice.)

Preparation

  1. To make guotie (pot-stickers): Warm a frying pan over medium heat and drizzle it with a neutral cooking oil. Place a few dumplings at a time in the pan and let them cook for a few minutes until the bottoms begin to brown.
  2. For crispy dumplings, flip them over and fry both sides until they’re golden brown. If you want your dumplings to have a steamed top and crispy bottom, don’t flip them over — pour about 50ml of water into the pan and cover it with a lid until the water has evaporated.
  3. Transfer the cooked pot-stickers to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
  4. To make shuijiao (boiled dumplings): Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then pop the dumplings in. Boil for about five to eight minutes, or until wrappers become translucent and the filling looks opaque and cooked through. Remove shuijiao from the pot with a slotted spoon.
  5. While your vegan dumplings are cooking, combine your dipping sauce ingredients in a shallow saucer, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot.

vegan chinese dumplings
Shuijiao (boiled dumplings).

While dumplings exist in some form or another in many international cuisines — pierogi, momos, and ravioli are just a few that spring to mind — perhaps the most famous version is the Chinese jiaozi.

According to Chinese folklore, these crescent moon-shaped dumplings date back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220), when famed Chinese medicine practitioner Zhang Zhongjing invented them while visiting his hometown during wintertime. As the legend goes, Zhang stuffed stewed mutton, chillies, and warming medicinal herbs into small, ear-shaped dough parcels — which he dubbed jiaoer, or “delicate ears” — and gave them to the townspeople to help them ward off frostbite.

As a hearty, affordable, and endlessly customisable dish, jiaoer (now known as jiaozi) gained popularity over the centuries. Thanks to their resemblance to yuanbao (ancient gold and silver ingots), jiaozi are now seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and are commonly eaten on the eve of Chinese New Year, though they’re a popular year-round staple in the colder northern regions.

plant-based porkThere are countless options when it comes to jiaozi fillings, but the humble pork and cabbage dumpling is a perennial favourite among the Chinese diaspora. It’s a classic combination you’re just as likely to find at a streetside noodle stall in Beijing as you are in a family-run takeaway in the UK.

Now, the increasing accessibility of plant-based meat substitutes is making it easier than ever for home cooks to replicate this comforting dish without any animal products – and the more “rustic” nature of jiaozi makes them far less intimidating than the thin-skinned dumplings found in Cantonese dim sum.vegan jiaozi

Both these variations of vegan dumplings — with plant-based pork and the vegetable base — are equally delicious, though first-timers may find the first filling easier to wrap as the plant-based meat acts as a binder. Think of this recipe as a beginner-friendly guideline rather than a carefully calibrated set of directions. Being able to customise everything — either out of preference or ingredient availability — is the beauty of making dumplings at home. That, and being able to freeze them for the times when you don’t know what to cook.

Check out more vegan recipes like these vegan Chinese dumplings.

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