Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegetarian Dim Sum Dumplings

I've been feeling a little guilty lately because a lot of the food I've been making for my dad has been dessert-ish and unhealthy. It's hard, though, because Mom usually makes main dish, and we don't have extravagant dinners to begin with, what with our household consisted of just 3 people. But still, I figured I had to start cutting down on the sugar and fat and maybe look into something a little more health-friendly.

I recently borrowed Andrea Nguyen's book Asian Dumplings from the library (check out her website), and it's filled with all kinds of cute and delicious recipes. Among them were the clear-skinned dumplings that you usually find in dim sum. Of course, you automatically think Har Gow which, disturbingly enough, contains pork fat (still not disturbing enough to keep me from gobbling those goodies down at restaurants - hey, so long as I don't see them putting it in right?), so I chose instead to make vegetarian dumplings, which are significantly healthier. Plus, I felt guilty about using the meat in the house, so veggies were cheaper and available on hand.

Anyway, they were surprisingly tasty and earned the approval of both Dad and Dragon Lady (aka Mom), which means that they were definitely a success. Folding is a little bit hard, as the dough tears VERY easily, but with some practice and a little TLC, you'll get the hang of it in no time.

Vegetarian Crystal Dumplings (Chai Kuih) - adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen


-1/4 tsp white pepper
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tsp light soy sauce
-3 large dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and minced(keep the liquid)
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1 tbsp canola oil
-2 tbsp chopped shallots
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and minced
-2/3 cup jicama, minced
-1/4 cup carrot, minced
-1/4 cup Chinese chives or scallions, minced
-1 1/2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp shiitake mushroom juice
-1 pound Wheat starch dough (see below)

1. Combine white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, 2 tbsp mushroom juice, and sesame oil. Stir.
2. Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots and garlic for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add shiitake mushrooms, wood ear, jicama, and carrots.
4. Pour in the seasoning. Lower heat and cook about 4 minutes.
5. Add chives/scallions and cook about 15-30 seconds.
6. Pour in the cornstarch mixture and cook about 15 seconds.
7. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. You can make the filling up to 2 days in advance, but return it to room temperature before filling the dumplings.
8. Divide the wheat starch dough into 24 equally sized pieces. Flatten each into a 3.5-inch diameter circle, and add a little less than 1 tbsp filling slightly above the center of each. Bring up the bottom edge and pinch together with pleats (half-moon shape). Be really careful because the dough tears easily!
9. Shape the dumplings so that they can stand up on their own. DO NOT refrigerate at this point! You can leave the dumplings at room temperature at most 1 hour before cooking.
10. Steam the dumplings over high heat for about  7 minutes.
11. Serve hot with chili sauce or soy sauce. You can also freeze them up for to a month, but thaw them completely in the fridge before steaming for about 3-5 minutes to reheat.

Wheat starch dough


-4.5 oz (1 cup) wheat starch
2 1/4 oz (1/2 cup) tapioca starch
-1/8 tsp salt
-1 cup boiled water
-4 tsp canola oil

1. Combine the wheat starch, tapioca starch, and salt.
2. Slowly pour in the water, and mix carefully with a spatula or spoon.
3. Add the oil and work it in. Aim for a medium-firm texture. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. If it is too wet, add a little more wheat starch.
4. Transfer the dough to an unfloured surface and knead about 1-2 minutes. It should resemble Play-Dough. Cut the dough into 3-4 pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 minutes before using.

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