Chinese new year is almost here and in my family we have the tradition of eating vegan dumplings when the clock strikes 12 on new years day. My mom is known for her special homemade vegan dumplings. It’s filled with lots of veggies, and she follows the idea of a 5 element diet so the filling is colorful and flavorful. People simply couldn’t get enough of them and often request her for the recipe and now I’m sharing it with you!
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A delicious vegetarian or vegan dumpling is hard to find, not a lot of people make them and even less of them make it well. Most are filled with lots of processed elements such as tofu or dried radish, which doesn’t have much texture nor flavor. My mom’s been making her version of vegan dumplings ever since I can remember, since this is a family tradition. I must have watched her made these over a hundred times but this is actually the first time that I’ve ever made it from head to toe on my own. (Probably because she always think that I’m not fast enough) There are millions of dishes out there but I think this dumpling is the only one that really brings me home every time I taste it.
Mom loves bragging about this recipe too, saying that there’s no others like this one dumpling and she’s right! A good vegan dumpling should be balanced, she said, it has to include all 5 elements. The “Five Elements” are metal(金, jin1), wood(木, mu4), water(水, shui3), fire(火, huo3) and earth(土, tu3). Chinese people use this Five Elements theory for a lot of things, from interaction between internal organs, politics, Chinese medicine and even Chinese cooking and food. Five elements also represent our five main organs, which are lung (metal), liver (wood), kidney (water), heart (fire) and spleen (earth). This five elements also represent by five different colors, white (metal), green (wood), black/blue (water), red (fire) and yellow (earth). You can read more about the five element theory of Chinese cooking in this article from the Spruce if you’re interested.
The ingredients in this recipe is based on the color of the 5 elements: cabbage is white, spinach is green, shiitake mushroom is black, carrot is red and tofu skin is yellow. This recipe is also Buddhist vegan friendly so there’s no garlic or onions, ginger being the main seasoning for the filling. My mom usually adds an extra ingredient not listed in my recipe- black wood ear, I’ve omitted it since it’s not easy to find around here but feel free to add it if it’s available to you. It adds a very special texture to the dumpling.
After all these dumpling posts, I’ve gotten pretty good at making my homemade dumpling wrappers. I have to say that I definitely prefer this much more than the frozen ones from the Asian store plus I don’t need to drive to the store just so I can get those wrappers. I’ve been trying hard to make everything from scratch since I’m curious about how things were made back in the days and there are ingredients that’s harder to find like the tofu skin. I made mine from scratch, then fry it until golden in a pan to release even more flavor and create a firmer texture before adding them to my dumpling fillings. If you don’t want to make yours the best option is to use dry tofu or crumble up some extra firm tofu and fry until golden.
Dried Shiitake mushroom is such a key ingredient to this dumpling. The flavor and the aroma of it ties the whole dumpling together. It’s interesting how the mushroom loses it’s fungus taste after it’s been dried and a completely new flavor is created. It’s a bit smoky and the texture is meaty, firmer than the fresh mushrooms. It is a very important ingredient to a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese cooking and we often make soups and stews with it.
Dumplings are great for meal prep! Make ahead on a weekend, line them up on a non-stick cookie sheet and freeze them up. Dump into a bag when they’re all frozen and boil or make GYOZA WITH CRISP SKIRT when you’re hungry!! Psst… Add some homemade MALA HOT SAUCE to your dipping sauce if you like it spicy. YUM!
I would love to know what you think of this recipe, comment below or #ChewExperiment on Instagram and let me know!!!
- 1 Medium Cabbage Roughly 3.5lbs, you can also use Napa Cabbage
- 1 bunch of Spinach Replace with Bok Choy
- 2 C Tofu Skin Finely Chopped. You can also use: Dry tofu or extra firm tofu crumbled and fry until golden
- 15 Dried Shitake Mushroom Soak for 20 mins in warm water before use (or until soft)
- 3 small bunches of Cellophane Noodles (Mung Bean Noodles) Soak for 20 mins in warm water before use (or until soft)
- 2 skinny Carrot finely chopped
- 5 TBsp Soy Sauce
- 4 TBsp Sesame Oil
- 1 TBsp Sugar
- 1 TBsp Freshly Grated Ginger replace with ginger powder
- 2 tsp Ground White Pepper
- 1 tsp Salt or to taste
- 1-1/2 Portion of Homemade Dumpling Wrapper Search for "dumpling wrapper" at Choochoo-ca-Chew or see note below
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil.
- While the water is heating, clean and chop the cabbage into 8 wedges, spinach into 2" pieces so it's easier to blanch.
- Add the cabbage to the pot of boiling water to blanch for 10 seconds, spinach for 5 seconds. Drain and let cool. The reason the veggie has to be blanched ahead is to control how much water there is in the dumplings. Soggy veggies are dumplings enemy. By blanching the veg, it's softened and excess water can be squeezed out later.
- While waiting for the veggies to cool, chop the tofu skin, soaked mushrooms(Squeeze the juice out) and cellophane noodles into roughly 5mm pieces. Carrots need to be chopped slightly finer than that. Mix all the chopped ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Once the blanched veggies are cool enough to handle, chop them up into 5mm pieces then move to a nut milk bag/ laundry bag/ cheese cloth and squeeze out about 80% of the water. That's abstract, I know. I usually squeeze mine with both hands until the veggies clump together and forms a ball without falling apart easily and not too soggy to touch.
- Add the squeeze veggie to the mixing bowl and mix in the seasoning: 5 TBsp Soy Sauce 4 TBsp Sesame Oil 1 TBsp Sugar 1 TBsp freshly grated ginger 2 tsp ground white pepper 1 tsp salt (or to taste) Mix well. The best part about making vegan dumplings is that you can taste it and adjust accordingly!
- Ready for dumpling wrapping!!! See note below if you need instructions on how to wrap dumplings.
- Recipe for homemade dumpling wrapper: EASY DUMPLING WRAPPER | 簡單水餃皮
- If you need instructions for wrapping dumplings, check out my post on PORK AND CABBAGE DUMPLINGS | 高麗菜豬肉水餃
- You can easily turn your dumplings into a super tasty gyoza!!! Check out GYOZA WITH CRISP SKIRT | 冰花煎餃