This post is contributed by Uno Casa)
Many types of cuisine feature some form of dumplings. Think ravioli in Italian cuisine, piroshki in Polish cooking, or empanadas in Brazil.
In China, dumplings are believed to have been around since approximately 225 AD. One legend is that the first Chinese stuffed dumplings were made by a gentleman called Zhang Zhongjian during the Han Dynasty. After having been away for many years, Zhang went back to his ancestors’ village one winter. He saw that many of the villagers were suffering from frostbite, especially around their ears, and he wanted to help. He made a batch of lamb, healing herbs, and spicy chili and wrapped the meat in bits of dough, folding the dough to make small ears. He boiled the wrapped food and handed it out to the villagers. We don’t know if the food cured anyone’s frostbite, but the story goes that the people loved Zhang’s food and kept making it long after the spring thaws had come to the village.
Today, Chinese dumplings often feature as part of a Dim Sum menu of buns, spring rolls, and other foods. If you’re a fan of Chinese Dim Sum dumplings, you’ll love these homemade tofu dumplings that offer the tasty umami flavors of a meat filling using tofu and spices.
Note: For this recipe, mushrooms can be used in place of tofu. Saute finally chopped mushrooms with spices of your choice and use as filling.
This recipe makes 40 dumplings.
- 40 wonton wrappers
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 7 ounces (about 2 cups) brown or shiitake mushrooms, diced
- 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
- 2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 package extra-firm tofu (14 ounces)
- 4 green onions, finely sliced
- Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
- Small bowl plus 1/4 cup water, divided
- Extra soy or chili sauce (optional, for dipping when serving)
For the tofu filling
First of all, press the excess liquid out of your tofu.
If you have a Tofubud or other tofu press, remove the tofu from its packaging and put it in the press. Leave it for 5 minutes to drain.
If you don’t have a tofu press, wrap your tofu in a clean towel and place it in a perforated bowl or colander. Press a weight on top and leave the tofu for at least 30 minutes, checking that the liquid is draining (put your colander or bowl in the sink.)
Once your tofu has drained, pat it dry with paper towels or another clean towel, and cut it into 1/4-inch cubes.
In a large skillet or in a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the minced ginger for about half a minute. Add the onions and continue to sauté for 2 more minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 more minutes till there is no more moisture in the pan.
Put the cabbage and carrots into the skillet, and cook for 2 more minutes or till tender. Add your tofu cubes and stir-fry gently for another minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the sliced green onions, some black pepper, the sesame oil, and the soy sauce or tamari. Stir well to combine everything, taste test, then transfer your filling to a bowl and let it cool.
Wrapping your dumplings
Now it’s time to wrap your dumplings. If you are using square wonton wrappers, cut out a circle shape in each wrapper using a 3 1/2-inch round cutter. Do this for each wrapper. Once they are cut, cover them with a damp towel or with plastic wrap so that they don’t dry out.
Using a brush or with your fingers, gently moisten the edges of one side of each wrapper with a bit of water. Put 2 teaspoons of filling in the wrapper, and fold the sides together to form a half-circle.
Make sure all sides of the wrapper are sticking together, and press out air with your fingers. You want the filling to be tightly wrapped inside the wonton.
Brush a bit of water along the edges of both sides of the wrapped dumpling to moisten the edges.
Now use your fingers to make 5 or 6 pleats along all of the edges of your dumplings. Do this by folding and pressing from left to right.
Cooking your dumplings
It’s time to cook your dumplings! Take your nonstick pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil, and heat it over medium-high. Gently add enough dumplings to fit into the pan without crowding them (you need space between each one to flip them.) Fry them for 2 minutes till the underside of each dumpling is nicely browned.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly pour 1/4 cup water into one side of the pan. Be careful because the oil may spatter when you do this, so keep your hands away from the handle of the pan.
Cover the pan right away and let the dumplings steam for about 3 minutes or till the water evaporates.
Now remove the cover, and turn the heat up to medium-high, frying for 2 minutes more. You want the bottom of each dumpling to be nicely crisp.
Once one batch is done, add a tablespoon of oil and repeat the process for subsequent batches (adding 1/4 cup water per batch as before) till all the dumplings are done.
Serve with dipping sauce, and enjoy!