I found myself back at the store the other night to pick up a few things and decided to take a look at the produce. It was looking better and I tried my best to remember the ingredients for the dumplings. The next day, after Little Missy zonked out after a marathon play session in the park, I figured I had my best chance to tackle these dumplings. It’s not easy to cook with a toddler underfoot.
· 2 cups finely shredded cabbage (I used Napa)
· ½ cup finely diced firm tofu
· ¼ finely chopped red pepper (I used sweet red pepper, not sure if they meant hot peppers…)
· 2 scallions sliced thin
· ¼ cup finely chopped water chestnuts
· 1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
· 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (I used 1tsp dried. I just don’t cook enough to get a bunch of the fresh stuff)
· I clove garlic, minced
· 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
· 1 tsp sesame seed oil
· Freshly ground pepper
· 48 wonton wrappers
· Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl until well blended together (except of course the wonton wrappers…)
· Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Place several wonton wrappers on a clean work surface. Spoon about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling into the center of each wrapper. Brush the edges with warm water. Fold over the wrapper and pinch to seal the edges. Place the filled wontons onto the prepared cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining filling and wrappers.
· Place several of the wontons onto the bottom of a bamboo steamer, about ½ inch apart. Arrange more on another layer of the bamboo steamer.
· Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the bamboo steamer over a pot of simmering water and cook until the juices are clear and the meat is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the cooked dumplings onto the prepared sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining wontons.
· When ready to serve, transfer to a serving platter. Serve with additional soy sauce.
This is the recipe exactly as it appeared on the Nick Jr. website. I’m not quite sure where the meat comes in to the vegetarian dumplings. I’m guessing this was an editing oversight. It’s hard to imagine any kind of meat being cooked in 10-12 minutes. And I’m not exactly sure how you’re supposed to see clear juices when steaming these things. Maybe the recipe was copied and pasted from some meat wonton recipe, which would explain the interchanging use of wonton and dumpling.
When making the filling, I left out the ginger and water chestnuts, not being a fan of either ingredient. I also left out the garlic simply because I couldn’t see it cooking through in the 10 minutes and didn’t really want to serve raw garlic to Little Missy (or eat it myself). While the recipe doesn’t specify the kind of cabbage to use, I decided upon Napa mainly because it’s more tender and would wilt if not cook faster and is more palatable even when uncooked. I also thought with a milder taste, it would be easier for a picky eater to stomach.
I struggled a little when assembling these suckers. At first I put too much filling in each wrapper. The delicate wrappers tore as the cabbage poked through and the edges didn’t really stick together. I ended up putting a scant teaspoon (as opposed to a heaping one) in each wrapper and then crimping the edges with the tines of a fork to make sure they stayed sealed. Since I don’t own a bamboo steamer, I used a regular steel steamer that I placed inside a pot of steaming water. What this meant was I was only able to steam 6 of these at a time, so it ended up being a slow process. The dumplings became rather sticky as they cooked and were difficult to peel off the steamer and also stuck to my rubber tipped tongs. As a result, a few of them tore. Perhaps they wouldn’t stick to a bamboo steamer. Also a few of the dumplings opened up a little. But all in all, the end result was satisfactory for a first attempt. I did not put them in a warm oven, but just let them cool on a serving platter. They actually became less sticky as they cooled (and the surface dried a little). I found that the filling part shrunk considerably as the dumplings cooked, so the “pastry” to filling ratio was rather large. I think this may be resolved if you give the filling a quick stir fry to wilt down the cabbage. That way you can put more filling in each dumpling. This would also allow you to add minced meat to the recipe and not worry about it being raw.
These dumplings turned out quite mild but had a pleasant taste of soy and sesame. I am sure that had I included the ginger and garlic they would have added some kick. I’m not sure how the crunch from the water chestnuts would contrast with the otherwise soft filling (but then, that crunch is precisely what I find off putting about water chestnuts). If you are preparing these for a more adventurous eater who can handle stronger flavors you could add some heat with crushed red pepper flakes. You could also play with flavors with your dipping sauce. I added a little bit of the sesame oil to the soy sauce and it gave the sauce a little more depth. You can also let the filling sit a little before assembling the dumplings to allow the tofu to marinate in the soy sesame oil. The filling might benefit from some acidity from a little rice wine vinegar. This recipe yielded 38 dumplings for me. It was a time consuming recipe mainly because of my small steamer. I started steaming as soon as I had enough to fit in the steamer basket and then continued to assemble as each batch steamed. All in all I spent about two hours making these.
My little taste tester was a little skeptical at first. She has issues with chewy gummy texture, which these dumplings tend to have. The edges were especially chewy, so I ended up biting off a corner and then letting her eat the rest. The filling was very crumbly and the dumplings were a little too delicate for her to feed herself but she did enjoy chomping down and tearing off bites of dumpling as I held them for her. I think I will experiment with other fillings to try to incorporate more vegetables and flavors to these dumplings and figure out a way to make them more sturdy in the hands of a toddler.