Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pot Stickers of My Dreams

Now that I live in Hell's Kitchen I'm a hop and a skip away from Times Square. Having worked in and around Times Square for years, I'm no stranger to ordering greasy take-out during a busy working lunch. One greasy but delicious restaurant frequented by pretty much everyone I've worked with is Ollie's, famous for their vegetarian dumplings and yummy roast pork buns. The other day I got a craving for their bright green dumplings, but in my continued attempt to keep from ordering take-out, I managed to curb the craving, at least momentarily. But, while food shopping in Chinatown on Saturday I spotted something new in the refrigerator case--green wonton skins. I'd always assumed that the bright green and veggie flavored skins were something particular to Ollie's, but it appears I was wrong.

I spent the early part of the week planning a recipe for vegetable dumplings loosely based on what I assume is in my beloved Ollie's version. I tried to do some quick internet research to see what other people put in their veggie dumplings and quickly discovered that very few people seem to be making them. I was really hoping to find something out there on the interweb that would help guide my recipe in some direction since, even though I thought mine was decent, I'd never tried making a veggie filling (I usually use shrimp or pork). After a few days with no real success where recipe research was concerned, I remembered a book that I buried deep in the back of my bookshelf after moving (due to lack of space). A World of Dumplings has recipes for everything from pot stickers to pierogi and kreplach to samosas. Within the chapter on the dumplings of China was of course a vegetable dumpling recipe. It was eerily similar to mine, containing exactly the same ingredients, although with different ratios. The book's was quite cabbage heavy, while mine was more mushroom heavy because I happen to be crazy about mushrooms. I also thought the filling needed more moisture than the 1 tablespoon it recommended, so I tripled it. I also added a bit more carrot for sweetness to balance out the salty soy sauce.

It turned out great, and actually tasted quite a bit like Ollie's. My pre-made wonton skins were not as puffy and delicious as their homemade dough, but my filling certainly was exactly what I was hoping for. The ingredients in my recipe can very easily be substituted or reconfigured to suit your favorite vegetables, so long as they can steam in 12 minutes when finely diced and don't release too much moisture. You also don't have to use a green wonton skin (which is actually colored with vegetable extract from celery and broccoli), any store bought or homemade skin will do. These took a bit longer than usual to cook through, but I blame that on the green skins. Here's how to make them for yourself:

Vegetable Dumplings

2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage, plus 4 cabbage leaves for steaming
1 cup finely diced shiitake mushrooms and black cloud fungus (you can use just shiitake, I happen to love black fungus)
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 large scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 package wonton skins (This recipe will make about 20 dumplings)

1. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

2. Fill wonton skins with 1 teaspoon of the filling mixture. Wet the edges of the skin with water, fold skin over and press shut to form a half moon. Crimp edges shut. Repeat until all of the filling is used.

3. Line a steamer with the reserved cabbage leaves and steam dumplings on high heat for about 12 minutes. Enjoy!


**I serve them with a sauce that's 2 parts soy sauce, one part vinegar, one part water, a teaspoon of sugar and a tiny drop of sesame oil. I also add a few drops of chili oil when I have it, just for a bit of heat.

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