When I cut out most meats from my diet a few years ago, the one thing I missed the most wasn't steaks or burgers. It was my mom's pork and cabbage dumplings. To be honest, I still make and eat them once in a while because they're so good, but my tummy always feels funny after.
Enter this lovely vegetarian recipe from The Kitchn that gave me the courage to try using pressed tofu as a substitute for the pork. Their recipe actually uses baked tofu, which may be easier to find in an American supermarket; either way, you want to use a very firm, dense tofu. If you can only find plain firm tofu, you can press and bake it yourself to get it to the consistency you need for this recipe.
Because tofu can be pretty bland on its own, I like the addition of the shiitake mushrooms to add more umami to the filling. I also added bean thread vermicelli because I really like the texture they add to the dumplings. A big difference between this recipe and the one I usually make is that the cabbage is cooked first before being used in the filling. This allows you to squeeze a lot more water out of the cabbage so the filling isn't as watery.
Tofu and Shiitake Potstickers (adapted from The Kitchn)
makes about 60 dumplings
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 bundle bean thread vermicelli
1 small napa cabbage, roughly chopped
24 oz. pressed tofu
2 scallions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, beaten
60 dumpling wrappers
Soak the shiitake mushrooms and bean thread vermicelli in cold water. Remove the bean thread vermicelli after about 15 minutes. Continue to soak the mushrooms until they are easy to slice,.
Use a food processor to finely chop the vermicelli, napa cabbage, and reconstituted mushrooms separately.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes until softened. Add the cabbage and a few pinches of salt. Stir fry until the cabbage is completely wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, crumble the tofu into a large mixing bowl. Add the vermicelli, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and egg. Stir to combine.
Squeeze handfuls of the cooled mushroom-cabbage mixture in your fist to squeeze out as much moisture as possible and add to the tofu mixture.
Prepare plates or trays with flour for dipping and have a small bowl of warm water ready. Hold the wrapper in one hand and use the other to dip a finger in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper.
Put a spoonful of the filling in the middle of the wrapper and fold in half. Seal center portion of the joined edges. Make two pleats on both the left and right side of the dumpling. Make sure that the whole thing is totally sealed and then dip the bottom in the flour and place on the tray. Repeat 59 times. (You can find a small video of how to fold the dumplings here.)
Once a tray is filled, if you are planning on freezing the dumplings, place it in your freezer and work on the next tray. By the time the second tray is ready, the dumplings on the first tray should be solid enough to place in a freezer bag.
When you are ready to cook the dumplings, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium-high. Add the dumplings one at a time so that they are sitting upright. Once the bottoms are browned, add about a 1/4 cup of water (about 1/2 cup if cooking frozen dumplings). If you like your potstickers extra crispy, add some flour or cornstarch to the water and mix to get rid of the lumps before you add it to the pan. Cover and let cook for a few minutes until the water is almost all gone and the dumpling skins are translucent. Remove the lid and let the rest of the water cook off.
Serve with a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and a pinch of sugar.
I was quite impressed with how good of a ground meat substitute the crumbled, pressed tofu was. Seriously, if I wasn't paying attention, I might not have noticed that I was eating a vegetarian dumpling at all!
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