When in Rome, do as Roman do and when in Singapore celebrate the Chinese New Year with dumplings and oranges. This is our first lunar new year in Singapore and it’s been fun so far. Everything is decorated in red and orange. Four days of holidays and family reunions everywhere you see. Unlike the English New Year, Chinese New Year involves lot of preparation, celebrations (15 days), reunion, and traditions. Market is filled with oranges, pomegranates and tens and hundreds of varieties of candies and snacks. People exchange Oranges and Tangerines. Oranges symbolize good luck and Tangerines symbolize wealth. Families get together and cook dumplings with every member taking part in the process. I am not a big fan of Chinese food but I found the idea of dumplings very interesting. Especially the way they are shaped.
I wanted to try making a vegetarian version of the dumplings (also known as dimsums or pot stickers). Boiled Dumplings are called Jiaozi. Pot stickers are famous in the west and are fried in a small amount of oil before steaming them slightly.
You can practically fill the dumplings with anything you like. I have used carrots, cabbage, beans, and paneer. Baby corn, Mushrooms, tofu are good options to try.
Shaping the dumplings is not as tough as it looks. The trick is to roll out the dough thin on edges and slightly thicker at the center. You can buy the ready made dumpling sheets too. You can even make colorful dumplings by adding natural colors. Add spinach puree to the dough for green and carrot puree for orange color.
Dumplings are always served with a dipping sauce. I wanted to make a spicy sauce which could complement the not so spicy dumplings and wanted to stay away from the oily dips. You can try the traditional soy sauce based dips too which are not very spicy. Dumplings are usually served as a starter or side dish. Happy New Year!
Makes 16-18 dumplings
For the Dough
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (Maida)
- 2-3 pinches of salt
- Water to knead the dough
For the Filling
- 1 ½ tbsp. chopped ginger
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped (use spring onion if available)
- ½ cup mixed vegetables (cabbage, carrot, beans)
- 5 tbsp paneer crumbled
- 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 1 tbsp corn flour diluted in little water
- ½ tbsp. soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Dip
- 5 fresh red chillies
- 5-6 garlic cloves chopped
- ½ tomato chopped
- 5 tsp rice vinegar
- 3 tsp brown sugar
Add salt to the all-purpose flour and knead into a soft and smooth dough using enough water. Cover and keep aside for 10-15 minutes.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients and blend them in a mixer till smooth.
In a wok or kadhai, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until aromatic. Add the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped vegetables, paneer, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and coriander. Add little water and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables and soft. Stir the corn flour mixture and add it to the filling. When the mixture thickens, turn off the heat. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely before assembling the dumplings. You should have about one cup of filling.
Divide the dough into equal portions and roll out thin sheets around 3 to 31/2 inches.
To make the dumplings, hold a sheet in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling with a dinner knife, or fork and position it slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Then fold, pleat, and press to enclose the filling to create a half-moon. You can steam them as is or try different shapes by adding pleats, joining the ends of the crescent etc.
Place the dumplings in the steamer at least an inch away from the edges. Steam for 8-9 minutes until slightly puffed and translucent.
If you want to cook them like pot stickers, heat little oil (appx 1tsp) in a pan. Add the dumplings and cook till they are little crispy. Add little dip and some water and cover immediately. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and toss to coat the dumplings with the flavor sauce. Cook little more till the sauce dries.
Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.