Help me improvise a vegatable dumpling recipe (i.e. figure out ratios)
April 18, 2017 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I would like to make some vegetable dumplings with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and maybe some carrot and garlic chives. I would definitely add other things for flavour (e.g. ginger, garlic etc.), but I'm not interest in other bulking-ingredients (e.g. other cabbages, tofu, etc.). I found many recipes of this basic format that I can adapt but none really make it possible (for me) to figure out the appropriate bokchoy:shiitake:carrot ratio.

So I found this recipe which refers to "four bulbs" or bok choy. That cannot possibly mean 4 full grown bok choys, right? Maybe 4 stalks. I mean it only makes 25 dumplings. But 4 stalks wouldn't make 25 dumplings. Maybe 4 baby bok choy?

This recipe has 10 mushrooms for a whole bok choy and then some cabbage (i assume for ratio purposes, I should add the bok choy and cabbage amounts.). That seems a little light on the mushrooms which I'm guessing is because it includes noodles and lilly bulbs as additional bulkers?

this one does 1:1 mushrooms and cabbage (presumably bok choy would have a similar role in the dumpling and thus be substitutable), but doesn't include any carrot. I suppose I could skip the carrot.

There are many other recipes, but they are either full of other bulking stuff which makes it hard to figure out how to modify the ratio or they are ambiguous (4 bulbs of bok choy).

I'm hoping someone who has a more intuitive grasp of cooking/textures/mouthfeel/flavour etc. etc. Will come in and say "I think you should use the ratio X:Y:Z".

Also, on the bok choy, when I make pork dumplings, it's primarily with the stalks. Some leaf bits make it in, but mainly I save the leaves for soup. I take it for these kinds of dumplings, based on the pictures, that I should chop the whole bok choy all the stem (minus trunk bit at bottom) and all the leaves?
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I make dumplings often and I use about 1/4 mushrooms, 1/3 cabbage, 1/3 shrimp or meat, and then the rest is cilantro, garlic, and chives.

I wouldn't put too much bok choy in the dumplings because it tends to have a high water content... I usually use napa cabbage (because it isn't made up of just the hard stalk part and has a good amount of leafy part) instead and let it drain for a while. You need the leafy part because it helps everything stick together better. I don't usually put carrots in my dumplings, but I think it could make them look more colorful-- I wouldn't use it as a primary portion of the filling, though.

I think half the fun of making dumplings is learning how to eyeball it! It's hard to go wrong with dumplings-- I bet they'll turn out delicious either way! The trick is to not over-fill them and to get a good folding method down, or else they'll fall open when you try to cook them.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 4:05 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

For those ingredients, I'd go something like 1 c chopped bok choy, 1 c mushrooms, 1/2 c carrots, aromatics to taste.

But I think you're worrying to much about the ratio, really --- you could use whatever quantities of vegetable you preferred flavor-wise, the key to good dumplings will be chopping everything finely enough and then cooking out enough of the water so that the filling sticks together. So long as you do that you could do 90:10 bok choy to mushrooms or vice versa and they'll come out well. I might give the bok choy stems a minute or two head start before adding the mushrooms and leaves just to make sure they soften properly.
posted by Diablevert at 4:48 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're using dried mushrooms the ratio will be different from fresh. Dried shitakes have so much flavor and if you use the soaking liquid that adds even more flavor, so if you mince them up very fine you'll get tons of mushroomy taste with surprisingly few mushrooms. Fresh shitake are still pretty strong in flavor but they have a lot of water in them and you'll need more for the same mushroom impact. On the upside though fresh shitakes have a great texture, I think, though the additional chewiness of dried and soaked ones can seem more "meaty".

I agree with the above commenter about the leaves being important to the cohesion of the filling, and also that it is kind of important to get the right ratio for your personal taste and wishes - the dumplings are gonna be delicious almost no matter what, so dont be nervous!

I think with that first recipe with the "bulbs", if you look at the picture where they are cutting it up their hand is just about the size of the biggest leaves, and I have fairly small hands and the larger baby bok choys will often be about that size. I do agree that that seems like a lot of bok choy, although it will cook down a lot, especially the leaves. I think if you're using fresh mushrooms, use less bok choy, and with dried use more. Cooking down the filling so you get out a lot of the water content will help.

Part of the reason that most dumplings have "filler" ingredients is not just to bulk out volume but to provide the right texture and cohesion of ingredients. Tofu in particular is fantastic at this, acting similarly to eggs in that it will hold everything together in a delicious bundle when steamed. So maybe if you're having trouble with things staying together try adding a small amount of one of the fillers you like the best and seeing how that changes the results.

Carrots would add pretty color, some sweetness, and boost the texture variety of the dumpling. I think if you're not wanting to taste the carrots particularly you can treat it like a flavoring similar to the ginger and garlic, in that it isn't relevant to your ratio and is just an add-on. Carrots do a good job of absorbing other flavors and will balance out any bitterness from the greens, but I'd say no more than a third as much in volume to the greens would take care of any bitterness, and any more will make things much more carroty.

So okay, if I were doing this (and I might, I feel kind of inspired now!) I would use fresh shitakes and a 1:1 ratio of bok choy to mushrooms, or dried mushrooms and a 2:1 ratio because I loooove mushrooms. About one carrot and a whole mess of garlic chives because dang those are delicious, plus a good chunk of grated ginger and garlic and a couple lumps of drained soft tofu broken up with a fork for binding. That would make a smooth, solid dumpling filling with some carrot for color but not enough for flavor and a lot of mushroom impact. I think.
posted by Mizu at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2017

The four bulbs of bok choy are this kind, sometimes called Shanghai bok choy or baby bok choy. They're pretty small so I think 4 bulbs is just about right for25 also pretty small dumplings.

The ratio is not really important for vegetable dumplings, it's mostly about making them to your taste.

The only other thing is, as others have mentioned, do use the leaves to help bind everything together and watch the water content of your filling, esp if you're making bigger batches. Putting a lot of bok choy in a pan will make it release water. I'd precook any choy and wring out the excess water in a clean tea towel. For smaller batches and sturdier choy (like gai lan) quick toss in a hot pan should be fine.
posted by stellathon at 4:55 PM on April 18, 2017

Ok I will try done improvising testing with 1 bok choy and half a lb of shiitake because thats how much I bought. And yes o was planning to precook to get water out.

But I went to the Chinese market today to try to buy garlic chives and couldn't find any . So i used Google translate to find the Chinese word and showed it to an employee who made a terrible disgusted face and went back to what he was doing. I assume my translation was bad. How do I find, identify, or ask for garlic chives?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:49 PM on April 18, 2017

Garlic chives are called gau choy in Cantonese and jiu cai in Mandarin (韭菜).

As an aside, garlic chives aren't in the same "type" of dumpling that napa cabbage would be in. They're two separate types of dumplings. The combinations I'm more used to having are either napa cabbage + shrimp, or garlic chives + pork. I do not think that garlic chives + napa cabbage would taste good, as the garlic chives have a rather sharp flavor.

I personally do not precook the vegetables (especially bok choy and/or napa cabbage). I think they'd be overdone by the time you cook the rest of the dumpling. In my experience, simply chopping the cabbage finely will make it release water in itself. You just let it sit around for about half an hour, no need to squeeze water out. That said, I think there are many different ways to end up with delicious dumplings!
posted by gemutlichkeit at 7:08 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

In NYC at least, Chinese grocery stores sell three kinds of chives: flat green, flat yellow, and round green. They are pictured on top of this article. They are packaged in bundles and available in the vegetable section.

For pork and chives dumplings, you would use the flat green kind (which is also the most common). If your store only sells one kind of chives, that's likely the one.
posted by yonglin at 7:59 PM on April 18, 2017

To expand on what yongling said, for anybody who doesn't want to click the link, the three kinds of chives are the same plant. The flat green kind are the regular leaves. The yellow flat ones are also the leaves, but covered up so that they don't have chlorophyll; they're the Chinese chive version of white asparagus. The third kind is actually the blossom of the plant.

The latter two kinds are more fancy, and tend to have a less chivey flavor/are delicacies that are generally not used in dumplings.

You might also have gotten a face from the worker because he didn't want to deal with somebody who didn't speak Chinese, particularly if you are not ethnically Chinese. Which is rude and unfortunate, but just look in the same place that the rest of the Asian greens are. Any decent sized Chinese grocery should have gau choy in stock this time of year.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:17 PM on April 18, 2017

I made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen a couple of weeks ago. None of those veggies are in season here so I just used spinach - I just made sure I had the three cups (washed, chopped, but uncooked) that the recipe calls for. If you can find a recipe that uses cups of filling as a total, rather than number of items, that might help? (I can vouch for that recipe, they were delicious! They do have tofu, though I expect you could leave it out and would just end up with fewer dumplings since you'd have a lower volume of filling.)
posted by john_snow at 6:54 AM on April 19, 2017

OK, so I am eating dumplings now.

First, I "chopped" in the food processor. This was fine for mushrooms, carrot, ginger, and garlic. The bok choy ended up more pureed than chopped. Given that chopping bok choy is my least favourite part of making pork dumplings and that this needed to be chopped finer, I I hoped it would be ok, but it was quite pureed and the whole thing was very watery. Oh, and I was disappointed by how much the filling cooked down volume-wise.

Oh, and I reserved about half the bok choy stems and chopped them by hand, only somewhat finely. This is because I like the bit of crunch texture that the bok choy adds to pork dumplings, so I wanted to retain these to add (raw) to the pre-cooked filling mix.

I precooked the filling. I thought I got as much of the water as realistic out (without ending up with the filling sticking to the pan), but when I was filling it still felt quite wet. It was dripping/draining fluid or anything, it just felt quite wet.

Fried then steamed dumplngs.

Flavour-wise, ok, I guess, but the filling didn't really bind together at all. I thought I wouldn't care about that, but it turns out, that i really do want to feel like I'm biting into the dumpling filling. I'm not sure how to address this. I'd like to be able to make some vegetable dumplings and keep the cost down, so I don't want to add something on the pricier side like tofu. I will probably also switch to dry mushrooms for both cost and flavour reasons. Any ideas for a way to get these to bind without adding much cost?

Here's what I made, FYI:

1 bok choy
1/2 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms
A couple of inches of fresh ginger
~4 cloves garlic
Some salt
Store-bought wrappers
Fried in sesame and canola oil (only because I ran out of sesame, would normally do sesame only)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2017

To make the filling stick together, try adding eggs and/or corn starch. Also, is tofu really that expensive where you live? Here it's about 99c/lb.
posted by yonglin at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2017

hmmm...I don't know how much tofu costs...hippie and yuppy foods tends to be more expensive than normal food, so I just assumed. I will check.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:23 PM on April 20, 2017

If you have access to an Asian supermarket, it's cheap as hell, because it's neither hippie nor yuppie to East Asians because it's just y'know. Tofu. Fresh mushrooms are also much cheaper at Asian grocery stores, to the point where mushrooms that are $18+ a pound at the local specialty grocer are about $6 a pound.

You want the extra firm tofu, not silken. In a lot of places, it'll come in a little plastic tub with a plastic top sheet that gets peeled away, but some places will have a giant vat where you fish blocks out with tongs.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:36 PM on April 26, 2017

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