Every family has a heritage story, and today I'm partnering with Ragu to share mine.
It's been over 1,800 years since Chinese dumplings were first invented during the Eastern Han Dynasty by a "Medicine Saint" known as Zhang Zhongjing (张仲景) when he noticed that people's ears were frostbitten one cold winter. Wrapping a mixture of mutton, chili and herbs in dough, he folded the dumplings into the shape of an ear and boiled them in water before giving them to the poor. Though the recipe was simple, every ingredient used helped to warm the body, promote blood flow and thaw cold ears.
The Medicine Saint distributed dumplings from the first day of the winter solstice to New Year's Eve when the villagers had fully recovered from their illnesses. As a result, dumplings have retained a special place in almost every Chinese household from winter all the way through to the Spring Festival when we celebrate Chinese New Year.
As a tradition, my mom makes dumplings for us to eat as a expression of bringing in good luck and fortune each new year. For me, the making and eating of dumplings have always been a symbol of home and warmth, the same way Ragu's founder, Assunta Cantisano, bought her love and the taste of her home to countless households since she first began selling her homemade Italian sauce from the porch of her house during the Great Depression. No words can describe the Chinese people's affection for dumplings, the same way Italians love their pasta.
CHINESE VEGETARIAN DUMPLINGS
For dumpling skin:
- all purpose flour
For the fillings:
Shiitake and portobello dumplings
- cup dried shiitake mushrooms (diced)
- portobello mushrooms (diced)
- tofu (diced)
- carrots (grated)
- onion (diced)
- scallions (finely chopped)
- garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp corn starch/corn flour
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
Egg and chive dumplings
- 4-6 eggs
- 1 bunch of chives
- olive oil
- sesame oil
- salt and pepper
- pinch of sugar
- soy sauce
- black vinegar
- rice vinegar
- chopped scallions
Dumpling skin can appear to be intimidating to make at first, but I promise it's super easy! Maggie Zhu has an excellent instructional video on how to make and fold dumpling skin. Check it out here!
Shiitake and portobello mushroom dumplings
- While you are waiting for your dough to rest, prepare the fillings. Soak dried shiitake mushroom in hot water in a bowl for 30 minutes. Once the mushrooms have rehydrated (they should be soft and plump), rinse and strain the mushrooms. Remove the tough stems (if you don't like them) and dice the mushroom caps into small pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside.
- Rinse and dice portobello mushrooms and place in the shiitake mushroom bowl.
- Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic and onions. Sautee until fragrant and then add shiitake and portobello mushrooms for 3 minutes.
- Add tofu, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Next, add 1-2 teaspoons of corn starch or corn flour. This will help absorb the excess moisture and prevent your dumpling skin from becoming soggy!
- Remove from heat and add carrots and scallions. Mix well. Season to your preference and let the filling cool before wrapping in double skin.
Egg and chive dumplings
- Beat eggs in a bowl with sesame oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.
- Sautee olive oil and garlic in a pan until fragrant.
- Add eggs and cook until moist and scrambled.
- Remove from heat. Add chopped chives and mix well. Season to your preference and let the filling cool before wrapping in double skin.
Once the dumplings are wrapped and ready, let them chill in the freezer if they're not being immediate consumed.
Cook them by pan frying in a little bit of oil or simply cook them in boiling water for a few minutes. Fresh dumplings take only about a minute to cook while frozen dumplings will take a few minutes more. The dumplings will float on top of pot and be filled with air once the are ready. Serve with dipping sauce.
For storage, place the dumplings in zip lock bags and store in the freezer.