THE WASHINGTON POST – Grabbing a bag of dumplings from the freezer is a routine that many people – our staff included – turn to regularly to feed ourselves in a pinch. While their convenience is unparalleled, the almost meditative process of filling and folding homemade dumplings yourself can be a much needed respite at the end of the day.
Typically, meat dumplings are my go-to when it comes to fillings, but this pantry-friendly version featuring canned mushrooms, bamboo shoots, hoisin sauce and chili-garlic sauce has shown me that there are other, meat-free paths to dumpling deliciousness.
One of the things I love about coming up with these pantry recipes each month is that it forces me to try out new-to-me ingredients, such as the canned mushrooms used here. You can sometimes find different varieties depending on where you shop, but the most common are button mushrooms sold as either slices or a mixture of pieces and stems (either is fine for this recipe since the contents are getting thrown in a food processor). They have a wonderfully chewy texture compared to fresh that I find works particularly well in this application.
To prepare the filling, start by rinsing the vegetables to remove some of the salt brine they were packed in, and then give them a good squeeze to get rid of as much excess moisture as you can. (A watery filling would make the folding process a nightmare). Then finely chop them in a food processor (or by hand if you don’t have one) and mix them with hoisin sauce and chili-garlic sauce. If you’re not familiar with hoisin, sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, it adds lots of depth and umami with just a couple of tablespoons. And chili-garlic sauce brings some bright heat to the mixture, but you can reduce or omit it if you don’t like spice.
Now it’s time to assemble the dumplings.
I know people that sometimes love to go the extra mile by making dumpling wrappers from scratch – all you need is flour and water – but the convenience of store-bought wrappers is almost a must on a weeknight. (I typically find them in the freezer section, but some stores sell them refrigerated in the produce section). One at a time, dollop a spoonful of the mushroom mixture in the centre of each dumpling wrapper, dip your finger in a small bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper, then seal and fold as best as you can. Dumpling folding can be an art form, but don’t worry if you take a simpler approach or yours look more like a kindergarten art project. While we may eat with our eyes first, these mushroom dumplings will taste delicious regardless of how they look.
This recipe makes about 20 pieces, but you can easily scale it up to feed a crowd. If you do, enlist their help with the folding to turn it into a group activity and get dinner on the table faster. Then fry, steam and serve them up with your favourite dipping sauce.
Two to four servings (makes about 20 dumplings)
When finely chopped, the texture of canned mushrooms works excellently as a pantry-friendly dumpling filling. Hoisin sauce, sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, adds depth and umami, and chili-garlic sauce provides tonnes of flavour and a bit of spice. Folding dumplings might seem intimidating, but can be confidently tackled with a little practice. This recipe scales easily to feed a crowd, or you can make extra to freeze for later, so enlist the help of your household to turn it into a party.
Make Ahead: Lightly dust formed dumplings with flour so the skins don’t crack. Transfer the dumplings to a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching, and freeze them. Once frozen, they can be placed in freezer containers and frozen for up to three months.
Storage Notes: Leftover dumplings can be refrigerated for up to three days.
– One (13.25-ounce) can mushrooms pieces and stems, drained and rinsed
– One (eight-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
– Two tablespoons hoisin sauce
– Two teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
– 20 round wonton wrappers (from one 4.8-ounce package)
– Two tablespoons vegetable oil or another neutral oil, divided
– Half cup water, divided
– Soy sauce with a sprinkling of sesame seeds or your favourite dipping sauce, for serving
Squeeze as much water as possible from the mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Add to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (If you do not have a food processor, finely chop the vegetables by hand). In a medium bowl, mix together the chopped vegetables, hoisin sauce and chili-garlic sauce until evenly combined.
To form the dumplings, fill a small bowl with water. Place a dumpling wrapper on the countertop and spoon one tablespoon of the mushroom mixture into the centre of the wrapper. Dab your index finger in the water and dampen the edges of the wrapper. Fold in half, creating a half-moon. Gently press the two halves together at the centre of the curved edge. Then, working your way down one side from the centre, make two small pleats and press the edges closed. Repeat on the other side of the dumpling. When you’re done, the dumpling will be closed, with four pleats and a slight curve. Repeat until you run out of the mushroom mixture. You should get about 20 dumplings.
Alternatively, you can simply seal the dumplings without pleating by pressing the edges of the folded wrapper together and gently crimping the sealed edge four times.
In a medium, lidded nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm one tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add half of the dumplings, seam side up and evenly across the pan so they aren’t touching, and fry until golden on the bottom, two to three minutes. With the lid in hand, quickly pour quarter cup of water into the skillet, cover, and steam for five minutes, until the dumpling wrappers are cooked through; remove from the pan. Repeat with the remaining dumplings, then serve hot or warm with the dipping sauce.