Have I ever mentioned my favourite dumplings?
Okay, I might not have mentioned it here, but I’m pretty sure I mentioned it more than a dozen times on Instagram. And if you know me in real life, I probably had at least a whole conversation with you about it. Perhaps even twice or thrice over, for some unfortunate few.
So these absolutely delightful dumplings are from Real Food cafe in Singapore, a vegetarian/vegan cafe. They are in all honesty, the best dumplings I have ever had. Yes, even compared to the meat-filled ones. These vegan ones are full of texture and flavour, and can knock those meaty guys off their dumpling socks anytime. And the filling is healthy, delicious and quite easy on the eyes – all three traits, very much unlike the grey mince meat filling of questionable origins that the typical Chinese dumplings have.
Whenever I make a trip back to Singapore, I would often be seen at Real Food cafe with 2 towers of Tiffin carriers, all 8 compartments filled with just a single menu item – these dumplings. I love these so much so, I just had to recreate these to satisfy my cravings. And I have to say, my recreation comes pretty close to Real Food’s – so much so, Non Wholly Dude declared just the other day, that we might not ever have to return to Real Food cafe anymore. And I found myself in complete agreement.
There are a few key things that makes these dumplings stand out from the rest, which I explain in detail below after the recipe. The recipe looks lengthy and scary, but it really is quite simple and relatively easy to make.
Without further ado, here is my take on the best dumplings ever.
Best Dumplings Ever
(Real Food Cafe inspired dumplings, recipe by Wholly Freak!)
This is by far my favourite dumpling yet. These are much easier and cleaner to make than regular meat dumplings and are also much tastier and healthier. This recipe is freezer friendly, double (or even triple!) the recipe to make a large batch with left overs to freeze.
Makes 28 dumplings
1/2 brown onion (50g)
1/2 medium carrot (70g)
100g extra firm tofu, drained and well pressed
3-4 dried organic shiitake mushrooms (10g) and hot water
60g cabbage, large stems removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 heaped tbsp Chinese parsley (aka coriander or cilantro), chopped
1 – 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce (or tamari)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
28 dumpling skins
1. Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms and leave to soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Reserve the shiitake broth and set aside.
2. Finely dice the onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and tofu into small uniform cubes. The smaller the better here, preferably slightly smaller than 0.5cm or 0.2″ in length. Finely slice the cabbages into thin strips. Cut any long strips into smaller strips, about 4cm or 1.5″ in length. Set aside.
3. Using a pan over medium heat, cook the onions for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and let cook for another 1 minute. Then, add the cabbage, diced shiitake mushroom and 3-4 tbsp of the reserved shiitake broth to the pan. Let the cabbage cook through for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage are done and the liquids are absorbed.
4. Add the tofu and carrots to the pan, then the light soy sauce, sesame oil and salt. Allow the vegetables to cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Throw in the chopped parsley and remove from heat. The mixture should taste well seasoned – the tastiness will be slightly toned down when eaten in the dumpling wrappers.
5. Once the filling has cooled, fill each dumpling wrapper with about a heaped 1/2 tbsp of filling. Try not to overfill the dumpling as it might split whilst cooking. (See picture above: dumplings are slightly overfilled) Swipe a fingertip of water along the circumference to encase and seal each dumpling. Then swipe another fingertip of water to scallop it. You can freeze the dumplings for further use (great instant meal or accompaniment to instant ramen) or proceed to cook them.
6. To cook the dumplings, gently boil them over low heat for a few minutes or until the dumpling wrapper is cooked. Be careful not to boil them in high heat as the skin is susceptible to breaking. Serve as it is with sesame oil, black vinegar or light soy sauce. Or over a bowl of Chinese noodles soup or just plain soup. Enjoy!
Key notes (on what makes these so good):
1. The key taste to these are the sesame oil and the Chinese Parsley (coriander). The more of both, the better these will taste. So these aren’t oil-free like most of my other recipes. You can’t omit the oil here as the sesame oil is the crucial to this dish. I only used 1/2 tsp here. If you are fine with using oils, feel free to use 1 tsp of sesame oil. As with the Chinese Parsley, you can never add enough of it, so add more if you wish.
2. The finely diced vegetables are what makes these so exquisite and delicate in texture. This may be a bit much to ask for, but try to cut the vegetables as small and uniform as possible and I promise it will make all the difference in texture.
3. The less water present in the tofu, the better. Drain and press the tofu out of as much water as possible before dicing. I usually also grill the tofu in slices before dicing. However, you may skip this extra step.
4. Real Food uses celery instead of cabbage in their dumplings. Feel free to substitute the cabbage for 30g of celery here and use 2 tbsp of shiitake broth instead of 3. Finely dice the celery and add to the pan with the carrots and tofu.
5. To freeze these: Lay on a single layer on a tray to freeze. When fully frozen, place the dumplings in a ziplock bag.