Last month, my parents were in town and we had a spring roll/dumpling party where a bunch of friends came over and my parents showed us how to make vegetarian dumplings and spring rolls. It was really fun and delicious. I can’t say that I am entirely confident I can recreate any of it without close supervision, but here is as much as I can remember in terms of step by step directions. Keep in mind that my mom is 100% from the school of some of this, some of that, so it was really difficult to write down any directions, much less quantities!
Ingredients: shredded seasoned tofu, Taiwanese cabbage, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, jalapenos, spring roll skin (You can buy this frozen and defrost before using.)
- Chop/dice the ingredients (except the spring roll skin).
- Cook the ingredients separately. You have to precook the ingredients because the frying of the spring rolls is so quick that it isn’t enough time to cook the ingredients.
- Mix the cooked ingredients together with a little cornstarch to hold them together. You can also add a little soy sauce and/or sesame oil for added flavor if you want.
- We made a dipping sauce for the spring rolls and dumplings with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chopped ginger.
Technique: The technique for rolling and frying the spring rolls is pretty simple. Lay your spring roll skin diagonally so that it looks like a diamond. Put some filling toward the bottom corner. Roll the skin in a couple times, keeping the ingredients tight in the skin. Then, bring both points of the skin to the left and right in toward the middle, and keep rolling. There’s no need to secure the end point at the top, but when you fry the spring rolls, fry the side with the “loose” end facing down first.
Cooking: Use a little less than 1 inch of vegetable oil. Wait until the oil gets hot. You can drop a tiny piece of spring roll skin to see if it’s hot enough. If it starts sizzling, it’s hot enough. Then place spring rolls with the “loose” end facing down. When that side gets crispy and golden brown, flip it over. This part is a little scary, but if you think about how close you are to eating delicious spring rolls, you will get over your fear quickly. When both sides are golden brown, remove them from the oil and place them on some paper towels to soak up the excess oil. As soon as they are cool enough, eat them!
Ingredients: seasoned dry tofu, preserved vegetables, chinese chives, celery, dumpling wrappers
- Chop/dice the ingredients (except the dumpling wrappers).
- Mix the ingredients with a little cornstarch to hold the ingredients together. You can also add a little egg yolk to adhere the dumpling ingredients, but it isn’t really necessary. You can also add a little soy sauce and/or sesame oil for added flavor if you want. You don’t need to pre-cook the ingredients because it takes enough time to cook the dumplings that the ingredients will cook then.
Technique: We made two kinds of dumplings – the kind you can boil (very easy) and the kind to pan fry (takes practice). For the first kind, you just put some filling in the middle of the dumping skin (not too much or it will explode when you boil it), dip your finger in water, trace a little over half the edge of the skin with your finger, fold the skin in half, and press the edges together gently. (I forgot to take a picture of those because they weren’t that impressive looking.)
For the second kind, there was a lot of personal experimentation required. My dad had a really complicated method that involved various permutations of bunny ears, but I couldn’t master it. Based on his instructions, I came up with my own method. Basically, I think you need to figure out what works for you, but the idea is that you need to have a flat bottom so the dumplings can be pan fried and you don’t want the filling to come up when you cook the dumplings.
Cooking: This was also more challenging than cooking the spring rolls because these are pan fried, not deep fried. Heat a little oil in a pan and when it’s hot, lay the dumplings in the oil flat side down until they’re golden brown.
Next, you need to steam the dumplings to finish cooking them. To do this, add a little water (less than 1/4 cup) and cover the pan. The steam builds up in the covered pan and cooks the dumplings. The key is to not use too much water or the dumplings will get soggy, which defeats the purpose of pan frying them in the first place.
My dad adds a little water three different times. My mom thinks this is unnecessary and her dumplings do turn out just fine. I still haven’t figured out how to do this right 100% of the time and often end up with soggy dumplings that still taste good, but don’t taste as good as when you do it right. My main advice is to not underestimate how long it takes for the steam to cook the dumplings and to not overestimate how much water it takes to produce enough steam to cook the dumplings.
Time to eat!