Homemade Vegan Chinese Wonton 自制素饺子/ Tofu and vegetables dumplings

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I have made many dumplings before but never a vegan one. And sometimes when the quality of meat was not good, the taste really does put off your appetite. And I wondered, why do we try so hard to cover the unpleasant ‘meaty’ taste, and not just make it vegetarian? So I did a test, and it turned out so great that even my non-vegetarian husband and sister loved it! And I see no reasons to make these dumplings with meat anymore in the future again. Win win, yeah!

It’s so easy that you wouldn’t believe, and you can make it two ways: boil or deep-fried like the normal ones. But here I’m going to show you my special trick that is healthier, still got the same crispy wonton edges. Instead of frying them in big pot of oil, I baked them, which I could control the amount of oil i brush on top, therefore a healthier option. 😉

IMG_9556(Make about 27 Wontons)

Ingredients:

1/2 pack wonton wrappers

1 pack tofu, crumbled

1 tbsp minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 spring onion, minced

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 dl sweet peas

coriander, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp potato flour

1/2 tbsp Shao Xing wine

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp salt

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

  1. Defrost wonton wrappers completely, preferably in a fridge for a day or in room temperature for a couple hours.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl. Place halve a tablespoon of filling onto a wonton wrapper, close the edges completely by pressing with your fingers. Repeat until all the filling is used.

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To get boiled wonton:

Bring water to boil. Add 1 tsp of salt and oil, boil wontons for about 2 minutes or until they are floated on the water. Take them out with sieve and serve with soy sauce, dark Chinese Chinkiang vinegar and julienned ginger.

To get ‘deep fried’ / baked wonton:

Preheat oven to 200 ºC. Place wonton on an oiled baking sheet, brush each wonton lightly with oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve with Thai sweet chill sauce or mayonnaise.

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I personally like the boiled wontons better. They are more juicy and I simply love vinegar. The baked/ deep fried ones are good too. You know, crunchy texture and more fragrant. Try them yourselves. It’s great for parties. 🙂

Onigiri /My new favourite thing 饭团

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Last Christmas my husband and I went travelling to Japan. We were visiting Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Tokyo and Nagoya. We also soaked in the onsen of Hakone and ate the legendary black egg that cooked in the hot spring. The whole trip was spectacular. Foods were amazing, it’s killing me to even think about it. Despite ramen, I also felt in love with onigiri, this simple rice dumpling with a little stuffing inside. The Japanese have proved their love of rice. I swear I have never eaten anything better than the rice I ate in Japan. Need not to put anything, I would eat 2 bowls of Japanese cooked rice with no doubt, which I did anyway. The texture is firm and chewy, the fragrance is indescribable. You would have missed out a lot if you are on a low-carb diet, it’d had be so wasteful.

I became addicted to onigiri since there have been a lot of times when we starved while travelling from places to places, a Japanese kiosk then saved our life. Costs around 1€ (150 ¥) each, two onigiris would be a satisfying meal for me already. Always available and always so tasty. Who said that you can’t travel cheap in Japan? Well we have paid between 300¥ to 60000¥ for a meal, as you can see you really do have a choice.

Talking about rice, you must use good quality Japanese rice for making onigiri. Trust me, I have tried with Jasmine rice, bad Japanese rice and good Japanese rice, huge differences that you would not have guess. Basically you can stuff anything you like inside the rice dumpling. The most typical ones are with salted salmon, fish roe, pork chop, chicken, shrimp with mayonnaise, tuna, egg, and even sour plum which was not my favourite. It’s up to your preference. Be creative!

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(Make 6-7 onigiris)

Ingredients:

400ml High quality Japanese rice

600ml Water

140g Salmon/ Seaweed roe for vegetarian, more suggestion see below

1tsp Salt

1/2 tbsp Butter

2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (Optional)

Methods:

1) Wash rice until the water becomes clear and drain. Add water and washed rice to a pot and bring to boil. Stir well and turn the heat to the lowest and cover with lid. Let it cook for 15 minutes and turn the heat off. Let it steams by itself for 5-10minutes then it’s done. Add in the vinegar and mix well. Let it cool for a little bit.

2) Heat up butter in a pan and add salmon. Fry until the salmon is cooked. You can break the salmon after it is cooked and then add salt in it, or break the salmon while frying and add the salt. The first method you get a juicier fish and the latter you get a crispier texture.

To form a onigiri, you will need:

1tbsp Salt

1 bowl of water

3-4 Nori seaweed, cut in half into a rectangle shape

1) Make your hands wet with water and rub some salt on your palms, take rice and form a triangle shape.

2) Dig a hole in the middle of the triangle-shaped rice and add in the salmon flesh/seaweed roe. Cover the hole with a little rice and press firmly to shape the rice dumpling. Wrap half a nori sheet around it and voila, you are good to have a big bite.

IMG_2228 IMG_2232I have to say that my favourite stuffing is the dried fish roe and seaweed mixture powder that you can buy from a Japanese grocery store, which gives the most taste to onigiri. Nowadays creative people are making onigiri with barbecue chicken, kimchi and many more. For vegetarian, I’d suggest putting seaweed roe, tamagoyaki, smoked tofu, flavoured seitan and kimchi.

Add some black sesame seed for a more appealing look!

IMG_2235Isn’t it a good idea for picnic? 😉

Somtam Salad / Spicy Thai Salad 凉拌泰式沙拉 & Birthday

IMG_5917 It’s been a really hot summer. The weather doesn’t make me feel like eating or doing much. I’m not a big fan of salad, but lately I’ve been craving for something light, spicy, sweet and sour because of the heat. And here it is. Som Tam is a Thai salad dish that I’ve learned to love when I was working in a Thai restaurant downtown Helsinki. It was one of my favourite Thai dish to order from the kitchen especially during a long, hot working day, it always brought back my appetite. Usually serve as a starter, sometimes as a main pairing with steamed jasmine rice, hmmm… The original version is made with exotic ingredients like green papaya, Asian dried shrimp and fish sauce. For this post, I’m making it vegetarian with  ingredients that are easier to find, for example to replace green papaya with rutabaga, which tastes almost the same. The soul of this dish is the chili-lime dressing, which you can use it also as a dipping sauce, and a dressing for other dishes such as noodle salad or beef salad.

I made this dish as a side for my husband’s 26th birthday party last Saturday. Everything was gone beautifully. 😉 My vegetarian relatives loved it too! Other than Som Tam, I also made Malaysian curry chicken, pork dumplings and Thai style spicy tofu with mixed vegetables for our guests. We had a really nice brut to start, continued with a bottle of Alsatian rosé to pair with the food. It was a really nice lunch celebration. Together with our family we bought a bicycle for my husband as a gift and he was really happy about it. IMG_5910   Thai chili-lime dressing

4 Garlic, minced

1-2 Chili, minced (deseeded if you are less tolerant)

4 tbsp Soy sauce /Fish sauce

Juice of 2 lime

1 tbsp Brown sugar

Method:
1) Pound the chill and garlic with mortar and pestle if you have one.

2) Mix everything together until the sugar dissolved. And voila! You have a lovely Thai dressing.

 

Continues to the cheat version of Som Tam recipe

(Make 2 servings as main or 4 servings as side)

200g Rutabaga, peeled and thinly shredded

150g Carrot, peeled and thinly shredded

100g Green beans, cut into 1” length

100g Cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp Toasted peanut

Methods:

1) Blanch green bean in boiling water for about 1 minute. Strain and rinse under cold water, drain well and set aside.

2) Mix all the ingredients together with the Thai chilli-lime dressing. Let it stands for a few minutes in room temperature to absorb the sauce.

3) Take the dish out and discard excessive liquid from the salad. Top with additional roasted peanut or coriander leaves if desired. Serve.  

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And of course, if you could get green papaya easily then you should definitely use it for this recipe. But in Finland, rutabaga is available all year around in any shops, therefore I’m using it here 🙂 If you have dried shrimps and are not a vegetarian, toast them and add them here for more authentic taste.IMG_5905

IMG_5914It would look better on a bed of salad if you could imagine. 😉

IMG_5939The cook and the brut.

IMG_5957Celebration in progress.

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This is a dish that you could adjust according to your preference. Sometimes I like to put more sugar, sometimes I’d put more chili. Taste the sauce before mixing the ingredients in and you are on good hands. I also like to mix this chill-lime dressing with glass noodle, add some mint leaves, cucumber and shallot and it becomes another delicious Thai dish that is perfect for the summer. 😉 I also found a really good post about making Som Tam, check it out here.

Stir-fried Mushrooms in Ginger & Sesame Sauce 麻油姜片炒杂菇

IMG_4404 Okay, to me it is like the easiest and yet delicious Chinese dish on earth. It’s irony how I’ve turned out to be a mushroom lover. Looking back on how I used to hate them a lot. To make me eat mushrooms, my mom has played some tricks. Once she spent half a day in stuffing those shiitake mushrooms with minced meat and braised them in some fancy gravy, I was still not impressed by them. And now that I have become a grown-up, I got so easily excited of mushroom: mushroom stir-fry, mushroom in soup, stuffed mushroom with blue cheese, grilled mushroom…All the legal things about them. 🙂

This dish is inspired by my cousin Joan, who also inspired me of singing as well. Joan used to be known as the best singer in town. I used to hum along at the background while she did her practicing. Trying not to make too much sound that anyone could ever notice me, because I just wasn’t good enough. But hey, time flies. I’m happy that I’ve got to be on the stage in front of everybody and sing my lungs out every now and then. It feels good!

Anyway, Joan has made this dish to me right about 13 years ago. Yes, I remember because it was so delicious that I could not forget. But her version includes chicken and chicken powder which I skipped this time. You should definitely make this dish if you like mushroom or ginger.

(Serve 2)

Ingredients:

300g Fresh Mushroom (I used King and Oyster)1 tbsp Ginger, julienned

1 tbsp Oyster/ Mushroom sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1tsp Sesame oil

Dash of White pepper

1tsp Potato flour

100ml Water

 

Methods:

1. Clean mushrooms with damn cloth or wash if you prefer, cut into edible size.

2. Heat up 2 tbsp oil in wok pan, add in sesame oil and ginger. Fry until the ginger turn golden brown.

3. Add in mushrooms, oyster/mushroom sauce, Shaoxing wine and white pepper. Stir-fry for a few minutes until mushrooms are soft and cooked.

4. Mix potato flour with water, slowly stir-in the wok pan. Stir fry until the gravy is boiling and formed. Serve with rice.

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I personally like this dish to be quite mild with simplicity. But I think some of you might want to add a dash of salt, as you wish.

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For all the mushroom lovers<3

Cherry Tomato and Chili Salsa/ Those sweet moments

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I have been really busy. Out of myself, have not even cooked a proper meal within a month. But then I went to the store today. These beautiful, colorful fresh cherry tomatoes completely caught my attention. Wow, they looked so nice that I must buy them ASAP and make some sweet tomato salsa. Just one week ago, my husband took me out for a dinner after another long day at work. We went to this newly opened Mexican restaurant downtown Helsinki that has been always popular since it is opened. Couldn’t get a table though, but we were lucky to have the window bar seats for the two of us. To start, we had guacamole, ceviche and tomato salsa with some freshly made tortilla chips. I was sipping on my Spicy Tamarin cocktail, memorizing those times that me and my husband had during our honeymoon. It was in Mexico, Cancun. Warm sun, crystal blue Caribbean sea. We had been quite poor when we started, therefore traveling to South America was such a luxurious thing to us. The funny thing is, part of our trip was actually sponsored by our wedding guests. We put out a ‘Honeymoon Bank’ at our wedding ceremony which really helped us a lot financially. 😉 Tomato salsa is a lovely thing. In Cancun, we had it at breakfast, as snack, starter, with main and even to end a course. Coronas and Sols were cheaper than water, so we had quite a lot of it as well. 😀 Ha ha!

So every time when there is a tomato salsa, it makes me feel good. The sweetness, pungency of the onion, saltiness, spiciness with the smell of coriander are simply irresistible. Today it was outstanding, since all the ingredients were so fresh. It made my day.

Ingredients:

500g Fresh cherry tomatoes (any kind), quartered

2 Medium size Red onion, finely chopped

1 Chili, finely chopped

A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 tsp Brown sugar

1 tsp of salt

Dash of black pepper

Methods:

1) Place all the ingredients in a deep bowl, mix well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or serve right away. (Like I did)

2) Add in more chopped coriander for your own preference. Serve with tortilla chips or as a side dish.

Note: If you don’t like spicy food, remove the seeds from the chili before chopping them up. 

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For a healthier approach, I used rye tortilla chips instead of salted corn tortilla chips, which is available in Finnish supermarket. And it worked perfecto!IMG_3358

To be honest with you, I don’t really know what these tomatoes are called. But the darkest one was my absolute favorite! It’s like a bottle of wine that is oak and aged well. Packed with flavors, complicated and has a long lasting taste. The yellow ones are sweeter and unexpectedly, those smallest red ones were lighter in taste. Tell me if I’m wrong, but my palate won’t lie. 😛IMG_3362

IMG_3375Just in case if you are interested, my new goal is to graduate from the university by next February and I’m having more time now to concentrate on my thesis. I’m also feeling more chilled now, learning how to relax and take things easily. But I bet I will be writing my thesis during my Christmas holiday though.

On the other hand, my sister delivered to a baby boy named Enso, and I’m totally in love with him! Watching him simply makes me happy, and my stress immediately goes away whenever I see him, what a miracle!

Here is a picture from our honeymoon in Mexico:21971_251791664590_5658517_n

Cheers to all of you, and have a nice weekend!<3

Szechuan Style Potato Shreds / Potato fetish & my Chinese friends 酸辣土豆丝

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I love potatoes. We Asians eat potatoes in all kinds of ways. I reckon the Peruvians do it the same way too, at least my Peruvian classmate told me so. Unlike most Europeans who eat potatoes as side dish or starter, at home we treat potatoes as a source of vegetables. Hence we eat it with rice. My Finnish friends were surprised and wondering, who on earth eat carbohydrates with carbohydrates? Well we and the Peruvians! If you happen to know some other interesting ways of eating potatoes, do let me know. 😉

Back home my mom used to make potatoes with fat pork belly with a lot of leek, it was one of my favorite dish. But for some reasons, I don’t quite like pork belly anymore. As some of you might have read about my ‘flexitarian’ diet, it does reduce my craving for meat. Good for me! I will try to make my mom’s recipe in vegetarian version and share it with you guys, if it turns out fine.

This dish, Szechuan style potato shreds was introduced by my friends Hong and her husband Xing, who came to study in Finland initially. Finland is a perfect place to study by the way; top quality education, high standard and most importantly free of charge for most foreign students. Despite the long cold winter, the only negative thing is that it is rather difficult for foreigners to get a job to work for a living, especially when you don’t speak Finnish language. When I first came to Finland, I didn’t know any Finnish. Therefore I had to accept a job in an Asian restaurant with extremely low pay, and that’s where I met my ex-colleague, Hong. Hong and I were very hard-working people. We were not that closed then, but I have always known that we had something in common, that we shared the same ‘helpless’ feeling. We were unhappy, to work for overtime, illegal pay and harsh employer. But we needed to work for every cent we could to afford our living in Finland besides studying full-time. None of us dare to report to the government since we were so afraid to lose the only jobs we had.

Thank god we learned Finnish eventually and found our way out from the trap. Not only that I graduated and still continue for further studies, I am now having a full-time job with decent salary and standardized treatments, even better than what the laws says. I have a great singing career with my band, have the opportunities to travel around places, things are going so well. Hong went on to open her own restaurant, this year she even managed to open another unit in downtown Helsinki. You see, things always turn out just fine; at least I’d love to think so. Don’t worry, be happy!

Hong loves Szechuan style potato shreds. I had no idea that there was another way of eating potatoes that I haven’t discovered, until I was invited to Hong and Xing’s home to eat. I have been in their home a few times; every single time we had on our dining table, potato shreds! I became loving it. It’s sour, spicy, salty and crunchy, simply irresistible! My unusual European husband loves this dish too. I’m so glad that he is never picky when it comes to food. I just love the whole out of him!

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Ingredients:

3 Medium size potatoes, julienned

1-2 Dried Chilies, soaked in hot water

1 Celery stalk (optional), chopped

1 tbsp Dark/ white vinegar

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tsp salt

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) Soak julienned potatoes in cold water to remove starch, wash and drain dry.

2) Heat oil in pan and fry chilies, celery with high heat until fragrance. Add potato shreds and stir- fry until the color turns transparent.

3) Add vinegar, soy sauce, salt and white pepper, stir well to allow potatoes to absorb the flavors. Add more vinegar if desired. Serve when the potatoes are still crunchy.

Note: It is important to wash away the starch to allow potatoes to cook faster in short time. It is also crucial to not over cook the potatoes. 😉

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I love the scent of celery, sometimes. But feel free to omit it or replace for spring onion if you like. 🙂IMG_0719

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