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. 😉

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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? 😉

Childhood memories of Lantern Festival / Piglet Biscuits (猪笼饼)

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Have you heard of lantern festival? A day when you might see Chinese children carry colourful lanterns, light up candles while the adults gather together and share a pot of tea with mooncakes? Well, I haven’t seen anything like that since I moved to Finland. Back then when I was little, lantern festival was one of the best days in my childhood.

I have the clearest memory when my sister and I were about 7-9 years old. Our primary school held DIY lanterns competition every year. A few days before that, we would run to a soft drinks shop next door and buy its ‘seasonal products’ like lanterns-making materials, and make our own lanterns with those shiny, colourful papers with glue and wires. We were pretty smart back then. I don’t remember much but I’ve always made a chicken lantern. I guess I only knew the shape of a chicken well since we always had chickens in our farm house. Not only lanterns, my sister and I also experienced making our own kites that flew high in the sky! It was so exciting!

About 300 meters away from my grandmother’s house (where I grew up) there is a Chinese temple called 三神庙 (Three gods temple). Each year there would be all kinds of celebration happening and so as lantern festival. Nearly all of the kids in the village, maybe even outside the village would come here together with their lanterns. If I remember right, there was like 100 kids or more. All of us held our lanterns with a bamboo stick, gathered as a giant circle along the basketball field located at the Chinese temple. Everybody waited for the classic song to play, which is 传灯, the direct translation is ‘to pass on the light’, meaning to pass down our culture to the next generation. When the song is played, we walked slowly in a clockwise circle, carefully held our bamboo stick so that the lantern wouldn’t fall, all the way until the song ended. (We supposed to sing a long too but I’ve never learned the lyrics at such age) And the most important part was when the ceremony ended, all of us would be getting a piglet biscuit as reward, and to me it was the best part of all!

Later on, the adults would be setting up the praying ceremony at home. There was a table in the front yard, where there would be mooncakes, fruits, tea and sometimes roasted chicken or pork. And the adults would light up some incense sticks, which is believed that the smoke raised up in the air carried the prayers to the gods. On the other hand, the children would be lighting up more lanterns all over the yard. We also loved to light up all the leftover candles that we had everywhere around the house. The night of lantern festival was one of those very few nights we’re allowed to stay up late.

It was so amazing. Too bad I don’t think our children would ever experience anything like that in the future, by the time when we have one.

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Golden syrup, recipe as below.

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(Make 19 piglet biscuits)

Recipe referred to Hong Kitchen

(You would need a mold for this dish)

Ingredients:

500g Flour

380g Golden syrup*

120ml Peanut oil

1 tbsp Alkaline water

1 Egg york

Methods:

1) Mix all the ingredients together (except the egg york) until it forms a smooth dough. Cover with cling wrap and let it rest in room temperature for at least 2 hours.

2) Divide the dough into 19 small parts, about 35g each.

3) Dust some flour on the mold (to prevent sticking), press the dough in and flatten the surface. Turn it around and then gently beat it out from the back side of the mold. Repeat until all the dough is used.

4) Place all the piglet biscuits on a baking sheet, bake in 160 celsius oven for 15 minutes. Take it out and brush the biscuits with beaten egg york. Bake for another 10 minutes in the oven.

5) When it is done, take it out from the oven, let it cool completely. Store them in container. Let it rest for at least 3 days before serving.

PS: I know. This is weird but it really works like this. You need to let the biscuit to ‘mature’ for at least 3 days until it is eatable, otherwise they are hard as rocks. I wanted to cheat but it was really not eatable on the first or second day, you can feel it with your fingers. But after 3 days, the biscuits have softened and developed this beautiful, syrupy aromas that make them so irresistible! It really tastes like the one I got back home.

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This is the same golden syrup to make traditional Cantonese mooncakes.

*Recipe for Golden Syrup 转化糖浆

(Make just enough for this piglet biscuits recipe)

Ingredients:

400g Sugar

200ml Water

50ml Fresh lemon juice

Methods:

1) In a saucepan, add sugar and water, stir and bring to boil. Add lemon juice and bring to boil again. Turn the heat to the lowest.

2) Let the syrup to cook at low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour (without stirring it). When the syrup becomes dark brown in colour and its density is similar to honey, remove from heat. Let it cool completely then store in a clean, air tight jar.

PS: It is suggested to let the golden syrup to ‘mature’ for a certain time before using it, e.g. the longer the better it brings out the aroma, like wine. This golden syrup could keep well in room temperature for up to a year.