Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pan fried dumplings

Every so often I concoct a random meal out of bits and pieces that need using up in the fridge. Sometimes I surprise myself with how well these experiments work and realise later I foolishly haven't recorded the recipe. Other times when I have made the effort to jot down notes, the meal hasn't been that great but at least I have something to work on for next time around.

The other night I made a big batch of dumplings with a bunch of leftovers in the fridge which turned out to be amongst the nicest dumplings I've made. Gyoza wrappers were nearing their best before date, cabbage was discolouring around the edges, mushrooms were becoming soft and I had mistakenly bought a bag of carrots even though I had a full bag in the fridge. To save time preparing the filling, I used my food processor to chop the onion and then the mushrooms. Whilst the onions were frying I attached the grating disc to shred the carrots and cabbage, so the only chopping I needed to do by hand was the garlic and ginger. After the vegetables had softened I seasoned them lightly with a bit of light soy sauce, tamari or regular soy sauce would also work well if you don't have this on hand.

One of my favourite kitchen gadgets is a set of dumpling presses I purchased from Minh Phat in Richmond, a huge Asian grocery store. From memory the set only cost $2 or $3, I believe they are worth their weight in gold as they create a neat finish with minimal effort and save copious amounts of time. All you have to do is place a wrapper on the press, spoon in a small amount of filling (being mindful not to overfill them) and press the little handles together. The edges of the wrappers can be moistened with a drop or two of water if the wrappers aren't sealing properly, although sometimes I find there is no need for this step.

Our preferred style of dumplings is pan fried, I probably only steamed dumplings once before we became hooked on the crispy pan fried style. After the dumplings are browned on each side, a splash or two of water is added to the pan which is covered briefly to create some steam which completes the cooking of the wrappers. As I was in a creative type of mood I made up my own dipping sauce to go with the dumplings. I don't have the precise measurements for this so I won't add it to my recipe list yet. It was a mixture of soy sauce (~3 tablespoons), sesame oil (~2 teaspoons) and a finely sliced birds eye chilli. Some minced garlic would have been been lovely in this too.

These dumplings were a household success, the man isn't fond of too much ginger and thankfully I hadn't gone over the top. There was no way the three of us were going to make it through a batch of 48 dumplings even though the young man managed to polish off 20 on his own! I was pleasantly surprised that the leftovers held up well when I enjoyed them cold for lunch the following day.

Pan fried carrot, cabbage and mushroom dumplings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5cm piece ginger, minced
2 medium carrots, grated
400g green cabbage, finely shredded
100g portobello mushrooms, finely diced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce, tamari or regular soy sauce (approximate measurement, add to taste)
48 gyoza wrappers
Olive or peanut oil, for frying
Water, for the steaming step

Heat the olive oil in a large deep sided frying pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 5 minutes until softened. Stir through the garlic and ginger for a minute then add the carrot, cabbage and mushroom. Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the vegetables have reduced in size and softened. Stir through the light soy sauce and continue to cook until the mixture is fairly dry. Turn off the heat and transfer the contents to a large bowl. Allow the mixture to cool down before stuffing the dumplings (I put mine in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool it quickly).

Construct the dumplings using a dumpling press by placing a wrapper on the pressing tool, spooning a small amount of mixture into the centre and pressing the handles together. If you don't have a dumpling press and are feeling adventurous there are some folding tips and pictures here (be warned that this isn't a vegan site).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Place as many dumplings that will fit into the pan comfortably and cook for a couple of minutes or until browned. Flip them over and brown the other side. Splash a few tablespoons of water into the pan and cover with a lid. Allow to steam for 3 more minutes then remove the lid, if there is any liquid remaining allow it to cook off. Gently remove the dumplings from the pan with a spatula and continue pan frying the rest of the dumplings in batches.

Serve with your preferred dipping sauce.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ren Dao

We headed over to Elsternwick on Monday evening to dine at Ren Dao, an Asian vegetarian restaurant. The extensive menu offers a wide range of entrees, soups, curries, stir-frys, noodles, and rice based dishes. The majority of the meals are vegan and it's also possible to remove egg from some of the rice and noodle dishes. The mock meat used in the meals is based on gluten, soy or mushrooms and there are plenty of gluten free meals available. It can be overwhelming being presented with so many choices when you aren't used to having many so I left it to the man to chose the entrees while the young man and struggled to decide on a main.

The man surprised me by selecting an entree outside of his standard order of spring rolls. The 5 Spice Loh-Bak Rolls ($7.50) contained a subtly spiced taro mince filling wrapped in crispy bean curd skin. These tasty parcels got us off to a good start.

Curry puffs are always hard for us to resist and these large ones ($7.50) happened to be a fantastic choice this time. The mixed vegetable filling was blended with a perfect amount of curry spices and the sweet sticky dipping sauce was a nice condiment.

Penang Curry ($19.50) was a mild-medium spiced coconut based curry containing mock chicken chunks, tofu and potato cubes. It wasn't quite as spicy as we were led to believe yet it was still thoroughly enjoyable.

The King Do Pork Chop Hot Plate ($21.90) was a tangy sizzling hot plate piled high with a large assortment of vegetables and soy-based mock meat slices hiding underneath. This was the most realistic mock meat I have ever eaten but I actually found the flavour and texture a little disturbing as it was too close to my omnivorous recollections. The man and young man adored this and declared it their pick of the night.

Penang Rendang ($18.50) was too intriguing for me to pass up as we all love rendang and I was interested to try this version made with a variety of mushrooms. In addition to the coconut based curry sauce, it was full of grated coconut which made the coconut flavours too intense for my liking. It probably wasn't the wisest menu choice given we had already selected another coconut based curry.

The staff at Ren Dao were incredibly attentive throughout the evening and extremely helpful with making menu suggestions when the young man and I were stalling. The serving sizes were very generous, we could have easily done without one of the mains and this would have been sufficient food for the three of us. The staff offered to package up the leftovers which we happily enjoyed for lunch the next day. I'm keen to head back to Ren Dao as there are many more dishes I would like to try.

Where's the beef are the only other veg*n bloggers that have written about Ren Dao to date. Ren Dao was also mentioned by Brianna in her Southside staples article in the Planet VeGMeL zine.

Ren Dao Vegetarian Asian Cuisine
275 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick
9523 0150
Lunch Monday to Friday
Dinner Monday to Saturday
Closed Sundays
BYO Beer and Wine

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 25 - Seychelles

The Seychelles are a group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean situated off the eastern coast of the African continent. Like many other island countries, seafood features predominantly as does locally grown produce such as breadfruit, coconut, yam, cassava, papaya and several varieties of bananas including plantains. The food has a mixture of influences from Indian, Chinese, African, French and British cuisines. Fiery hot Creole styled curries are commonly eaten based on a spice blend called massalé which is unique to these islands.

After encountering several dodgy websites that promised recipes from the Seychelles and ended up offering malicious software instead, I came across a suitable recipe on BBC food, a far more credible site. The recipe was for a Seychelles fish curry which I planned to make with tofu and vegetables. Part of the appeal of this recipe was that it used its own blend of freshly ground spices as this always enhances the flavour of a curry. Spice blends are easy to prepare when you have whole spices in the pantry and a grinder to whiz up them up into a powder.

My favourite type of tofu for adding to curries and stir-frys these days is the Savoury Baked Tofu from Vegan Eats World. I cannot speak highly enough of this recipe, the salty, sweet, sour and slightly spicy marinade is a cinch to put together and then its just a matter of baking the tofu in the oven. I make a batch almost every week, usually a day or two before I'm planning to use it as I find it easier to slice after it has cooled down. If you own Vegan Eats World, you should definitely check this recipe out if you haven't done so already. My only advice is to ensure that the tofu fits snugly in your baking dish otherwise the marinade will burn.  

With a freshly made spice blend, delicious baked tofu and a couple of favourite vegetables, I was confident that this curry would be a wonderful meal. Unfortunately this wasn't the case! In addition to the massalé, the recipe included ground anise/aniseed, tamarind water and fresh thyme. I used dried thyme instead of the fresh herb and substituted tamarind puree for the tamarind water. What I thought would be a moderate amount of tamarind turned out too be slightly too much giving it too much sourness for my liking. The dried thyme also dominated and the blend of spices didn't resonate with any of us. It was definitely not a disaster, just a slight disappointment as I had such high hopes for it.

I would have liked to attempt another dish from the Seychelles but time is short with Christmas around the corner so I'll bid farewell to the islands and move on to the next country.

Did you know?

The Seychelles is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site called Aldabra. Aldabra is the world's largest raised coral atoll which boasts the largest population of giant tortoises in the world and is home to the only flightless bird in the Indian Ocean, the White-Throated Rail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


After reading (and drooling over) initial reviews and the general hype about South, I was desperate to make a trip to The People's Market in Collingwood to try it out for myself. South is a vegan food stall specialising in food from the southern parts of the United States. The people running this venture hail from two of my recent favourite eateries The Gasometer and The Mercy Seat (which is now closed) so I had a strong feeling it was going to be fantastic.

It was very tough deciding what to order so the man and I chose to split three meals between the two of us. The Philly Cheesesteak ($12) was served in a nice crunchy roll with tender "steak" pieces and an oozing cheese sauce with a mild flavour. It was slightly messy to eat although definitely worth the effort.

The man was keen to try out the Chilli Dog ($8) being a former hot dog lover years ago. Vegan hot dogs and sausages don't usually win my approval yet this one was best I have tried and the accompanying chilli sauce was amazing.

To round out the meal we ordered the Louisiana Beans and Rice ($9) and drizzled some extra hot sauce on top. The beans had a lovely smoky flavour underneath the array of herbs and spices. I found it difficult to stop eating when I had finished my share and reluctantly passed the rest over to my bean loving husband who adored them too.

All of these meals were so delicious and I wouldn't hesitate to order any of them again. Neither of us could pick a favourite as they were all wonderful in their own way. 

While the rest of The People's Market didn't really capture our interest, I have no doubt we will be back many times over the summer months to experience more of the rotating menu that South is cooking up.  

South created quite a stir in it's opening week. It received positive reviews from The Good Hearted, where's the beef and easy as vegan pie

@ The People's Market
65-68 Stanley Street, Collingwood
Thursday - Sunday 12pm - 9:30pm (Closed in Feb 2013)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 24 - Bhutan

The kingdom of Bhutan is nestled between India and China at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The majority of the country is mountainous with only 10% of it's fertile land situated in the valleys. Red rice is one of the staples, a medium grain rice with a pinkish hue which is the only variety of rice that can be grown at high altitudes.

My food memory led me to a Bhutanese pineapple rice recipe in Appetite for Reduction as I've read many positive reviews of it around the blogosphere. I was able to track the red rice down in a local Indian spice shop, it has a texture that is similar to brown rice although the cooking time is slightly less. The man isn't a fan of brown rice at all so I was concerned he wouldn't like this and the inclusion of pineapple definitely wasn't going to win him over. I'm not particularly fond of fruit in savoury meals either and replaced the pineapple with some broccoli instead. After the red rice was cooked, it was fried with onion, garlic, ginger, Thai red curry paste, soy sauce, agave and coriander. An extra dash of curry paste and soy sauce was added after an initial taste test to give it some extra heat and flavour.

To round out the meal, I veganised a recipe originally made with chicken called Jasha Maroo. It was frustrating to find exactly the same recipe duplicated on several websites as the method was unclear and didn't state when to add some of the ingredients that were listed. I resorted to cooking it in the manner that seemed most logical to me, frying the onion first followed by the garlic, ginger and chilli and then adding the rest of the ingredients. The tofu I used in this dish was a new variety from the supermarket labelled as medium firm, it actually resembled silken tofu more than firm tofu so I was extremely careful during the cooking process.

This was a fantastic dinner, the tofu dish had a perfect amount of heat for us and it was an excellent partner for the red rice. I was happy with my decision to season the tofu with "chicken" stock rather than salt as it provided an extra depth of flavour. This was also a speedy meal which gave it extra bonus marks. I was very pleased that the man enjoyed it, particularly the rice dish and delighted when he kept going back for more! As a result of this successful meal, red rice may become my brown rice substitute from now on.

Jasha Maroo (Adapted from Asiarecipe)

300g medium firm or firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into pea sized cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
2 green thai chillies, thinly sliced (use 1 chilli for a milder version)
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon vegan "chicken" stock powder
½ cup water

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies a fry for a minute then gently stir through the tofu, tomato, "chicken" stock powder and water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.


Did you know?

Bhutan was the first country to measure the national index of happiness which later became an accepted worldwide index. Bhutan's third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, made a fleeting remark in a speech that was taken seriously by the Bhutanese. According to Buddhist beliefs, happiness is something that one needs to strive for and the country's leading thinkers set about to find a way to quantify it. The index of happiness is measured on four areas: sustainable development, cultural values, natural environment, and good governance.