Dumplings are one of my favorite foods- they’re soft on the inside, and crispy on the outside. Good dumplings are filled with something delicious and savory, and of course all dumplings have a pasta element. The best part is it isn’t hard to make a delicious, savory, vegan dumpling- sometimes with ingredients found in your own backyard.
The forest offers many delicious edibles, but alongside them are deadly look-a-likes. The oyster mushroom is a fairly easy mushroom to learn, but always use caution when foraging and only eat mushrooms when you are sure of the identification, and have verified this with an expert. Remember- there are no old, bold foragers. Forage at your own risk.
Oyster mushrooms are named because someone saw the delicate clusters growing on logs and thought of the white, pearly shells of their bivalve dopplegangers. When ID-ing oyster mushrooms, look for a white or light colored shell (or shelf) like mushroom, generally growing in clusters and on dead wood. The gills on oyster mushrooms are decurrent, which means they should continue down on to the stem rather than stopping abruptly at the edge of the cap. There may or may not be an actual stem, but if there is it should be fairly short and off center. One of the most remarkable and convincing identifiers to me was the smell of anise (I first said fennel) that the clusters perfumed.
Perhaps the best thing about oyster mushrooms is how widely available they are. They can be found in the woods year round (given the right temperatures). Even when there are none to be seen in the forest, there should be selves full at your local supermarket. I’ve never tried myself, but they are even supposed to be the easiest mushroom to grow at home.
Aside from the oyster mushrooms we hauled home (around 4 lbs. of them!) we also found some black trumpets, which I stir-fried up with broccoli and Vegan Fish Sauce and a young, fresh chicken of the woods (I made a “chicken” piccata that was amazing, but I’ve made drunken noodles and butter chicken in the past, with delicious results).
Dumpling wrappers should be find in your local Asian grocery store. They are typically pretty simple- flour water and a preservative or two- you can make your own, but the amount of time and energy they take is well worth the $2.50 I paid for the pack. We ended up trying two different varieties, the first was the Shanghai style and the second was Hong Kong style. I later learned that the Hong Kong style are typically used for wontons- they are golden in color, and paper thin causing them to tear more easily when you wrap them. If you are faced with this same option, go with the Shanghai style wrappers- they are thicken and intended to be used for dumplings.
To make the filling, dice all the vegetable and mix together with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. You should keep in mind that a little filling goes a long way- the recipe I did actually yields over 100 dumplings, so if you’re family isn’t as hungry as mine you might want to cut the recipe in half.
Next is the time consuming portion. Sit down, turn on a good show and get to work. Enlist a friend to help you- it’s not hard, but it will take some time. In each wanton wrapper, put around 1/2 a tablespoon of filling in the center of the shell. Set up a small bowl of water next to you- use your finger to lightly wet half of the edge. Next pull the dry side to the wet, and firmly pinch close. Set your first pretty little dumpling aside and repeat. Around 111 more times.
Once all of your dumplings are ready, you can get going on cooking- also in batches. The goal is to steam them to cook the insides, and to fry the outsides crispy. In a hot pan add a little oil and cook the dumplings on their side with the lid on, giving them a golden, crispy side. Next pour in 1/4 cup of water and return the cover as quickly as you can- this will create a steamy environment inside the pan, allowing your oyster mushrooms to soften. After about 3 minutes you can remove the top and allow the second side to crisp.
Fresh Oyster Mushroom Dumplings
Please note- recipe makes approx.. 115 dumplings- scale down as needed.
- 1 lb of oyster mushrooms
- ½ a medium sized onion
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 cup on napa cabbage
- 1 tbps. Ginger
- 1 tbps. (4 cloves) garlic
- 1 tbps. Soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- Vegetable oil, for cooking
- 2 packages of round dumpling wrappers (find these in the frozen section of your local Asian grocery store)
- 4 tbsp. Soy sauce (mushroom soy sauce works wonderfully here)
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tbps. Garlic chile paste
- 1 tbps. Sesame oil
- Defrost the dumpling wrappers. Chop the mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, and cabbage into a fine dice. Mince the serranoes, garlic and ginger. Mix all of the vegetables along with the 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of sesame oil together in a large bowl.
- Lay out your dumpling wrappers, and start folding. Put between tsp. and a tbsp. of filling on the center of a wrapper. Dip your finger in water and draw it along half the edge of the wrapper. Bring the wet and dry sides together, pinching it closed. Continue until you have used all the filling.
- Once you have finished folding the dumplings, you can begin to cook. In a large skillet heat some vegetable oil on medium high. Place as many dumplings fit comfortably in the pan on their side (my pan fits about 10 at one time) and cover with the lid for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the dumplings over (they should be golden and a little crispy on the side that was cooking. Take ¼ a cup of water and empty into the pan and quickly covering again with the lid, allowing steam to form inside the pan. Cook for 3 minutes, before removing the lid and allowing the steam to dissipate while they continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
- Continue cooking in batches until all of the dumplings are cooked. Make the dipping sauce by whisking together all of the ingredients (for added flavor/aesthetic value, sprinkle sesame seeds or chopped scallions on top of the sauce).