Easy Vegetarian Potstickers
There’s something magical about a doughy pocket filled with meats, vegetables or something sweet. It seems that almost every culture in the world has some dough-centric food that has made grandmothers everywhere excited to share their carefully guarded creations with only the most exclusive family and friends. Whether the dough pocket is pan fried, steamed, boiled or baked, I have tried it and I have liked it.
In preparing this so called easy vegetarian potsticker recipe, I fell down a rabbit hole of complex and seemingly never-ending questions. What’s the difference between dumplings, potstickers and gyoza? Why are specific bottles of Hoisin sauce labeled as “vegetarian” when all the ingredients on a normal Hoisin bottle are already vegan?
Maybe I’m just overly curious or just very bored at my 9-5, but I spent a solid hour secretly scouring the web just to figure it all out. Here’s what I found:
A dumpling is a term that is used widely and is not solely dedicated to East Asian cuisine. The Polish pierogi, Italian gnocchi and even the Jewish matzah ball can all be defined as dumplings. Basically anything made out of dough that’s mixed or stuffed with some other food can be called a dumpling.
When it comes to gyoza and potstickers, definitions get a little murky. Potstickers originated in China and are characterized by a lightly crisped exterior and a doughy body that can be eaten in two to three bites. Gyoza is very similar to potstickers, mostly because they were born from them. Swapped up by the Japanese during World War II, gyoza is the Japanese take on Chinese potstickers. Smaller in size and stuffed with a fine filling, gyoza focus on small bursts of flavor and tend to be crispier than potstickers due to their thin skin. If you’re as interested in food origins as I am, I suggest reading more on the gyoza/potsticker matchup. If not, let’s move on.
Sweet potato, rice, sugar, soybeans, sesame seeds, white distilled vinegar, salt, garlic, and red chili peppers are all vegan right? According to some Hoisin bottles, not quite. Vegetarianism is a broad term and can be interpreted in many different ways according to each person who practices that lifestyle. Maybe you love eggs but avoid cheese like the plague or you follow a mostly vegan diet with a few vegetarian exceptions here and there. Whatever floats your boat right?
In my unskilled and non-professional research, I was surprised to find that in some Buddhist sects, being vegetarian includes avoiding "fetid" vegetables aka funky foods. This includes onions and garlic, two ingredients that make spending half my paycheck on eating out and cooking worthwhile. Some sects believe these fetid vegetables disrupt the mind in meditation and can be used as an aphrodisiac, two beliefs I cannot argue with.
Raw garlic has been shown to reduce blood pressure by 10%, meaning better blood circulation not just to your heart, but to every part of your body. Also, while I love garlic and its benefits, I don’t think anyone can argue with the point that eating them makes you stink, which can be disruptive not only to you but to everyone around you.
Since I eat enough garlic to sweat it out through my pores (just me?), I can’t see myself giving it up anytime soon, but if you hate the smell/taste or avoid it for religious reasons, vegetarian Hoisin might be for you!
For the purpose of this recipe, I used the regular kind and of course loaded up on garlic. I just can’t get enough! While traditional potstickers are both steamed and fried, I just quickly pan fried them for a crisp finish. I’ve also steamed these vegetarian potstickers in the past, and they come out just as good. It’s up to you!
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed my amateur history lesson. If you have more information on any of these topics, I’d love to know!
Before I get too deep in my own curiosity, here’s the recipe you’ve been waiting for.
Easy Vegetarian Potstickers
(makes about 18)
- 1 package of wonton or dumpling wrappers (here's the one I used)
- 1 large carrot
- 1/2 of a small green cabbage
- 5 oz of shiitake mushrooms
- 1 inch thumb of ginger, with outside skin shaved off
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 stalks of green onions
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of Hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp of red chili flakes
- 2 tbsp of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp of rice vinegar
- a small bowl of room temperature water
- Chop up garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and carrots into small chunks in a food processor.
Cut cabbage into thin slices.
Cut green onions into thin slices and set to the side.
Combine garlic, ginger, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage and sesame seed oil in a large pan. Cook on medium heat until carrots and cabbage have softened.
Mix in soy sauce and Hoisin until vegetable mixture is coated.
Transfer to a large bowl and mix in rice vinegar and green onions.
Use a large spoon to scoop out a bit of the vegetable mixture onto 1 wonton sheet. If you're new to closing up the potstickers, start with a small amount of the mixture until you get the hang of it.
Dip your finger in the cup of water and line the sides of the wonton sheet so that they are damp, but not soaking.
Start on one side and pinch wonton until potsticker is closed. If it's taking you a bit of time to close up the potstickers wet a paper towel and drape it over the finished potstickers to keep them from drying out.
Heat vegetable oil in a pan and lightly fry all sides until crispy.
Serve with your favorite sauce.