Ah, the potsticker! Endlessly adaptable and impossible to pass up. Sure, almost every dumpling could be described this way, but I do think the potsticker, with its irresistible crispy bottom, is a special case. The Japanese borrowed the guotie cooking-style to make the gyoza for a reason. But I hesitate to call today’s Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers guotie or gyoza because the filling is far from traditional. So, the Chinese to English translation of the word “guotie” (literally: ‘pot stick’) is probably all these dumplings deserve.
Rewriting Veggie Dumpling Wrongs
When I set out to make these Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers, I had only one mission in mind – I wanted to make vegetarian potstickers that delivered on flavor and were easy to fill. I don’t want to get carried away using the word “easy”, though. I don’t want to imply that making dumplings is simple, especially if you’ve never done it. Filling and pleating these dumplings is far from a walk in the park. But we’ll get to that later.
In my experience, vegetarian potstickers tend to be a touch dry and flavorless. They are generally 90% cabbage, which is fairly uninspiring. I’m not saying I haven’t had a good vegetarian dumpling, I have. But I do find veg-heavy dumplings have a higher rate of failure than their meaty counterparts. And I’m not saying it’s all the cabbage’s fault, but it’s definitely not without blame. It is most certainly to blame for the looseness of the filling, which makes pleating dumplings a total pain. Babysitting wayward filling when you’re trying to put your best pleats forward is completely frustrating. Ground meat makes for a much better glue, resulting in a filling that stays together, so you can pleat without fear. So in lieu meat glue it was noodles, tofu, and the all-important peanut butter to the rescue.
Building a Better Filling – The Peanut Butter Kale Potsticker Story
So, with the filling for these Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers, I wanted to stay a little true to more traditional dumpling fillings. Yes, I did include cabbage as well as shallots, water chestnuts, shiitakes, kale, ginger, and garlic. But I did want to solidify the veggie filling a little more. So, I added shredded extra firm tofu to mimic the texture of minced meat, vermicelli noodles for a little extra starch to thicken the veggie juices, and finally, a sticky peanut butter sauce to bring a ton of flavor and some much-needed glue to the filling.
The result was a fully-vegetarian dumpling filling that stays where you spoon it. As far as filling vegetarian dumplings go, these Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers are a breeze. But, as I mentioned above, don’t take the word “breeze” too literally. Especially if you’ve never pleated a dumpling in your life. There is a learning curve here, so don’t get discouraged if things start off a little bumpy.
Now, if you did grow up in an Asian household and have been pleating dumplings since infancy, then I’m sure you will make quick work of these guys. I did not, so it took me the better part of an afternoon to fill and pleat all the dumplings and this wasn’t my first rodeo. I don’t say this to discourage you, I say this to get you to clear your schedule. Okay, now that I’ve scared you with the time-suck disclaimer, let me explain why I think making dumplings isn’t just a worthwhile, character-building endeavor but a fun one too. Emotional whiplash, that’s what we’re all about here at Rhubarb & Cod.
Dumpling Pleating or Zen Practice?
The activity of filling and pleating dumplings can be tedious. But I don’t think of the tedium as a drawback. Honestly, there is something very comforting about focusing one’s attention. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to prioritize my daily to-dos in order of importance. I often have an internal dialogue of confusion because I’m overwhelmed with tasks. Is it better to put the laundry in first? Or should I send that email now and leave the socks for later on. Maybe if I put the laundry in now I can draft the email while it washes, that would be more efficient after all. But maybe I’m just saying that because I want to put off writing that stupid email… And so on and so forth. I wish I was exaggerating but that is a fairly realistic recreation of what it’s like to live in my head.
But when I’m pleating dumplings, my mind goes blissfully quiet. I know I’m doing what needs to be done (these dumplings aren’t going to fill themselves) and I know I don’t need to reassess my priorities for the duration. Crystal-clear intention – that’s what making dumplings gives me. Plus, you can see real progress. Trust me, your thirtieth dumpling is going to look a heck of a lot better than your second. It’s just nice to see progress laid out in front of you like that.
The Dumpling Gift that Keeps on Giving
Now, don’t go thinking these Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers are nothing but a zen activity. They are completely delicious and they freeze like a dream. Imagine having homemade potstickers on demand. These bad boys give you that. You can whip them up right from frozen they same way you would if they were fresh. So, you spend a day pleating but you can have potstickers every night for a week in mere moments. We always have a bag of frozen homemade dumplings in the freezer for the days when we just can’t even. It’s like your past self is looking out for your ultra-stressed future self. How’s that for self-care?
So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers. These dumplings take some time to make but they freeze well and taste so gloriously amazing that they are well worth the effort.
Peanut Butter Kale Potstickers
- Nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.
- 50g (1.8oz) dried rice vermicelli
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 2 shallots diced
- 1 (2-inch) knob ginger peeled, minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 brick extra firm tofu grated
- 100g (3.5oz) shiitake mushrooms stems removed, diced
- ½ head napa cabbage halved lengthwise, finely chopped
- ¼ cup waterchestnuts minced
- 300g (10.5oz) green kale stalks removed and coarsely chopped
- 3 Thai red chilies thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup all-natural crunchy peanut butter
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 1 tbsp red curry paste heaping
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 50 round dumpling wrappers
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- sesame seeds for sprinkling
- crushed red pepper flakes for sprinkling
- Place the rice vermicelli in a large heatproof bowl, set aside. Put a full kettle of water on to boil. Pour the boiling water over the noodles and let stand until the noodles are tender. About 10 minutes.
- While the noodles are steeping, heat the oil in a large wok until shimmering. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and saute until just translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant, about a minute more.
- Add the tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, and water chestnuts to the wok along with another pinch of salt. Saute for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and the cabbage has wilted. Start adding the kale in batches, only adding more when the subsequent batch has wilted.
- Take the wok off of the heat. Taste and season accordingly with a splash of soy sauce and stir in the red chilies. Transfer the filling to a large bowl.
- Drain the noodles and, using kitchen shears, snip the noodles into the tofu mixture, 2-3 inches at a time.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, wine, red curry paste, honey, and sesame oil. Pour the mixture over the tofu and noodle mixture and toss to integrate and coat. Set aside.
- Take a dumpling wrapper and, with a wet finger, draw a 1-inch border around the edge of the wrapper. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper and fold in half, forming a sort of taco-shape. Pinch to seal the center. Go to one side of this seal and pleat the side of the dumpling closest to you. Make sure the pleat points towards the center. Make two more pleats like that and press to seal the corner. Go the other side of the sealed center and repeat, again pushing your pleats towards the center to form a crescent shape.** Transfer the finished dumpling to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you run out of filling or dumpling skins.
- Once the dumplings are finished, you can either transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and let freeze for 30 minutes before transferring the dumplings to a freezer bag for future consumption. Or you can fry some or all of the dumplings up fresh.
- In a non-stick skillet heat 1 tbsp of neutral oil over high heat until shimmering. Add the dumplings to the pan and sear until golden on the bottom. Throw a ¼ cup of water in the pan and cover with a domed lid immediately. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let steam for 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer the potstickers to a large platter and garnish with scallions, sesame seeds, and chili flakes. Serve with black vinegar, sriracha, soy sauce, Sichuan chili oil or all of the above.