I’ve been meaning to get to this for quite a while, but I finally did it! A while back, I reviewed a veggie gyoza (fried wonton dumplings, sometimes called potstickers, I believe) recipe that I had found, and while it was good, it didn’t “wow” me. Since then, I’ve been wanting to try to put together my own recipe for the filling.
The first veggie gyoza was not “Asian” enough for my taste, and definitely on the soggy side. Since then, I took a look at the meat version of the recipe that my mother passed down to me, and decided to try to incorporate the flavor elements from that recipe (soy sauce, lots of grated fresh ginger, garlic, Japanese sesame oil) to a vegetable-based filling.
I replaced the ground beef with spinach, lots of reconstituted shiitake mushrooms and tofu. To keep things from getting soggy, I made a point of doing what I could to make the vegetables shed the water that is in them. Pre-cooking the spinach (I used frozen that I thawed out), pressing the tofu (I’ll tell you how in the recipe in case you’ve never done it before) and squeezing the water out of the shiitake mushrooms after they’ve been reconstituted.
Pressing the tofu prior to cooking really helped a lot with retaining flavors. This is a trick to using tofu that I hadn’t heard of before, but came across a couple of times while browsing vegetarian cookbooks and web sites. It avoids water-logging your food, and helps the tofu absorb the flavor elements you’re trying to get your dish to take on.
While this is definitely a time-consuming recipe, keep in mind that it’ll make enough for you to freeze and set aside for another day. Even if you are feeding a family of four on this recipe, you’ll have some to stick into the freezer to save for a rainy day. If you have the time and the inclination, you can double the batch and really stockpile on this. It’s a great meal to have on hand. Once they’re all made, they cook up quickly!
With all that said, I’m really happy with this veggie gyoza recipe. My husband tried it and liked it too, and commented that the flavor is pretty much like the meat-based version. To me, that’s a huge compliment and part of the whole point of it all. Gyoza is one of my childhood dishes that is near and dear to my heart, and to have my family enjoy it as much as I do, with or without meat, is really important to me.
So, I hope you will give it a try too, and find it as delicious as we did!
Spinach Shiitake Gyoza (Vegan)
Prep time: 1 hour 30 mins
1 package wonton wrappers
1 package extra firm tofu
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
12 dehydrated shiitake mushrooms (I get mine at our not-so-local Asian grocery store)
1 cup hot water (or more if needed, you need enough to fill a small bowl to the brim)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions/scallions
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (you can use less if you prefer, and do not replace with powdered, dried ginger! Very different flavor.)
2 Tbsp crushed fresh garlic (if you adjust the amount of ginger in this recipe, make sure to use as much garlic as you do ginger)
2 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce (be sure it’s the Japanese style soy sauce, others are stronger in flavor)
1 tsp sesame seed oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar (if you are not vegan, you can use regular sugar or honey)
4 Tbsp flour
1) Start by reconstituting the dried shiitake. I usually put the bowl that I’m placing the shiitake into, in the sink so I won’t have to worry about spilled water: Place the mushrooms into a small bowl. Pour hot water into the bowl so the bowl is filled to the brim. Then, place a saucer over the bowl so as to push the floating shiitake into the water. Set aside while prepping the rest of the filling.
2) Next, press the tofu: Remove from its package and drain the water. Slice the tofu into thirds lengthwise. You might have read about weighing down the tofu while it’s sandwiched between layers of towels, but I’ve found that process isn’t necessary. Simply lay one slice of tofu onto a clean tea towel or a couple of paper towels, and then cover with another layer of towel. Press down firmly for about 10 seconds or so to squeeze out the liquid from the tofu. It’s OK if it gets squished, as you’ll be mixing it all into the filling anyway. Repeat with the last two slices of tofu, using a dry part of the towel.
3) Once your spinach has thawed and has drained for a few minutes, take a small handful and squeeze the remaining liquid out of it. Repeat until you have squeezed as much liquid as you can from all of the spinach. If your spinach is not the “finely chopped” variety, run a knife through it so that it is chopped. Set aside.
4) After you have done all your prep work (grating ginger, crushing garlic, chopping scallions), turn back to the shiitake. Ideally it should have sat for about 30 minutes in the hot water. Check to see if they are plump and most of it is no longer hard or woody-feeling. Some of the stems might stay that way, and that’s OK, you’ll just need to cut them off. The caps, however, should be completely pliable. If they are not, re-submerge into warm water and leave for another 10 minutes or so. Once they are fully reconstituted, remove them from the water and squeeze the excess water from them into the bowl. Be sure to drain them well. Then, chop the shiitake finely, almost a confetti chop. If there are any hard stems, remember to remove them and throw them away (sometimes they just don’t want to cooperate!) [NOTE: Save the liquid from soaking and squeezing the shiitake. They make a great addition to the miso soup recipe I shared a while back. Just make the adjustment to the amount of combu dashi called for in the recipe, you’ll find that it adds an extra layer of depth to the flavor of the broth].
5) Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, and let everything get hot. Then, add spinach, shiitake, green onions, and tofu. While you are stirring everything together, be sure to break apart the tofu so that there are small chunks throughout the mixture. After you’ve broken apart the tofu, add soy sauce, sesame seed oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, garlic and ginger. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated from the pan, about 6 to 8 minutes.
6) Remove the mixture from heat and transfer contents to a large bowl. Allow the contents to cool down enough for you to be able to pick up a small amount without burning your fingers.
7) Fill the wonton wrappers following the package directions. Usually, what you want is to make sure not to over-fill the wonton wrappers. About 2 tsp of filling per wonton wrapper is about what I use in mine. When you are folding the wrapper to seal it, be sure to work out the air so that the wonton won’t burst during cooking.
8) Cooking the wontons: Heat about 2 Tbsp of oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, drop 6 to 8 wontons into the pan. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, or until the wrapper has turned a golden brown. Once the second side has browned, add 1/4 cup water to the pan, and immediately cover. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then remove lid and continue cooking until all of the water has evaporated (about another 5 minutes). This process helps cook the wrapper so it becomes tender. Serve hot with rice and vegetables and miso soup on the side.
9) Freezing the wontons: If you are planning to freeze the wontons, line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Line up the uncooked wontons on the cookie sheet so they are not touching. It’s OK if they are close, they just shouldn’t touch as they’ll break while you pull them apart in the final stage to store. Place the cookie sheet with wontons in the freezer overnight. Once they are frozen, remove the wontons from the cookie sheet one by one and place in a resealable, gallon-sized freezer bag. Return to the freezer and store for up to six months. When you are ready to cook, simply add about 1-2 minutes to the cooking times give in Step 8. Enjoy the convenience your hard work has brought you! 🙂