Vegetarian Dumplings with Roasted Chilli Jam & Crispy Saltbush

Jessie Spiby

Vegetarian Dumplings with Roasted Chilli Jam & Crispy Saltbush

I could eat dumplings for every meal. Seriously. This recipe combines my love of Asian cooking with the addition of Australian native ingredients. It is how I love to eat and is my version of ‘Australian’ food – Asian meets Australian fusion. The slightly sweet roasty flavour of the chilli jam is perfect with the pillowy soft dumplings and the saltbush adds a savoury salty crunch that ties the dish together. I love this recipe, the dumplings are not only so inexpensive and easy to make but super versatile. I put them on my salad, in a broth, fry them up or smother even them in Indian curry sauces. Please do give the chilli sauce a go trust me, it won’t go to waste.

Makes approximately 50 dumplings

  • Roasted Chilli Jam (Nam Prik Pao)
  • 25 large birds eye chillies
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 small brown onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • ½ cup of palm sugar or light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup tamarind paste (the thick kind) ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • Oil for frying
  • Crispy Saltbush (optional)
  • Oil, for shallow frying
  • 2 large handful of saltbush leaves
  • Dumplings 50 wonton wrappers (about 3 X 3 inch)
  • 800g bok choy
  • 500g silken tofu
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons corn starch for dusting
  • Black vinegar or soy sauce to serve

Begin with the roasted chilli sauce. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Slice 12 of the red chillies in half and place them cut side down on a tray lined with baking paper. Make sure none of the chillies are touching then cook until chillies begin to blacken in spots. This will take around 40-45 minutes. Don’t stir or mix the chillies while they are cooking.

Once the chillies have blackened, remove them from the oven and cool. Cut the remaining chillies in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes from both the roasted and raw chillies. Reserve the seeds to add later if you like a spicier sauce (like me).

Meanwhile, cut the shallots lengthwise into uniformly thin slices, as this as possible. Repeat with the garlic. Let them dry, separated, on some paper towel. Heat enough oil to shallow fry in a fry pan on medium heat. Fry the garlic until pale brown and crisp being careful not to burn, as it will taste bitter. Repeat with the shallots. Set aside.

Place the chillies, garlic, onion and shitake in a mortar and pestle and pound to a paste. Alternatively you can use a food processor or blender if desired.

Put the paste and the remaining ingredients in a wide fry pan over medium heat. Fry off the paste stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until everything has dissolved.

Have a taste, if you want a bit more kick add some of the reserved chilli seeds, I usual add about half of them. Once happy with the chilli heat, remove the pan from the stove and allow the mixture to cool completely.

If the paste is too thin return it to heat and reduce until it reaches the desired consistency. I like mine to be the thickness of peanut butter or jam. Store your chilli jam in a sterilised glass jar until required, including the oil.

Note: This is a vegetarian version of Nam Prik Pao. For a more traditional recipe substitute approximately 2 tbs of dried shrimp for the shitake mushrooms, and add 4 tbs of fish sauce.

Prepare the saltbush. Heat enough oil to shallow fry in a fry pan on medium heat. Fry the saltbush until crispy, set aside to drain on paper towel. If you find that the leaves go limp, place them back in the hot oil for a few more seconds. They will stay crisp for about 2 hours.

For the dumplings, trim most of the dark green leaves from the bok choy, finely shred and set aside. Finely dice the light green/white part of the bok choy. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the light green bok ckoy and sauté until softened slightly. Add about ½ of the shredded dark green bok choy leaves and continue to sauté the vegetable mix until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring constantly.

Remove the bok choy mixture from the heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile blitz the silken tofu in a food processor or blender until it forms a mousse like texture. Stir in the soy, then fold in the bok choy mixture.

Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, take a wonton wrapper and place a spoonful of the mixture in the middle, a small tablespoon is about the right amount. Using a pastry brush dampen the edges of the wonton wrapper with water. Gently press the edges together forming a half moon shape, being sure to remove any air. Lightly dust a tray with cornflour, set dumplings aside. Repeat with remaining mixture.

To cook the dumplings bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cook dumplings in batches adding a few at a time. Once they have risen to the surface of the water they are cooked. Remove dumplings from water with a slotted spoon and keep warm until the remaining dumplings are cooked.

To serve, spoon the chilli jam over the dumplings, add a splash of black vinegar or soy then scatter the saltbush leaves. Enjoy!

NOTE: I am often seen ‘foraging’ in my neighbourhood for saltbush where there is a few thriving bushes. However, if you’re not sure where to find saltbush you can often

get fresh leaves from Something Wild in the Central Markets. If saltbush isn’t your thang, substitute with fried shallots or crushed roasted peanuts.

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