This is the one snack that is so delicate, that would actually torn with fillings all inside out if you try handle it roughly – by roughly I was referring to an act of lifting it off the plate or wrapping box unskillfully. You will need a spoon or a pair of chopsticks. The skin is made from natural sweet potato starch mixed with tapioca starch. Sold in almost every Chinese market across town for very little money really made it not worthwhile doing it myself, but I really had fun.
It is a lot of work, and I don’t think anybody would attempt this, unless they are especially craving for this savory treat and live a long way from South East Asia. I really enjoyed making them, and it is one great culinary adventure – for me.
This dumplings are filled and steamed, with skin made from scratch – real work of art, I think. In our local Hokkien dialect, we call this “Chai Pao” – literally meant “wrapped vegetable”. When done right, the skin should be very thin and soft, with delicious and juicy vegetable fillings.
The filling is jicama, carrot and french beans. The treat would be the chopped dried shrimp. There is something that I love about dried shrimp that probably not many people would get, especially those who are not from this region, but I love appetizers and snacks with dried shrimps in it. The pungent-like smelt made savory snacks very special!
These are the ingredients used. Sweet potatoes, carrots, jicama, french beans and dried shrimps. Yeah, all the good stuff!
Sweet potatoes used should be the yellow and orange kind. If only yellow colored sweet potatoes are available, it is totally fine. Steam the sweet potatoes in a steamer till soft.
This is how they look like once they are cooked. Poke them with a fork, they are done once the fork can penetrate all the way to the skin. Through and through.
Quickly peel the skin while they are still hot. Get rid of the peel and cover the pot to keep the potatoes warm.
Heat some cooking oil and stir-fry garlic till fragrant
Toss in minced dried shrimp that has been soaked and hydrated. I love the smell of the kitchen at this stage. There is something about dried seafood that I can’t really put words to describe it. The word in mind might be “stinky”.
Add grated carrot and jicama and mix well.
Add sliced french beans and the other seasonings.
Quickly stir-fry for a couple of more minutes. You would want the vegetables to be crunchy, so don’t overcook them. Set them aside for later use.
This is the tapioca starch that is used as binding agent.
Remove the cooked sweet potatoes from the steamer and place them on kitchen counter and start mashing them together using whatever means necessary.
When it is all mashed up nicely without any nasty lump – this is important, no lumps! I am sure there are other more effective means of mashing the sweet potatoes, but this is the only way I have ever done it. Add the tapioca starch and work on them quickly until they become hard-dough.
This is how it looks like. Light yellow skin dough. The final color of the skin will depends on the type of sweet potato used.
Remove a part of the dough and drop them into boiling water and cook them for a while. When they are fully cooked and ready to be used, the dough will float to the surface of the boiling water. They are ready to be used when they reach this stage.
Combine the cooked dough back to the first batch and work on it slowly as the wet dough would be very hot. Adding the cooked dough into the uncooked dough will result in pliable skin that is easier to handle.
Divide the dough into 6 smaller batches (or however much you think you can work with easily)
Generously flour the work surface with tapioca starch. Roll individual dough ball into 0.25cm thickness sheet.
Use a round cutter of 15cm in diameter and start shaping the dumpling skin. Work through the other balls. Stack the skin on a flat plate and cover them with clean kitchen towel
Put a couple of spoonfuls of filling in the middle of the skin.
Fold the skin into half and seal the edges by pressing the two sides together. Using your thumb, fold a small part of the skin (about 1cm) inwards and press harder so the skin will stick together. Repeat this through the whole side of the dumpling, from right to left.
Prepare the steamer line the base with oiled banana leaves. Boil the water before placing the dumpling into the steamer. Arrange the dumplings on the banana leaves. Steamed for 15-20 minutes
This is how they look like when they are nicely steamed. Brush some garlic oil on them to prevent sticking and tearing prematurely. Aren’t they beautiful?
They can last for up to 1 day without refrigeration. If refrigerated, they are good to go for 2 days. Steam them for 10 minutes before serving.
Enjoy them with chili sauce!
Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
1 kg sweet potatoes
250 g tapioca starch
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 garlic cloves
50 g dried shrimp, soaked and minced
1 kg jicama, grated
250 g carrot, grated
75 g french beans, cut diagonally and thinly
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp sugar (optional)
To prepare skin wrapper
Steam the potatoes for 30 minutes until soft. Peel the skin off and place them on clean working surface
Mash them till fine. Make sure there is no lumps at all.
Add the starch to the mashed sweet potatoes and work through it till they resemble yellow dough.
Take 75 g of the dough and drop it into a pan of boiling water. Cook it for 2 minutes, until it floats up to the surface of the boiling water.
Remove it from water and add back to the first batch of dough. Carefully knead them until the dough is soft and pliable.
Flour working surface with starch and roll them into thin sheet of 0.25cm thickness. Use a big round cutter of 15cm in diameter to cut the sheet. Cover the wrapper with clean kitchen towel to prevent drying.
To prepare the filling
Heat the cooking oil in a wok large enough to handle the all the filling ingredients
Stir-fry garlic till fragrant for about a minute. Toss in minced dried shrimp and stir-fry for a bit longer.
Toss in all both grated carrot and jicama and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Add sliced beans and cook for 2 more minutes before removing from heat. Set aside for later use.
To make the dumpling
Take a couple of spoonfuls of filling and place them in the middle of a wrapper. Fold it right in the middle and carefully press both ends together to seal them. Make small indentations around the sides.
To steam the dumpling
Boil some water in a double broiler or a pot used for steaming. Line the top steamer rack (or a bamboo steamer) with oiled banana leaves. Arrange the dumplings on the leaves with 2cm space around them. Steam the dumplings over high heat for 15-20 minutes. When cooked, brush them with garlic oil generously. This will make the dumplings easier to handle, as the oil will keep the skin from drying.
The hands featured were my auntie Lily’s – she can make these with her eyes closed, that’s how good she is! The step-by-step shots of the filling are actually double the recipe listed above. We would like to have leftover of the fillings for dinner, to be served with steamed rice.