Bok Choy and Baked Tofu Potstickers

chinese dinner

Potstickers and dumplings are some of my favorite things to eat. They’re more of a pain to make for a weekday dinner, but if you make a big batch of them, you can freeze them easily.

The filling ingredients:

  • baby bok choy (I used about 12-20)
  • 3 squares of baked tofu
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms that have been reconstituted so that they’re tender
  • 1/4 cup Chinese pickled vegetable (zha cai)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 scallions (just the top part)

Rinse the baby bok choy really well because sometimes there’s a lot of grit.  Drain and put them in a microwavable bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Put it into the microwave and cook on high for about 3-4 minutes, until they’re wilted and tender.  Leave it in the bowl covered with plastic for a few minutes to steam. Alternatively, you can steam them on the stove top till tender, or boil them, but the microwave is the fastest.

chinese dinnerWhile the bok choy is cooking, cut the 3 squares of baked tofu into chunks the size of your thumb and throw into a food processor with the rest of the filling ingredients. Pulse and process until the filling is chopped, but not mush. Remove and set aside. If no food processor is available, you can do it by hand by chopping everything finely.

Pull the bok choy out, drain and squeeze to release most of the liquid. You don’t want the filling to be watery. Put the drained bok choy into the food processor and pulse until chopped finely.

Combine the chopped bok choy with the rest of the ingredients and add salt to taste.

Place about a tablespoon of the filling on the wrapper and wrap it however you like.  I need to do a better video of my dumpling wrapping, but here’s an animated gif version.

Frying method:

Put a flat bottomed pan with a cover (I used our cast iron one) onto medium-low heat and put in enough oil to coat the entire bottom. It doesn’t have to be deep-frying high, but every part of the bottom of the pan should have oil on it.  Gently place the dumplings into the pan, flat side to the bottom. You can crowd them so that they’re touching, but don’t press them against each other.

Once all the dumplings are in the pan, pour in 1/4 cup of water and cover immediately. This steams the top and inside of the dumpling.  Keep covered for about 7 minutes, and then check.  The tops of the dumplings should look cooked, and not floury or white.  If not, cover for a minute more. If the water’s already evaporated, add a few tablespoons more and cover.

When the tops of the dumplings look done, take the cover off. If the water’s all gone, and the bottom of the dumpling are browned, they’re ready to be removed from the pan and served. If not, let them sit on the heat for longer.  Once they’re sufficiently browned, they should release from the pan easily.

chinese dinner

Steaming method:

Line a steamer with napa cabbage.  I used kale because that’s all I had in the fridge.  Place the dumplings in the steamer, cover, and steam for 20 minutes.

The dip:

Peel ginger and cut into tiny slivers.  Top with black vinegar.

chinese dinner

Noodle House aka Mian Hsiang Yuan

Always up to try new places, the BF took my parents and I out to Mian Hsiang Yuan, a small dumpling restaurant in Monterey Park. For a place that specializes in made-to-order dumplings, they certainly picked an inaccurate American name. They do serve noodles, but their noodles were not made in-house.

Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

We started off with three cold appetizer plates. The beef tripe plate was my favorite: tender, seasoned perfectly, and a bit spicy. Their tofu-skin plate was also very good and flavorful with a hint of peppercorn without being spicy at all. The cucumbers were disappointing and under-seasoned.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

Next came the scallion pan-cakes. They were cooked with lard, so vegetarians and vegans stay away. For being cooked in lard, they were underwhelmingl. There were plenty of scallions, but there just wasn’t that much flavor.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

The BF ordered their ma jiang mian, which is a vegan cold noodle dish with peanut sauce. My dad really liked this dish and I thought the sauce was fine, but apparently it dried out too quickly.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

Next, we had the hong sao niu rou mian, which is the beef noodle soup. The soup was good and flavorful, but a bit on the thin side. The noodles were the same as the noodles that came with the BF’s noodle dish: pretty generic super-market type noodles.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

Since dumplings are this place’s specialty, we ordered their combo dumpling (boiled water-style). When it came, I was a bit surprised by how massive the dumplings were. They take at least two bites to finish. The skin was good and chewy, which I liked, but the filling was bland and disappointing. The combo dumpling has seafood in it, but you wouldn’t be able to taste it in the filling. There was no savory taste at all.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

We also ordered the steamed pork and mushroom dumplings. The skin was again chewy and great, but the filling had the same blandness.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

The BF ordered the leek bun (vegan) and liked them. The filling (thankfully) was flavorful and salty and the bun’s exterior was soft and chewy.
Dinner @ Mian Xian Yuan

Lastly came the beef rolls (niu rou juen bing). I think they had been sitting around the counter for the while because the crepe on the outside was cold and rubbery. The beef inside was bland and not even the sauce could save it.

Overall, Noodle House was pretty disappointing. Their food wasn’t bad at all, but I just expected a lot more flavor for a place that specializes in dumplings. It’s strange that there are no vegetarian dumplings on the menu and they refused to make any when I asked them about it. Considering they’re a “made to order” restaurant, I would have thought it’d be easy for them to just stick the filling they use for the veggie buns into some dumpling wrappers.

I’m also considering not patronizing this place anymore because we asked if they could make one of our orders of dumplings pan-fried (as in pot-stickers) and they lady said no. That would have been fine, but after all our food came and the restaurant filled up, I saw that the table next to us had pot-stickers! I don’t think it’s a timing issue because when we asked, the restaurant was only half full. I think it’s pretty rude to give some customers the “right” to potstickers while denying it to others.

If the food had been better, I could have excused that rudeness, but since it was so disappointing, I don’t think I’ll be returning.

Noodle House (Mian Hsiang Yuan)
958 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
Tel: (626) 280-0831