Aside from the handful of vegetarian Chinese restaurants like Enjoy Veggie in SF, Vegetarian Dim Sum House in NYC, and Buddha's Delight in Boston, most Chinese restaurants are not vegetarian friendly. In fact, I find most food in Chinese restaurants to be unhealthy and thus I rarely eat out Chinese. I do have fond memories of a large family style meal at Fang's, a sister restaurant of the popular House of Nanking, in SF.
One thing I do miss about Chinese restaurants, is pot stickers. In grad school, I used to buy a frozen bag of Japanese pot stickers, gyoza, from Trader Joes and shamelessly eat an entire bag for dinner. More recently, I have been experimenting with a healthy approach to making Chinese pot stickers at home.
Inspired by Mark Bittman's minimalist pot stickers, these are delicious, surprisingly light, and packed with fresh vegetables like cabbage, carrot, shitake mushrooms, white scallion parts, ginger, garlic, and green chili lightly drizzled with soy sauce. I think a drizzle of sesame oil would also be nice. The only drawback is that it takes a really long time to finely chop all of the veggies.
This was one of those moments when I wished I had a food processor. I tell myself that I'm a dedicated cook because I shred cabbage and carrots by hand, until my hands bleed, while others use their fancy food processor that they registered for at Williams Sonoma to shred things like cabbage and potatoes (even cheese!) in seconds. But really, I am just jealous and would love to own my very own Cuisinart food processor.
I used square shaped wonton wrappers as they are easier to find, but you can use round shaped dumpling wrappers if you can find them. Simply place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper, brush the edges with lightly beaten egg, and press and seal the edges together. Since there were 50 wrappers in a packet, we set up an assembly line to make the pot stickers.
Place on a plate until ready to cook; or lay on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze separately. Once frozen, you can combine the pieces in a freezer bag. Freezing the pieces separately will keep them from sticking together.
To cook, heat a large skillet over moderately high heat and add canola (or vegetable oil) and peanut oil. Once hot, add dumplings in a single layer, about 12 should fit in a large skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes until bottom browns slightly. Then add 1/4 cup of water (stand back, it will splash when hitting the hot oil), cover, lower heat to medium, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to high to cook off any remaining water and brown bottoms.
In hindsight, a nonstick skillet would work better to avoid the bottoms sticking to the pan. The pot stickers did crisp up nicely in the stainless steel skillet, however.
Serve immediately with a soy sauce, rice vinegar, and green scallion dipping sauce.