Chive Turnovers (韭菜盒子 – Jui Cai He Zi)

Vegetarian dishes that pretend to be like their meat counterparts have always struck a dissonant chord with me – why be something you can’t? Here’s a Chinese comfort food with a ton of flavor that won’t leave you saying “…and where is the meat?” This turnover is stuffed with jiu cai (Chinese garlic chives), clear vermicelli, and bits of egg and cooked like a potsticker (to be read as crispy outside layer!)

While this dish is normally vegetarian, I couldn’t help but add some ground pork and shrimp. Either way, this recipe is perfect to eat as a snack or a meal.

What to do with leftover filling? Just eat as is!

For those lucky people who live on the East Bay area past the Caldecott tunnel, visit the farmer’s market in Moraga for some homemade jiu cai he zi…or devote a lazy weekend afternoon to making these lovely turnovers.

Ingredients

Dough

1 and 3/4 cups of plain flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup ice cold water (no ice cubes)

Filling

1 bundle of Chinese vermicelli (aka cellophane noodles, bean thread noodles)
1/2 lb ground pork (well-marbled) – omit if vegetarian
1 tbs ginger, minced
2 eggs
10 shrimp, raw – omit if vegetarian
1 bunch Chinese chives (aka garlic chives), cut into 1 inch sections
2 tbs sesame oil + 1 tsp
3 tbs soy sauce
2 heavy dashes of white pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt to taste (~1/2 tsp)

Directions

Prepare the dough:

Add the flour to a mixing bowl and pour over the water you have just boiled. Use chopsticks to mix together. The water will scald the dough, half cooking it – it will produce a much softer dough later on. Now add 1/4 cup of cold water and knead until a supple dough. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare the filling:

In a bowl, submerge the Chinese vermicelli in a bowl of warm water (let sit for about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a  separate bowl, combine ground pork, ginger, 1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and stir vigorously to combine for a couple minutes. Set aside in the refrigerator.

In yet another small bowl, beat the eggs together. Heat a medium pan and pour the eggs into the pan. Distribute the eggs evenly on the bottom of the pan and cook until well, about 2-3 minutes. Do not scramble the eggs. Remove from heat and set aside. Slice the egg into thin strips about 2 inches long.

In a small pot, bring water to boil. Peel and devein shrimp. When the water is boiling, add shrimp and cook until done (the shrimp will curl and turn pink) – about 3-4 minutes. Chop into small sections about 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

Once the Chinese vermicelli has turned completely tranlucent, cut the noodles into 1 inch sections.

In a large wok on medium high heat, heat 1 tbs of oil and add the ground pork mixture. Cook until almost cooked through (about 4-5 minutes). Add the Chinese chives, vermicilli, sesame oil, 2 tbs of soy sauce, white pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir until the Chinese chives have wilted (about 3-4 minutes). Add in shrimp and egg and toss to combine. Taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary. Set aside to cool. Ensure any liquid that has accumulated is squeezed out before being wrapped into the dough!

Assemble the turnovers: Roll out your dough until it forms a long ‘snake’. Divide into 6-7 chunks, roll them out to circles. Put  2-3 heaping tablespoons of filling on the dough and shape them into a half moon shape. When sealing the dough, ensure you push out any air that may have been trapped inside. Flatten gently with your hand. Cut off the remaining dough from the edges and crimp with a fork or bend the edges up to form a braided pattern.

Cooking the turnovers: In a large pan, heat 1-2 tbs of oil over medium heat. Place the turnover in the pan and cook until one side is golden brown. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown. Serve with an Asian sweet and spicy sauce.

Storing the turnovers: Once the turnovers have been made but not cooked, you can freeze them for an indefinite amount of time (6-7 months). Place them on parchment paper and freeze until solid. Then store them in a plastic freezer bag and you’re set. When you’re ready to cook them, follow the cooking instructions. No need to defrost!

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