Romanian Chicken Dumpling Soup, vegan

If you want hearty, filling, home-cooked-meal-ness kind of food, just go to eastern Europe.  Romania, for instance, is a perfect example: lots of bread, soup, potatoes, cabbage, garlic, and goodness.

I know, I know, I already wrote about a Romanian soup, but I’ve been craving these dumplings lately and finally set out to give them a try for the first time.

IMG_1964While living in Romania as student missionaries at an orphanage, my friend and I had multiple conversations with the ladies who cooked there on how to make supă de galuşte (read: SOO-puh deh guh-LOOSH-teh).  Mix it like this, or, only place it in boiling water when… or, an uncooked inside means it was made too thick, and so on.  Since we had these conversations in Romanian but had dictionaries that really didn’t help with colloquial translation, we soon forgot the specifics we were told soon after coming back to the States.

I had to do a little searching on the internet and a lot of google translate to help me out, but I finally came up with a recipe.  What helped the most (though I found this after making the soup) was finding the recipe written in English!  If you want to see how a non-vegan version is made, this link is worth looking at.

IMG_1970The original soup base involves making stock from chicken; when vegan, using McKay’s chicken broth (or similar) makes it easy peasy.  Traditionally, many Romanian dishes use an herb they call leuştan (read: leh-oo-SHTAHn), or lovage to English-speakers, but it’s hard to find so parsley is a good substitute.  Naturally, there are many variations of this recipe online, but it primarily consists of a few simple ingredients: onion, carrots, parsnips (if you can get some), and parsley.

The hardest part to this soup is getting the dumplings right.  The basic ingredients to them are semolina flour (and apparently even cream of wheat in a pinch!) and eggs.  I usually use ground flax seeds mixed with water as an egg replacer, but I wanted to make them as close to the original as possible so I opted for the unflappable and reliable Ener-G Egg Replacer for the time being.  It took three attempts before I reached a decently satisfying dumpling.  I’m not sure if the semolina flour I used is more fine than what is found in Romania, but the dumplings just didn’t have as “grainy” of a texture as I remembered.  I’ll be trying these again, particularly with cream of wheat since it is more “grainy” than the flour that I have.

IMG_1978Romanian Chicken Dumpling Soup, vegan (aka Supă de Galuşte)

Approximately 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the soup base:

  • Oil (optional if doing oil-free cooking)
  • 2 medium sized carrots, chopped into approx 1/2″ cubes (or equivalent)
  • 2 medium sized parsnips or 1 celery root, chopped into approx 1/2″ cubes (optional)
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped into approx 1/2″ cubes (optional)
  • 1 onion, diced (small, medium, or large, whichever floats your boat)
  • 12 c water
  • McKay’s chicken broth (or equivalent)
  • Parsley, minced (fresh or dried)

For the dumplings:

  • Egg replacer and water
  • Semolina flour (or non-instant cream of wheat), about 1/3 to 1/2 c
  • Dash of onion powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Dash of oil (optional)
  • Baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, saute the carrots and parsnips/celery root with a little bit of oil.  When the former are almost done, add in the celery and onion and saute till cooked.  Add 12 cups of water to the pot and season it with McKay’s chicken broth according to the directions (1 tsp broth for 1 cup of water) or to taste.  Bring the broth to a simmer and let it cook while you make the dumplings.

Get a second smaller pot, fill it about halfway with water, and turn up the heat to bring to a rolling boil–you’ll be making the dumplings in this pot (see notes).  In a medium sized bowl, make two “eggs” with Ener-G Egg Replacer with water according to the box directions (1 egg = 1.5 tsp powder + 2 tbsp water) and mix well.  Add the onion powder, salt, and oil (optional) to the bowl; mix.  Measure 1/3 c of semolina flour and add it to the bowl in a couple spoonfuls of this at a time, mixing it in after each addition.  The consistency or thickness you’re aiming for is something similar to sour cream or a thick yogurt.  You likely will add in the entire 1/3 c of semolina flour; if you need more, add in a spoonful at a time for a total of no more than 1/2 c flour.  It’s better to have it runny that firm.  Add a dash of baking soda, mix to incorporate, and let the mixture rest for 5 minutes.

Check your dumpling mixture (see the second photo from the top): it will have thickened some and still be soft but should hold together when forming the dumplings.  Turn the heat down for the dumpling pot down and bring it to a simmer with the top off.  You can test your mixture by adding a dumpling to the water and seeing if it holds together or not: dip a spoon in the hot water to prevent the mixture from sticking, scoop out a scant spoonful of the mixture while quickly forming it into a semi-football shape at the same time, and place in the pot until it rolls of your spoon (might need a little jiggle).  If the dumpling falls apart, you either need to let your mixture sit a few minutes longer or add a small amount of flour.

When your mixture is ready, make the rest of the dumplings (see the recipe notes for the number of dumplings yielded).  Remember, you’ll have already brought the water down from a rolling boil to a healthy simmer.  Follow the directions in the previous paragraph for shaping and adding the rest of the dumplings to the water.  Cover the pot, make sure the heat is adjusted so the water is at a simmer, and cook for 20-40 minutes.  At some point, check to see if any of the dumplings are stuck to the bottom of the pot–give them a little push if so.  The dumplings will approximately double in size (see third photo from the top) and are done when they can be pierced by a fork or spoon with minimal to no resistance.

To serve, place dumplings in a bowl, add the broth, and sprinkle with parsley.

Recipe Notes:

  • When it comes to preparing the vegetables, I like to dice them up.  Others like to leave the carrots/parsnips/celery in larger pieces–chunks or just cut in long halves or quarters–it’s up to you.
  • When I was seasoned the water with McKay’s chicken broth, I actually substituted half of it with mushroom seasoning since the former is a bit salty to my tastebuds.  Either way, make sure you taste your broth and seasoning it to your liking.
  • Many of the recipes I found online made the dumplings in a separate pot and then would place them in a broth-filled bowl for consumption.  If you’re still figuring out how to get the texture of the dumplings correct (like myself), it’s a really good idea to give them a trial in a separate pot from the broth until you’re more confident about it.  Even then, when I do get to that point, I think I will more often than not make the dumplings in a separate pot so the broth stays as clear as possible–a personal preference.
  • For the most recent batch of dumplings, I made two “eggs” with the egg replacer but as I was mixing, it looked too thick so I added another tablespoon of water.  Most non-vegan recipes call for 2 large eggs.  I’m thinking I may need to increase the egg replacer mixture to four “eggs” in the future because only two “eggs” don’t look like the same amount of two of the real thing!  When this happens, I’ll make sure to update the recipe and notes.
  • I’ve read that the baking soda helps the dumplings to be oh-so-slightly more fluffy.  Who knows!  They likely won’t suffer if you decide not to or forget to add it.
  • With 2 “eggs”, I was able to make 10 dumplings.  Obviously 10 dumplings is not enough for feeding 6-8 people.  For the entire pot of soup, I actually made three batches of dumplings–specifically, I made one batch 10 dumplings three separate times for a total of 30 dumplings.  If you’re a beginner like me, I would recommend doing it this way until you get the texture and consistency right.  Once you have that down pat, making a doubled or tripled dumpling mixture from the get-go will make more sense.  Of course, I’ll update this recipe accordingly if I end up changing the egg replacer amount.
  • When in Romania, I remember the dumplings being much larger than the ones I made.  Maybe they filled their spoons more, maybe I’m still trying to get the mixture right.  Either way, I do recommend with making them smaller for your first few batches because really large dumplings tend to remain hard in the center.  Though, I have a sneaking suspicion that if you eventually master the dumpling mixture consistency, then the size you make them really won’t matter.
  • My first two batches of dumplings were decidedly firm in the middle.  I eventually added them to the main broth pot and left them to simmer for 40-60 minutes.  They were still on the overall firm side but had definitely softened up and the flavor was there!  My third batch was the most successful after learning that a runny mixture is better than firm.  As it is, I think even “runnier” is better which is how I will make any future batches.  Or more “eggs”!  I’ll report back any experiments.

IMG_1912

This soup is similar, in a sense, to the quintessential American chicken noodle soup.  If you make supă de galuşte, it’s like stepping into and experiencing a Romanian childhood memory.  Just perfect for the winter months.

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