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I am planning to make Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) for a friend's party. Because she is vegatarian I'd like to make one set of vegetable dumplings and one set of conventional dumplings. To make it easy to tell these apart I'd like to color the dough for one of them.

Can you suggest me a simple way to color the dough of the dumplings? The dough for Jiaozi is simply made from water and flour. I am mostly interested in ways to color the dough that use "natural" integredients as she does not really like artificial stuff. Also, what is the traditional Chinese way to color dough?

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    What about just making different shapes? – Cascabel Apr 16 '13 at 5:06
  • @Jefromi I'm not skilled enough to make shapes that are distinct enough. Also, I fear the guests may not be able to tell apart the shapes and accidentially eat the wrong ones. – FUZxxl Apr 16 '13 at 5:09
  • related to cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/7152/… – rumtscho Apr 16 '13 at 9:51
  • While I agree with Jefromi that you could do different shapes, if that is not going to work for you, just serve them on differently colored or shaped platters, perhaps with a small sign telling your guests which is which. I find this is very effective. You don't have to color the food objects themselves; vegetarians are highly motivated not to eat the meat dumplings or buns or whatever.... I find the larger problem is sometimes making sure everyone doesn't eat up all of the vegetarian option. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 16 '13 at 10:48
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    Yup, no matter how clearly you mark things, if you're making comparable vegetarian and meat options, you pretty much have to make enough vegetarian stuff for everyone. – Cascabel Apr 17 '13 at 2:59
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You could add chopped fresh herbs to the dough. I'm not familiar with Jiaozi to know how much it would affect the texture, but its common in pasta dough. If you chop it fine enough, it should bleed quite a bit of green color into the dough.

I don't know any particularly traditional food coloring methods, but I do know that tea is often used in place of water to change the color and taste of certain dishes (e.g. tea eggs). However, I doubt that is a flavor you really want to introduce into the dumpling dough.

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As it's flour and water, you could likely use coloring used in Italian pastas, although most will impart some flavor of their own:

  • green : spinach: cooked, strain some, run through a food processor, then strain again. Add back the spinach liquid in place of water for extra flavor.

  • red : tomato paste or beets.

  • black : squid ink (requires having a specialty store near you).

Other common colorants:

  • yellow : turmeric (or egg yolks for the non-vegetarian one, but this'll also change the characteristics of the dough)

If you have the time, and want to be sure that they'll be obvious in low-light conditions, you can even make them striped

  • If considering using squid ink, recall that it may not be considered vegetarian. Perhaps it was meant for marking the non-veg options, and it is fine for that purpose, but since it is an unusual additive, and its potentially vegetarian status was an actual question among a few people I know - best to be clear that it may not be. – Megha Aug 24 '16 at 8:31
  • Megha : A good point -- it's definitely not vegan. As harvesting it requires killing the squid, it would probably be considered similar to gelatin, which most vegetarian will avoid – Joe Aug 24 '16 at 11:41
  • That clears it up, and our question as well. The conversation I was part of was not sure if its harvest required the squid's death (if it might be gotten from a living animal, since the squid use it to hide), but generally thought that it was likely that it was harvested from a squid meant for food, and so certainly questionable unless we found otherwise. – Megha Aug 24 '16 at 20:44
  • @Megha : I doubt the ink that the squid used for defense would be as useful, as it'd have been diluted in the water. (unless you got it out of the tank and then scared it ... but I have a feeling that vegetarians would be upset if the way to harvest it was to keep the squid in a state of fear). – Joe Aug 25 '16 at 2:45
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For Qingming Festival, Chinese will eat a vegetarian dumpling called "艾饺", pronounced: /aɪ tɕja/. This is easily distinguishable from other dumplings due to their vivid green color, see Baidu Baike, which comes from the ingredient 艾草, a variety of mugwort grown in China.

  • What kind of herbs do you suggest for that purpose? – FUZxxl Apr 17 '13 at 12:39

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