Mindful Cooking: Vegan Zucchini Dumplings


There is a growing trend in modern psychology to view the cooking experience as a form of mindful meditation. The idea being that paying close attention to all of the senses engaged in the kitchen can take you out of your thoughts and into your body. The smell of the different ingredients; the sound of the knife on the cutting board; the sizzle of a pan; the visual creativity in presentation; the taste of changing flavors on your pallet. Cooking is a full sensory experience.  

Seligman’s PERMA theory of well being defines five areas of mental health that lead to happiness: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Cooking regularly and sharing food with your community could satisfy each of these happiness markers, while also resulting in a great meal. 

Interestingly, there is a long culture of meditative cooking found in monastery kitchens. Monks across the world prepare meals for those living in the monastery, and it is no doubt this is done with an element of mindfulness. These kitchens often produce vegetarian or vegan food meant to nourish the bodies and minds of the monks who consume it. It is so common, in fact, that many monasteries have their own cookbooks. It is fascinating to examine how this practice spans different religions and regions of the world. The food is always different, but the mindful act of preparation is the same.  

So how do we move the slog of weekly dinner demands into an intentional mindfulness practice? The answer is simplification. Plan meals that focus on fresh ingredients and simple preparation and practice them often. 

This recipe shares a common Korean Temple food—vegan dumplings. With minimal ingredients, the fresh flavor of ripe zucchini is the star. It is paired with a simple dipping sauce. 

Fresh flavors. Simple ingredients. Methodical preparation.  


2 medium green zucchini

20 Wonton wrappers 

4 large shiitake mushroom, fresh or dried and rehydrated

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce 

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Dipping sauce 

3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon water

½  teaspoon chili oil, *to taste


Chop the zucchini first into disks and then into small ribbons, approximately the size of a matchstick. Notice the methodical process of chopping the zucchini into identically sized pieces. Place them in a bowl and lightly sprinkle with salt and let sit for 15 minutes to help draw excess water from the zucchini. 

While the zucchini is resting, cut shiitake mushrooms into a similar shape. Tune in to the rhythmic sound of the knife chopping the mushrooms. Heat half a teaspoon of oil in a nonstick pan. Pay attention to the sounds of the heating oil.  Add the thin mushroom ribbons to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add soy sauce and cook for another minute or two. Smell the changing aromas coming from the cooking mushrooms.The mushrooms should be soft and golden brown. Remove from the heat and spread onto a dinner plate to cool. 

Rinse the salted zucchini sticks under cold water. Now, one handful at a time, squeeze the excess water from the zucchini into the sink. Feel the sensation of the zucchini in your hands. Place a half teaspoon of sesame oil to the same pan as the mushroom and heat over medium. Add the zucchini and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is close to dry. Remove zucchini from the pan and spread across the dinner plate to cool. 

While the veggies are cooling, set up a dumpling station. Open the wonton wrappers and separate and then restack 25 individual wrappers (in case they have stuck together).

Set out a small finger bowl of water. Prepare a large plate or baking sheet, lined with a clean dish towel or piece of parchment paper. 

Wet and then thoroughly wring out a clean dish towel till damp and set aside. Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lastly, prepare a bowl of cold water and a few ice cubes and set aside. Take a moment to admire the orderly arrangement of your dumpling rolling station. 

Now combine the cooked veggies in a bowl. Mix to incorporate and then taste for seasoning. Go slowly and hold the zucchini in your mouth for a moment and focus on the different flavors. Remember, the goal is to taste the freshness of the zucchini. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

To make the dumplings, hold a wonton wrapper in your hand and add 1 tablespoon of filling to the center. Take your free hand and dip a finger in the water and trace around the edges of the entire dumpling to serve as glue. Now fold two opposing ends up and over the filling towards the center. Secure these corners to each other by using your fingers to press the edges together. Then bring the other two opposing ends together, and again seal with your fingers. Find your own desired dumpling shape, and then get into a methodical process of making identical dumplings, one after another. 

Set prepared dumplings on the plate or baking sheet and cover with the damp dish towel. Repeat the process. Focus on your hands, the ingredients and the folding process. 

When dumplings are ready to be cooked, turn up the heat on the water to bring to a simmer. Carefully add individual dumplings to the water using a slotted spoon and cook only until the dumplings float. Feel the heart of the steam rising from the water. Then add them immediately to the cold water bath to cool. Repeat the process until all the dumplings are cooked. Once dumplings are cool, arrange artfully on a serving plate.

For the dipping sauce, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl and serve in individual dipping bowls.

When you are ready to serve, do so in a quiet place. Take a moment to appreciate your dish, the ingredients and the effort that went into each individual dumpling. Eat slowly, taking your time to taste each element of the dumpling. Pay attention to when you have had enough. Share the accomplishment of a homemade meal with friends. 

Makes 20 dumplings.  


Calories 35 

Protein 1 g

Total fat 0 g

Saturated fat 0 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Carbohydrate 6 g

Fiber 0 g

Total sugars 1 g

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 80 mg


Calories 35 

Protein 1 g

Total fat 0.5 g

Saturated fat 0 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Carbohydrate7 g

Fiber 0 g

Total sugars 1 g

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 170 mg

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