Sargent Choice Beneath the Wrapper: A Healthy Twist on Dim Sum

By Kelli Swensen, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

I love Sargent. For the last year and a half of being at Boston University, the word “Sargent” has become synonymous with “home”. I suppose this close bond I have with Sargent is nearly directly due to the fact that all but one of my classes are in Sargent, when I’m not in class, I study in Sargent, I am a member of Sargent student council, and a very high number of my friends are Sargent majors or minors. But the word has connection with something I love even more than a building: food. Sargent Choice parfaits are my addiction. But until I became a part of the Sargent Choice team, developing recipes to be tested on Wednesday nights at Karen’s, I assumed that eating Sargent Choice was only possible on campus where Sargent Choice foods are identified with a round, blue Sargent Choice sticker. I thankfully learned otherwise.

Under the layer of the shiny blue sticker and the green labels in the dinning hall, Sargent Choice foods are composed of established principles that aim to promote healthy eating on campus. All of the recipes are developed based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Although very official sounding, the Dietary Guidelines provide easy to implement recommendations for obtaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of these health-boosting principles is to eat whole grains for at least half of the grains you eat in a day. Examples of whole grains are oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and foods composed of whole-wheat flour.  Believe it or not, Sargent Choice criteria is a bit more strict than the guidelines in the sense that if a Sargent Choice food contains a grain then that grain has to be 100% whole wheat.

Earlier this semester at Karen Jacob’s kitchen we made delicious pot stickers. Sadly, these pot stickers can’t get the “complete” Sargent Choice seal of approval because whole grain pot sticker wrappers aren’t available in the store (we’re hoping they will be someday soon!)   However, just because they aren’t a whole-grain doesn’t mean the grain doesn’t give you good nutrition, whole grains simply are more packed with nutrients. To learn more about the difference between whole grains and refined grains, read this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Usually all the recipes at the test kitchen are Sargent Choice, it just seemed wrong not to make a traditional appetizer in celebration of the Chinese New Year. So with no whole-grains what do you do? Pack the tiny wrappers full of colorful vegetables and soft tofu.

My first experience with Dim Sum was over winter break this year. If you’ve never been, imagine a large open room with round tables everywhere. And between these tables are waitresses pushing carts full of steaming dumplings, freshly made pork or bean-filled buns, scalding hot soups, and numerous desserts. You order what you want from the carts Picture1and they stamp a card on your table that keeps tally of everything you’ve tried. Think of it as adventurous Spanish tapas. In February we brought Dim Sum to StuVi2. We didn’t have the carts or the mysterious stamping cards, but the pot stickers were mouth wateringly good, and anything lacking from not having carts being pushed around was made better by the fun of filling the wrappers with the vegetable tofu mix and pinching them closed to form beautiful, picture-worthy pot stickers.


To start, we placed the mushrooms in a bowl with hot water to reconstitute them, just like we did with the dried cherries in the Chocolate Cherry Cookies we made in December (if you haven’t tried them yet now is a perfect time – they’d be a great sweet ending to this slightly salty appetizer, just saying).

While the mushrooms are soaking, we combined all the pre-washed and chopped vegetables, water chestnuts, ginger root, sesame oil, garlic, and olive oil in a saucepan. Note: It is very important that the chopped vegetables are completely dry when you put them in the pan!

There are two options on how to eventually steam the pot stickers and both are highlighted in the complete recipe below. Being the perfect hostess that she is, Karen had bamboo steamers for us to use. If you are lucky like us and have either bamboo or metal steamers, cover the bottom of the steamers with large cabbage leafs while the veggies are cooking. Any type of cabbage will work. We used a Taiwanese cabbage that I had never seen before. It was both larger and cheaper than normal cabbage making it a perfect base for our pot stickers.


Once the veggies were finally ready (only about 10min but the grumbling of your stomach from the aroma of the garlic browning from the olive oil will convince you that this step takes nine minutes too long), we poured the mixture into a bowl and added tiny cubes of tofu.

Picture 4

Now comes the best part: stuffing and wrapping. My friend Shums had never been to Karen’s before, and I was beyond happy that tonight was the night she decided to come. With everyone circled around the table, each of us stuffing a wonton wrapper with a tablespoon of mix then dipping our fingers into warm water to pinch the ends of the wrapper together, it was impossible not to feel like you were participating in a family tradition.


After each pot sticker was sealed, we placed them in the steamers, leaving about an inch to two inches of space between each pot sticker so they wouldn’t stick together. Before putting the lid on your steamer make sure to take a final look at the pot stickers. Notice how they have a floury look and feel to them. These observations will help you to know when your pot stickers are finished cooking.


To steam, we stacked the steamers on top of a pot of simmering water. If you have a gas stove PLEASE make sure that the flame isn’t high enough to reach the bamboo!

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After 8 minutes of impatiently waiting for our Dim Sum treat to be ready, Karen lifted the lid, steam covering her face, unveiling perfectly steamed pot stickers. We knew they were ready because the wrapper had turned almost transparent and had a glossy or wet look to it.

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Okay, I lied; eating these was the best part. Karen had a sauce that was a mix of soy sauce and vinegar that sent these over the top. As I finished my last bite of my first pot sticker (for there were many more consumed), I looked over at my friend and her eyes were sparkling. Immediately after the last pot sticker from the first batch was eaten, I could hear someone whispering to her friend, “There’ll be more, right?” Yes, there were lots more and all of them got eaten before they had time to cool. If these haven’t convinced you to come to Karen’s then maybe these quotes that I overheard people saying that night will: “The food is always amazing here” “Delicious” “I just can’t stop eating these. And the sauce!” and from my friend Shums, “I’m going to start coming every week”.

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At the end of the night we had made some delicious and healthy Dim Sum. Are they Sargent Choice? Unfortunately they don’t qualify 100% as Sargent Choice because the wrappers aren’t whole grain. But the rest of the pot stickers definitely qualify as Sargent Choice.  So what makes these healthy? They are full of fresh vegetables and tofu, and they are low in sodium, sugar, and fat. Enjoy!


Tofu Spinach Pot Stickers

Yield: About 100

1 cup boiling water
12oz dried mushrooms* (see note)
2/3 cup finely chopped canned water chestnuts
2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
2/3 cup coarsely chopped carrots
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger root
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 14oz package of soft tofu
100 wonton wrappers
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided*


1.      Combine boiling water and mushrooms in a bowl; cover and let stand 30min. Drain; discard stems, and mince caps

2.      Combine mushroom caps, water chestnuts, cabbage, carrots, celery, ginger root, and sesame oil.

3.      Place 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Place garlic cloves in pan. Add in the thawed spinach.

4.      Once the spinach and garlic are cooked, reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the mushroom mixture. Continue to stir-fry until the vegetables are cooked; they will feel soft, but not mushy.

5.      Remove from heat and pour into a big mixing bowl

6.      Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling mixture into the center of each wrapper

7.      To seal the wrappers, moisten edges of wrapper with water, and bring together opposite edges, folding almost like a soft taco. Press firmly to seal.

Two options for cooking:

1.      If you have a metal or bamboo steamer:

a.       Place cabbage leafs inside of steamer, covering the bottom. Place sealed pot stickers on top of leafs, leaving about an inch of space so that the pot stickers won’t stick together.

b.      Once the steamers are full, cover and stack on top of a pot of simmering water. If using a gas stove, be careful that the flame doesn’t reach the bamboo.

c.       Steam for about 8-10 min. The pot stickers are ready when the wrapper turns from a floury-cloudy color to almost transparent.

d.      Remove steamers from pot and allow to cool for 3min

2. If you do not have a steamer:

a.       Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place half of pot stickers in bottom of skillet

b.      Cook 3min or until bottoms are lightly browned

c.       Add ½ cup of water to skillet; cover and cook 3 min or until liquid is absorbed

d.      Remove pot stickers from skillet and allow to cool for 3 min

Because there is no soy sauce in the recipe itself, the pot stickers taste better with a dipping sauce. Soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or any other Asian-flavored dipping sauce will do the trick.

*We used a brand from Super88 that translates as  “Tea Mushrooms” but the original recipe calls for shitake mushrooms.



JT posted on April 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Wow those pot stickers look delicious! I think I will have to try to make the recipe this week! I’ll have to try to look for a low sodium soy sauce I think. Thanks for sharing

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