Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dumpling Party!

In many ways China has not been what I thought it was going to be. Food-wise, I had visions of:

1. making my own desserts
2. becoming accomplished at traditional chinese dishes
3. learning the intricacies of flavors, spices, and vegetables used here

However, none of those things have occurred. Because:

1. it's hard to practice being a pastry chef without a Kitchen-Aid or large mixing bowl
2. we eat chinese food all the time...if i'm going to cook I want to eat something that reminds me of home
3. food is so inexpensive that it's much easier to eat out and taste test others' expertise

I just keep telling myself that I'll learn when we get back to states, when i'm actually missing asian food.


So. All that was a pretty long prelude to this post, which is the one big attempt that I've made to learn the art of dumpling making. We hosted a bunch of friends at the apartment, armed only with a "secret recipe" from an older man that Tracy and I met at the grocery store and the experiences of my wonderful friends. It was delicious...and really not that hard. I wouldn't recommend making them all yourself, but if you've got a few of you, it's possible to make plenty. As typical with our Chambers Family Dinners, the evening evolved into unanticipated fun. Inspired by two empty picture frames in our apartment, the American guys in our group initiated the idea of 'collective community art.' Every person had to add something to each piece. A lesson in social psychology, the individual responsibility for the success of the art was lowered and people freely participated, from adding two dots of color to bold moves shaping the tone of the piece. Lots of fun and you can see the results below. It's never boring at our place, that's for sure.

Top Ten of Dumpling Making:

1. Heat vegetable oil on the stove with full peppercorns, until the flavor is infused. Then remove the pepper.
2. Add oil to ground pork, salt (add a good amount since the dumpling skin doesn't have much flavor), ground pepper, green onion.
3. Mix. The mixture should be moist. If not enough, add more oil.
4. We cheated (slightly) and purchased the dumpling skins from a store down the street. I was assured that I could purchase the same ones in the asian area of most american cities. Sold.
5. Put a small amount of filling into each skin. Then use water along the edges to seal. (Unlike my family's polish pierogis, there's no stretching of the dough. It wouldn't withstand the cooking methods)
6. Then the cooking. We tested out three different methods just for fun.
7. First method: boiling. In a large pot of water, boil the dumplings until the meat inside is cooked, several minutes. (not our favorite)
8. Second method: steaming. We used a rice cooker and layered the dumplings in the basket. They probably took 5 minutes per batch. We liked this method and soon gave up boiling in favor of steaming. Easier too.
9. Third method: frying/steaming. By far the crowd favorite. You heat oil in a frying pan and layer the dumplings on top. Fry for a few minutes until the bottoms are slightly crispy and then pour a thin layer of water into the pan. Cover and steam until the water is gone and the meat is cooked, a few minutes longer.
10. Delicious. To save uncooked dumplings for later, place in single layers between sheets of wax paper. Don't combine. I know, I'm a professional. I will definitely be recreating these in the states, so look for CFD to return with an asian flair!

Xiaoying, aka Tracy: dumpling maker extraordinaire!
oil, onion, pork, salt, pepper
into the skins!
we got creative with the dumpling shapes, and ended
up with about 10 different kinds
the ladies: Marina, Jenny, myself, Tracy. Rebekah and Ashton arrived later
community art!

The First.

The First and Last are now in places of honor in the formerly empty frames


  1. You totally cheated! Making the dumpling skin is the hardest (and most tedious) part! We took a class on dumpling-making at The Hutong....check it out if you want some REAL dumpling skills!:)

  2. You can totally buy dumpling skins in just about any market here these days. Asian markets will even have round, square, wheat or rice to give you lots of options.

  3. very cool works of art! I want to purchase one. Dumpling skins are hard. I remember we started at like 6pm and didn't eat until after 10pm, and that was with about 6 of us working on them.

  4. Miranda, I culinary side was a bit ashamed. :) Isabel, thank you! I was hoping you'd let me know. That makes me much more apt to make dumplings in the future...even if i don't have a huge posse of dough makers on hand. Shawn, that's an interesting idea...maybe we should start selling off our collective community art for charities. That would be a great off-shoot of Chambers Family Dinner!

  5. Holy freakin cow...I LOVE the art...what a great idea!! Can I have a party with just you and Brian?? I'll put one dot and you can do the rest ;)