Learn how to make dumplings using thanks to three delicious filling recipes and a video that shows different wrapping and cooking methods.
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Last weekend, as a belated nod to Chinese New Year, I decided to stock up on dumplings. Once in a while, I make a big batch of these bite-size wonders and freeze them for future use. It’s a time-consuming task, but I find it relaxing and I’m rewarded with many great meals to come. Whenever I want a quick & easy lunch, I take out exactly the number of bites I need, cook them from frozen and voilà, I enjoy their crispy and moist deliciousness. Industrially-made dumplings sold in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets are fairly popular and some brands are not too bad, but making them yourself is lots better, believe me. First, you control the thickness of the wrappers you’re using – nothing worse than biting a dumpling and discovering that it’s mostly made of dough, not filling. Second, you know exactly what you put in your dumplings: no fillers, no mystery ingredients, just goodness. And you can play around with the ingredients and invent a new recipe every time!
Another thing that I love about dumplings is that you can wrap them in many ways so they always feel different and new. The crescent shape is a classic so I always make some this way, but I also like to try new methods. This time, I tried a technique I first saw demonstrated by Chef Susur Lee which wraps shrimp filling in such a way that it makes the dumplings look like little gifts. I also used a dumpling press that I paid less than $3 at the Asian market. The gadget was quick to work with but I found the dumplings it produced the least attractive of the bunch.
If you’ve never made your own dumplings before, now is the time to try. I will guide you through making three different kinds of dumplings:
Dumplings can be cooked in different ways:
Dumplings are best served with a classic dipping sauce. My recipe for a scalable and super easy dumpling dipping sauce is at the very bottom of this post!
You can find dumpling wrappers in the freezer section of all Asian grocery stores, and in most regular supermarkets too. Both Chinese dumpling wrappers and Japanese gyoza wrappers can be used, and the difference between the two is that the Chinese wrapper tends to be thicker. These wrappers can be used as is, but following the recommendation of chef Susur Lee, I’ve taken to rolling them out to make them thinner. This creates dumplings that become beautifully glistening and translucent after cooking. Thin dumpling skins also fry crunchier (yum!).
To flatten dumpling wrappers:
If you want to try something new, make your own dumpling wrappers from scratch! They’re easier to make than you think. Get my go-to recipe for homemade dumpling wrappers.
There are several different ways to wrap dumplings, the most traditional of which is certainly the classic crescent shape. You can have fun and wrap them in many different ways; I like to use a different wrapping method per filling so that the different varieties are easy to recognize.
Because videos are tremendously helpful to learn new techniques in the kitchen (and because it was easier than trying to explain it in words!), I’ve put together a short video in which I show how to flatten dumpling skins, as well as three different wrapping methods: Susur Lee’s “bow” technique, the classic crescent shape and the flat half-moon shape.
Watch below or click here to view the video in HD quality on YouTube (instructions will be easier to read!).
The following three recipes were inspired by Susur Lee but I heavily adapted them to use ingredients that are easy to find. Feel free to use these recipes as a guide and come up with your own variations. You can use a wide variety of proteins as a base, such as duck, chicken, pork, beef, fish, crab or shrimp, or you can go vegetarian by using tofu or only vegetables. Other classic ingredients in fillings include cabbage, green onions, leek and chives. Seasonings can include sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, chopped hot peppers (or hot sauce), ginger, lemongrass, and lemon or orange zest.
Colorful vegetable dumpling filling.
This method works with any kind of dumpling. I like to fry flat half-moon vegetable dumplings on both sides: turn them before adding water to the skillet.
Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry dumplings until their bottom is golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup water for every 10 to 12 dumplings, cover immediately, and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and let any remaining water cook-off. Serve very hot.
This method works best with thicker wrappers and crescent-shaped dumplings. I wouldn’t boil delicate bow-wrapped or flat half-moon dumplings.
Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add dumplings (don’t overcrowd your pot) and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Heat up some vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry boiled dumplings until their bottom is golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Serve very hot.
This method works best with thin wrappers.
Heat one to two inches of water in the bottom of a wok until it simmers. Place a bamboo steamer over the water (the bottom of the steamer must not touch the water). Place dumplings in the steamer and cover. Vegetable dumplings will be the quickest to cook (about 3 minutes), shrimp dumplings are ready after 4-5 minutes and beef takes about 8 minutes.
Follow the same instructions for a double-boiler. If using an electric steamer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you intend on freezing dumplings, do so as soon as possible. With time, the filling’s moisture will get through the wrappers and make them all sticky and soggy. If you freeze them as soon as they’re made, they will keep their cornstarch coating and remain easy to manipulate.
As you make the dumplings, line them up on a baking sheet and as soon as one sheet is full, put it in the freezer. Once the dumplings are frozen hard (3 hours later minimum), transfer the dumplings to freezer bags and store until you have a craving for hot and crispy dumplings!
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