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Tell me 'bout your dumplings!


#1

OK, this sounds a little weird, but I need dumpling help.

I love steamed dumplings, bao, and other foods of this nature, but the only place I can get them is over three hours away. Because of this, my wife and I are going to try and make our own at home.

In my experience, there are lots of cookbooks out there which have marginal recipes with marginal results. Is there anyone out there who has experience with any of these foods and has a recipe they are willing to share? Or perhaps good solid tips or advice? Maybe the title of a good cookbook with good results?

Any help would be appreciated!


#2

So, according to Wikipedia, there is a crazy variety of food that can be called dumplings, including Italian Gnocchi and Ravioli!
:open_mouth:
But I take it you are most interested in the Asian ilk, or variations thereof?
I’ve only had Baozi twice in my life, but found them delicious. I also learned that they are similar to the Southern German Dampfnudel, which my grandmother made often when I was a kid and which were quite nice.
These are usually not filled, and served with vanilla sauce, although there are other variants.
Incidentally, I discovered the recipe of my grandma a few days ago and was already planning on giving them a go. Will report once I get to it.


#3

That was the original intent, as I am more familiar with European dumplings. However, I feel we should be inclusive and include all types of dumplings, so please report back to us with your results! :smiley:


#4

I realise these are completely the wrong kind… but my wife makes the most amazing dumplings with her irish stew. Soft and fluffy, absorbent, delicious balls of ? God knows what, but I love em!


#5

My mother used to make the type of asian dumpling that gets boiled. Think wontons; or gyoza, but boiled instead of friend. Unfortunately, the last time I asked her for a recipe (for scallion pancakes), she declined, saying it was more trouble than it was worth, so I doubt she’ll share her dumpling recipe. And making dumplings can be a lot of work, especially when she only had my help, which is why some friends have…

  • Throw a dumpling party, usually around the Lunar New Year. The host makes a variety of fillings, but the party collectively makes the dumplings. Maybe compete to see who makes the prettiest, the most stuffed dumpling that doesn’t fall apart, etc. Then tuck into a group meal. Or the dumplings can be cooked and served as they are made.

Other stuff that I remember:

  • Use store-bought skins. It’s not just for convenience. Commercial dumpling skins have a nice, uniform thickness and rarely break open during cooking. Maybe you could make homemade wrappers if you have a pasta machine.
  • My mom’s dumpling stuff was basically ground meat (pork?) with chopped veggies (scallions and not sure what else).

As for bao:

  • My coworker has pointed me to tangzhong, a technique for making breads moist and soft, which is my favorite part of bao buns. I’ve only used it once, but it seems one thing that’s nice about the technique is that you can adjust most bread recipes to use it by using part of the flour and water in the recipe to make the roux.

#6

(I feel the need to preface this with I am not Asian, but dabble in the cooking, because I can speak from my own experiences, but someone who has family recipes will likely beat me out. )
My experience is with gyoza and egg rolls. But the filling should be applicable
Often the veggies in the dumplings are to thin the meat out. With the wrappers (gyoza tend to be thinner than wonton). So use what you like. For example cabbage is common but I think it tastes horrible. I add a whole bunch of scallions with some pork or chicken, maybe a single strip of bacon, garlic, ginger a bit of soy sauce and sone mirin (sweet cooking sake). I have a ninja food processor thing and toss it all in. I add meat last. For the record says not to, but I chop it pretty diced and it only takes a few pulses to a good consistency.
When in doubt, cook a bit of the filling and see how you like it. In a soup will have a different texture, but the favor should give you an idea.
I’m going to ask a friend regarding the soup.


#7

I heartily recommend Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice as an entry point into Chinese cooking. She’s got you covered on basic dumplings, sure, but also most everything else you need to handle simple, homestyle Chinese cooking. Plenty of pictures for the tough stuff, too - like making dumplings.

everygrainofrice

dumplings

potstickers

Whether you want to buy or make the wrappers, you can jump right in.

At first, absolutely. But I adore potstickers made with Dunlop’s boiling-water dough, which is an utter delight to work with. I’ve used the one from her Sichuan book, Land of Plenty, for years, in part because the bookmark’s never left that page. Hundreds of dumplings - each batch makes around 50 littl’uns - and the only times they’ve ever broken open has been due to poor sealing, not rips in the dough. I use a French-style rolling pin ('cause I wield that sucker for everything except Xmas cookies) and can get them pretty darn close to circular. You could use a pasta machine for true evenness, but 1) you’d need to cut them out with biscuit cutters (and have the waste dough) and 2) if you’re really good, you roll 'em with thicker centers and thinner edges. The commercially-made ones are just plain flat.

(I can’t pull the variable thickness off, either. Not at speed. But maybe you’ve got the chops?)

My wife avoids pork, so I usually make fillings based on chicken or shrimp. Sometimes mushrooms and cabbage, which can be delicious even as they don’t hold together after the first bite. Season with delicious things, and make 'em small. They’re pretty forgiving once you get the hang of it.

And @jgf1123 is absolutely right about the dumpling party. Hands-down best way to go about it.

Since you mention it…

pastabyhand

Fantastic book on regional Italian dumplings, specifically gnocchi. Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis. No filled pastas, like ravioli, just an astonishing variety of dumplings. I make the winter squash cavatelli frequently, since we grow a lot of pumpkins in the garden, but this book was the first one that taught me to make really good potato gnocchi. Super light and delicate. That and she explains how to properly shape orecchiette, and I love making those suckers.

Plus there’s weird stuff like frascarelli, made by dripping water into semolina, then sifting out the oddly-shaped noodles. Or cecamariti, which are yeasted and rolled to a taper on both ends. Or royale bolognese, which is made into an enormous dough sausage, simmered for three hours, then diced before serving in broth. Good stuff!


#8

Gnocchi are not dumplings. My grandma taught me how to make gnocchi, and I won’t tell you how to do that here.

That being said, we were also poor and valued how this kind of thing worked.

Dumplings can be made super-cheap and easy, with leftovers. Pull apart chicken (or whatever you got), put aside. Grab handfuls of dough you just made (flour, water, possibly a little egg, just until it gets to be a pain in the ass to keep mixing), fold it in with the chicken-ish whatever you have (1 part chicken/pork/veggies to 2-3 parts dough depending on how broke you are) until you get balls you can clench that are slightly sticky, but won’t come apart. Try it with soy if you need to.

Throw them in with some boiling soup until the dumplings firm up (or at least the soup does).

It’s not rocket surgery. It’s dumb poor people’s food. I’ve lived off of this many times, it sticks to your ribs and doesn’t take much prep. You don’t need a recipe, just make some dough balls (with some protein in it) and fake it, boil it in a soup made from yesterday’s leftovers.


#9

OK, that last post I made was a little lackadaisical in tone (but totally true! I should have added fresh maize shaved off of a cob makes a fine addition, but it’s too late now).

So this is a modification of my grandma’s pizza dough that I used to make some lunch dumplings.

Measurements are fungible, here, you need to do what works for you. Also, measurements are imperial, not metric, because we are one of the last counties in the world to tout how advanced we are but can’t add by tens (don’t get high and mighty on me, Brits, I like being weighed in stones). The original pizza dough recipe from my grandma’s book will be in bold, the dumpling additions and snark will be in plaintext.


5 1/2 -to- 6 1/2 cups unsifted flour (see? this is where it all falls apart if you are a recipe stickler)
1 Tablespoon sugar (add an additional 4 T for the dumpling dough)
1 pkg dry yeast (3/4 oz/21 g regular baker’s yeast)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 Tablespoon margarine (yes, when you read “margarine” you automatically thought “butter, dammit!” In reality, shortening works best, and lard (yes, lard!) is a close second)

Combine the dry stuff, warm the wet and/or greasy stuff. Make a little volcano out of half the dry stuff, and mix in the wet stuff until you can’t tell where it went, then mix in the rest of the dry stuff until it becomes a total pain in the ass. Put it in a big bowl with a damp towel over it (don’t worry, you’ll get to unleash your aggression on this later).

OK, on with the dumplings

2-4 boiled eggs (you may have to eat the leftovers)
raw egg or just the raw egg white
fresh green onions (the pointier the better, chop the less pointy bits to small pieces)
soy sauce
rice vinegar
1-to-28 cloves of garlic (it’s your choice)
Sweet Chili sauce (May Ploy for example)
A knob of ginger root
Your protein, about 3\4 pound if it’s ground meat, you’re on your own for estimating tofu
Boil some water in a steamer


Boil up 2-4 eggs medium (not soft, not hard, in the middle), peel them, and cut them into quarters. You may not need all of them, maybe have a contingency plan for egg salad.

Take your protein (I like pork, you can use whatever, including whatever leftover protein you have) and make sure it’s all ground up or otherwise in tiny bitty pieces. Sauté it with some of the non-pointy onion and a clove of crushed garlic, or several cloves depending on your garlic addiction. Don’t forget to grate more ginger than you think you need on that. Add several splashes of soy sauce and a decent gloop of the sweet chili sauce, stop just before it’s actually cooked. Take the pan off the burner, or even scrape everything into a chilled container to stop it from cooking more.

Take the pizza dough (yeah, remember that?) and you beat it with your fists and/or a rolling pin until it behaves. Flower up a cutting board, cut the mass into quarters, and smash what you have until you got some flat pieces. It will fight back, don’t let it win. (Keep dusting your hands, the board, your pin, and the dough with flour to make it work).

Once you have a reasonably submissive chunk of dough, spoon 1T of the protein mix in the middle, plus one of the sliced eggs, brush the raw egg along the edges, fold it over to make a pocket, and spear the top with the pointy green onion, or perhaps a ginger sliver.

Stick that in your steamer! (no, really, do that, it wasn’t supposed to come out like an insult, sorry)

Keep doing that with everything (dough, filling, boiled egg, close it, spike it with an onion or ginger) and you should be able to remove the first one after you’re ready to add the third, keep that pace. It should be fully steamed, and ready for a bento box (for American kids, at least).

This does great with cilantro, too, if you want to add it, as well as Vietnamese mint and the fatter, crispier types of basil.


#10

Well, we are having a rather steamy night tonight.

Get your mind out of the gutter! We are making bao buns and some stuffed bao buns, with sticky toffee pudding for dessert! I will let you know how it goes!

Edit: I would call it a success! Photos in the morning as I am too full! So full we are making the sticky toffee tomorrow!


#11

Sorry for the delay, but here are my buns! HEY! Get your head out of the gutter! They are Boa Buns!
And some jumbo dumplings, using the boa bun dough as a wrapper. One tore on the transfer. I need to invest in a short rolling pin…


These are the raised buns just before steaming… Interestingly, hey collapsed a bit on the transfer, but perked back up while cooking. They were folded 50/50 bottom to top. Next time we are going to overlap the top over the bottom to make a more pronounced “pocket”.

These are the buns in the steamer. Surprisingly, they took longer to cook than the recipe said… Not sure why…

20181231_200418
Boa Bun with filling: Chopped chicken, bok choy, carrot, green onion, and jalapeno w/ a random sauce packet we had for lettuce wraps!


My jumbo dumplings! They were WAY too big, but you have to learn some time. The filling was: minced beef (hand chopped, not ground), carrot, green onion, bok choy, jalapeno, egg, and just a smidge of the sauce from the bao filling…


#12

Those are some cute buns :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Yes, I’ve found that a lot of things involving dough or pastry actually need a bit of experimentation to get right depending on the climate where you live, or even what the weather is like at the moment, or even how warm the kitchen is. You can’t rely on exact recipes for a lot of this nonsense, even though some of them will turn out perfect almost anywhere.

I know I’ve posted recipes here before, but those are utter BS, they were noted after the fact upon reflection of what I did and why-ish it somehow worked.

To heavily paraphrase someone else, making a recipe is like trying to take a picture of a river (it’s never the same river each moment), and trying to follow the recipe is like trying to ford a new river each time. It’s never exactly the same river, but you can tell by the shape which river it is you’re looking at.


#13

Ooh, steamed buns! I’ve been meaning to start making those again. Love 'em.

One of the best things about them is that they freeze and re-steam wonderfully. If you’re able to make a large batch all at once, you can have steamed buns in a flash on any random weeknight. Well worth it for a Saturday afternoon project, I promise.


#14

The recipe my wife used to make them made 18 of those… Needless to say, we had left-overs the next day!
:smile:

Now I know we can freeze them! That is a Pro-Tip right there!