Understanding the World of Dumplings

Cooked Dumplings (standard)

“Dumpling” can mean many things and today I’m going to clear up this issue once ‘n for all! (Hopefully) In East Asian countries, especially China, there are many varieties of the dumpling concept; kind of like Wine. When we ask about wine others naturally ask “white or red”?  Dry or sweet? What country? Which vintage? For wine aficionados, like my brother Nick 🙂 , such questions are rudimentary.  Same goes for dumplings.

In the world of dumplings, there is simply one requirement; you must wrap some contents (vegetables or meat only) with a flour-based wrap. They generally look the same, like most red wines might. The varieties of dumplings can be based on a few things, including: country of origin, cooking style, and contents.

Yummy... Buns!

Dumplings are universal and have many names. The rest of this post is dedicated to showing all of the dumpling varieties I’ve ever encountered in Korea, Japan, and China; including ones that people back home have asked me about (like the mysterious Crab Rangoon!)

饺子 “jiao zi” (Standard Chinese Dumplings) boiled, semi-transparent when cooked. All over china, favored in North. Sometimes enjoyed as the staple in special family meals.

Man Tou Buns

包子 “bao zi” (Meat or Vege Buns) steamed. All over China and 7-11s across Northeast Asia. They are usually bigger than standard dumplings and have a more bread-like texture.

馒头 “man tou” (Plan Buns) steamed. Northern Chinese style, but enjoyed around the country. Man tou is used as a staple by families in the North. It is amazing with spicy lamb dishes and can be eaten as a dessert with sweet dipping sauce.

Pot Stickers

锅贴 “guo tie” (Pot Stickers) pan-fried. Common in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Eastern China. The picture on the left is the typical style of Pot Stickers. They should be browned on the bottom-side and could contain any combination of meat or vege. Continue reading Understanding the World of Dumplings

DIY Holiday Dumplings

Wonton Wrappers

Another Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week have come and gone here in China! This time is important here for two reasons: first, to celebrate the moon at its fullest; and second, to commemorate the founding of “New China” in 1949. Last year was the 60th anniversary, which is thought of as an important age for growth and maturity in a person.

But a romantic evening under a full moon is incomplete without one thing: homemade Dumplings! Last week a colleague invited me to his family’s house to make dumplings from scratch. (Actually, we bought the little dough wrappings… but everything else was really fresh!) I suggest buying dumpling wrappings from your local Asian food store or major grocer chain. Here are “Wonton Wrappers” available on Amazon.

Before we get started, I should mention that dumplings are generally a once or twice a month thing in Chinese households; similar to our pizza or pasta nights I remember from growing up. In this case, it is a great way to bring the family together for a bonding session. 10 per person should be enough. On this most recent occasion, we added a pan-fried fish and a tarot-root soup to make it a full meal for 5.

Dumpling Prep

1~ PREP filling: Fresh meat is crucial to good dumplings. I prefer pork, but you can use anything you want! Grind up about 1 pound (.5kg) and put in a bowl. In the picture we added corn, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

2~ Spice the meat how you prefer, but we used a few splashes of soy sauce, some sugar, and turmeric. It’s better to go light on the seasoning at this point.

3~ Shred celery and carrots. Mix thoroughly with the meat you have prepped. Feel free to use clean hands to mash it all together. (Great task for a kid with some self-control!) Continue reading DIY Holiday Dumplings