Dumpling-making wasn’t big in my family when I was growing up, but I’ve done it enough times with friends to know that it’s an awesome way to connect over good, home-cooked food. Everyone can make and cook a dumpling, whether Korean or Chinese style, whether boiling, frying, or some combination of the two. The basic filling ingredients: ground pork, chives, water chestnuts, mushrooms if you’re in the mood, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and rice vinegar to taste. We used circular gyoza wrappers but if you’re hardcore or have some more time, you can easily make your own dumpling skins. No doubt they’re tastier, but we must make do sometimes. N and I opted for the boil-fry method, which I had never tried before, with ambivalent results — I think we didn’t coat the pan with enough oil and added too much water, so that the dumpling skins were overcooked and stuck together and to the bottom of the pan.
L came over on Saturday night to make some dumplings. My family is not into making dumplings from scratch, so it is always a treat to do so with friends. L was disappointed at how they turned out (very wine-y), since her parents are expert dumpling makers and they have regular family dumpling-making sessions. We made enough to have about 30 each but ended up only eating about 10 (granted we also filled up on grapes, edamame, brie and toast, as we were making the dumpling filling). I was indifferent to the dumplings themselves, which had to endure enough scorn from L as it was. It was fun times though, relaxing and catching up. We watched Mad Men until late, an impromptu sleepover made golden by some satisfying leftover pizza brought home by one of my awesome roommates. Ah, this weekend just really hit the spot.
The Liu dumpling style. So cute — that is how they roll.
A couple weeks ago I had lunch at my friend J’s, a simple repast of Chinese dumplings and dumpling broth. But these frozen dumplings were fantastic, and I found out J still eats the same brand of dumplings that he ate growing up. I have not yet met an Asian parent that does not know a good dumpling. I despaired, thinking I would only be able to find them in Chinatown or H-Mart or some other Asian grocery store that I don’t have easy access to. So you can imagine my excitement when I actually noticed these dumplings tonight at one the small, overpriced, neighborhood markets that I frequent out of mere convenience. These dumplings come in a nondescript clear bag with a plain white label that says Chinese Brand [type of filling] Dumplings. I probably paid twice the amount I would have in an Asian store but it was worth it. These plump dough-boys are thick and juicy, definitely in the top tier of frozen dumplings I have consumed over the years. The store did not have the classic pork and leek dumplings so I got the pork and shrimp. The skins hold up well to a vigorous boiling bath, becoming pliant as they cook but still firm and chewy. Along with some edamame and dumpling soup, and a good Olympics schedule on TV, my tummy stayed warm and happy on this cold snowy night.