A good while back, I saw a link on a friends gchat status for www.skillshare.com. It’s a great site that has a ton of local classes on everything from entrepreneurship to art to cooking. After putting up gmail filters so Groupon, Living Social, and their brethren no longer dominate my in box, I started noticing the Skill Share emails again and decided it was time to sign-up for a cooking class.
I picked the dumpling making class in part because it fit well in my weekly schedule and in part because I’ve never made dumplings.The instructor Cathy Erway, a food blogger and author of The Art of Eating In (a chronicle of her two years of not dining out in NYC), taught the class from her Brooklyn apartment. She was a great instructor and the class was a great break from the usual week night activities.
How to Make Dumpling Skin
Cathy first showed the eight or so of us how to make the the wrapper dough from scratch: Start with two cups of stifted flour and one cup of warm water and about a 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Put it all together in a big bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until you get a ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and shiny. Knead the ball. Break off pieces and roll them out into about four inch diameter circles, nice and thin. (Making them as thin as possible to handle is an art that makes magic dumplings.)
How to Buy Dumpling Skin
Though, as Cathy told us, unless you’re making only a handful of dumplings, you might go insane making them from scratch. Making the wrappers seems to be a simple, but time consuming process that can be replaced with store bough dumpling wrapper with minimal harm. When you buy the wrappers, be sure to get the white, round dumpling wrappers. The yellow ones are usually wonton wrapers and square shapes will just be trouble when you get to the filling stage.
How to Make the Stuff that Goes in Dumplings
The biggest lesson from this class was don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with your fillings. You can keep it simple and traditional or create concoctions that will have deceased Chinese grandmothers spinning in their graves.
[DDET Classic Pork, Shrimp & Chive Dumpling Filling]
- 1 lb ground pork
- ¼ lb shrimp, shelled, de-veined and finely chopped (optional)
- 1 bunch chives or scallions, chopped
- 1 cup finely shredded napa cabbage, packed
- 1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
[DDET Asparagus, Mint and Feta Dumplings with Balsamic Vinegar]
- 15 round dumpling wrappers
- 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed, finely chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped mint
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- pinch of salt
- black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. Swap in other raw seasonal veggies such as zucchini or summer squash shredded with a box grater.
[DDET Cheeseburger/White Castle Dumplings ]
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 oz. grated sharp cheddar (or any cheese you prefer)
Mix everything but the cheese together, then fold the cheese in.
We made the above in class and all were really tasty. My favorite was the classic. Though the cheeseburger dumplings were really fun and made me want to experiment.
How to Fold Dumplings
So you have your dumpling skin and a great filling how do make a dumpling? Lay the dumpling skin in your hand and put a spoonful of your filing in the middle. If you’re using the purchased skins, you’ll need to dip your finger in water and trace a wet ring on the outside of the skin–this what will make it stick together in the next steps. Fold the wrapper in half and pinch (so the two sides stick together) at the top. Then pull a piece of the edge about half an inch to the right of the pinch over to the pinch, repeat down the side of the dumpling and do the same for the other side. It’s a little hard to visualize, but the result should look like crescent moon. Place the dumpling seal side-up while you make some more.
How to Cook the Dumplings
Cathy explained that the cooking process is really a combo of steaming/boiling and frying the dumplings. The frying is what gives dumplings that crispiness we all know and love from our favorite takeout. The steam is what gets the dumplings cooked through and through.
Heat oil in a large pan. Once the oil is hot, place the dumplings, unsealed side down, into the pan. Cooking unsealed side down, rather than on their side, will help get the awesome crisp you want. Cook the little guys in the oil for two minutes or so. Add enough water to the pan to cover about one quarter of the height of the dumplings, reduce heat to medium, and cover for four minutes. (It’s time to give ’em a steam bath!) When the water is gone, crackling sounds are a clue, the dumplings should be ready to scrape out onto a plate.
Serve with some soy sauce, maybe mixed with a bit of rice vinegar, and enjoy!