Oh, Those Disastrous Dumplings!

By now you know that Justin and I will make almost anything. We documented our process of homemade naan several months ago, and while that was successful, I feel compelled to share the latest adventure which had slightly different results. For some time, Justin had wanted to make dumplings from scratch, which included even making the dough. He did most, if not all of the work—I was just called in to help form them in the end and then pan-fry.

For starters, I have to give major props to Chinese restaurants that make theirs from scratch. I know the more you do something, the better/quicker you get, but this was still an arduous process. Especially with the homemade dough. Justin found a recipe and watched YouTube videos. The dough was made and had the smell of dumpling dough and what I thought was a decent texture. He then made the filling, which consisted of minced pork shoulder, garlic, scallion, ginger, two kinds of soy sauce, Asian cooking wine, and finely chopped bok choy. I knew from the beginning that these dumplings were going to taste good, but what about the rest?

Justin studied the YouTube video and after rolling out the dumpling wrappers, we began to stuff them. This is where we both encountered the same problem: it was nearly impossible to crimp them in the desired fashioned. The method of using one’s thumb to hold down the contents while using the free had to crimp as you slide your thumb out just would not work. As you can see by the picture, we had a couple come out with a slight resemblance of dumplings, but by the end, we were just trying to salvage this. I even resorted to making an empanada shaped one out of mere frustration. I said to myself at one point, after about 10 minutes and only two dumplings produced, “I don’t know how these don’t cost $1,000 in restaurants for all this work”.

Shape aside, into the pan they went. We pan-fried them before adding water and covering to steam. Some of them stuck, but all did develop a browned, crisp bottom. One of our main concerns was whether or not the pork would actually cook all the way through, but thankfully, it did. The flavor and consistency was spot-on— delicious! However, most had fallen apart. I read somewhere online that the failure to hold their shape after crimping could have been the result of not enough gluten which would provide the stickiness. After sharing the pictures online, we were met with various comments offering praise and astonishment that Justin made his own dough, and several, “You guys are crazy!” A coworker of mine who is Asian even said, “My mom, the dumpling queen, uses store-bought wrappers.”

So there you have it: the secret is store-bought wrappers, which we will try next time. The filling and cooking we pretty much have down, but now we will attempt to see if we can get them to hold together. This was a lot of fun and a chance to learn something new, and it encouraged me (and hopefully you too) to go out of my comfort zone and try to cook something different.

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