This week Tamara and Bella sat down with their friend Carol to learn how to make Taiwanese dumplings at home in their kitchen.
I set the mic down on the table and said, “So, if you could just walk us through what you’re doing and how much of what you’re using.” And her response was, “haha! How much.”
Carol explained that in her family dumplings were more like a hobby than anything else. She laughed when she remarked on the quantity of the ingredients she was using because it really is by eyesight. Let’s travel back to little 8 year old Carol in Virginia.
“I was about 8 and my job was just to pass the flattened dough from my auntie, who made it, to my father, who stuffed it.” Her entire family would get together on Sunday’s and each person was assigned a job. The job would vary in difficulty according to their age. Carol had pride in her voice when she stated that she eventually graduated to making the filling and then the dough!
Her parents were born in Taiwan then moved to the US. She still has family who live in Taiwan - namely an aunt who makes dumplings and would sell them to family and friends. Last year, she made about 20,000 dumplings. That’s not a typo people!
Carol’s family dynamic was a strong one. Her parents chose that her name in Chinese be specifically written using masculine characters. Carol’s grandfather was also the person who helped name her and her brother Jeff.
She now lives in Brooklyn, NY and works for an artist rep agency in NYC.
Carol decided to share her dumplings with us because it was THE family gathering activity. It reminded her a lot of Sunday dinners and getting the family together. Not to mention it’s quick, it’s pretty easy, and it doesn’t cost too much to make (yanno, for us ‘I’m not in college anymore but still on the college budget plan’ people).
Standard dumplings are made this way: pork and chive. It’s not customary for Chinese dumplings to be full vegetarian, although you can still do it. Another common type is dried shrimp and cabbage.
The drink of choice: Tea! In China the temperatures of the food they eat are usually similar. So hot drinks with hot foods and cold drinks with cold foods. So since these are served hot, we wet our palates with something that creates a little steam.
- Ground pork
- Chopped chives
- Chopped ginger
- Chopped garlic
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
Put the ground pork, chopped chives, chopped ginger, and chopped garlic into a large bowl and mix it up. Use your hands, it’s better. The amount of the above listed ingredients varies on your taste buds. If you like a lot of garlic or a little bit of ginger, then go for it. Put as much or as little as you like. It won’t change the magic of the dumpling. If you’re unsure, take a little bit and sear it in a frying pan and taste it.
Mix in soy sauce and just a dab of sesame oil into the bowl. Don’t be afraid to pack on the soy sauce. The ground pork soaks it up a lot and also when you cook the dumplings, the salt cooks down. So have a heavy hand for it. As for the sesame oil, it’s really used for fragrance. Maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons for the entire bowl should do the trick.
To make the dough, you just mix flour and water together in quantity enough until you get dough. That’s it really, no trick to it. Just keep adding flour or water to create the consistency of tacky, sticky, moldable dough. (This dough is also used for dinner rolls or buns)
Put it in a large bowl and put a damp towel over it. Then set it aside to let it sit for about 15 minutes.
When the dough is ready, take a little ball size piece of it, maybe a little smaller than a baseball. Roll it into a ball then stick your finger through the middle and make a doughnut shape. Once the doughnut is even on all sides, take a knife and cut one side of the doughnut creating a dough log.
Roll out the dough log until it’s about an inch in diameter. Please don’t take out your ruler for this. Take your knife and cut off a piece of the log about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Now, here’s the trick: After you cut a piece, roll the log about a quarter of the way and cut again. Continue to roll the log before cutting the next piece. This ensures that there is no pinch or uneven sides.
Once it’s all cut into little medallions toss some flour onto them to prevent them from sticking to anything.
Take a rolling pin and roll out the sides of the medallion. The best way to do it is to roll out one side until just before the middle, then turn it and continue to roll the sides to just before the middle. The end result should look like a flat piece of dough in the shape of a circle with a little cushion of dough in the middle of the circle. Again, flour them up and put them on the side. This is the “Skin”.
Take your mixed up filling and scoop in about a quarter sized ball of it right onto the cushion of the dough (the middle part). Here, Carol used chopsticks to scoop out the filling and place it into the skin. But, after about 26 minutes of Carol trying to teach me how to properly hold and use chopsticks, she eventually gave up, I got a cramp, and we settled for a fork. Any method works, but! Don’t get any of the filling on your hands or near the edges of the skin!
Once the filling is in the middle of the skin, fold it in half (like a calzone) and pinch the edges shut real tight. Here is why it’s important not to get any of the filling on the edges – because if they get oily from the filling, they won’t stick together, thus not properly shutting.
You can create little designs in the edges of the skin once it’s all sealed up. When Carol was little she used to put a little red dot of dye on the top to remember which dumplings she folded.
You can boil these or pan fry them. If you boil them, just boil some water then add the dumplings. When the rise to the top they are finished.
We pan fried them. Take a large skillet and put some vegetable oil and about a quarter cup of water in it and heat it up.
Once it’s hot, place the dumplings in the pan. Don’t flip them or turn them. Let them cook for about 8 minutes then take them off. This is going to give the skin a little bit of a crunch.
Open mouth, insert dumpling. You’re welcome.
You can make dipping sauce with some soy sauce, a little rice vinegar, a dab of sesame oil and if you like you can put sriracha or wasabi in it if you want to turn up the heat!
- Vanessa’s in Chinatown in New York City comes highly recommended by Carol! She states that they taste very close to her family’s recipe and they are fairly priced.
- Before cooking the dumplings, you can freeze them and keep them for about 2 or 3 weeks.
We hope you enjoyed our post about making Taiwanese Dumplings. Do you have a favorite type of dumpling? Let us know in the comments below. Or show us on Instagram by following Come_SitDownWithUs and using #ComeSitDownWithUs