Chinese New Year is January 23 this year, and since I’ll be in Texas doing research at that time, I decided to celebrate a little early with my friends here in Washington. We’re entering into the Year of the Dragon, the year I was born in, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a ton of food and a pot of eight treasures tea and enjoy the evening with my friends. The celebration was a bit inauthenthic in that we didn’t set off a barrage of firecrackers outside the neighbors’ doors, but hey, we’re within city limits in the U.S., what do you expect?
When I made nacatamales with my friends for Christmas Eve a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d been wanting to teach them how to make dumplings. You can buy them frozen at Costco or wherever, and they’re really pretty good — but I still have a mental block that assures me anything I buy in a bag from the freezer section can’t be as good as what I make from scratch. It just can’t be. Yes, it’s time consuming and labor intensive to put together 120 dumplings for a dinner party, but what’s a little time spent in the afternoon compared to the yumminess of homemade dumplings?
Here we are, filling the wrappers. You can buy packages of the wrappers at the grocery store, usually in the section where you’ll find tofu. If I were a good little Chinese grandma (which I’m not, on several counts), I would roll out my own wrappers from flour and water. But that would be just silly.
We made dumplings with two different fillings: pork and cabbage in one, beef and carrot in the other. The filling also has all sorts of other wonderful ingredients, like garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and scallions. A small spoonful of filling is lovingly nestled in the center of each wrapper, before the edges are sealed and the tiny pocket of deliciousness is tucked in its spot in the row to await the pot, where it will fulfill its dumpling destiny.
Some of the dumplings went into a large soup pot. Once the water comes to a boil, you put several dumplings in, bring the water back to a boil, and then cool the water off again by adding a cup of cold water. You bring the water to a boil again, add more cold water, boil, add cold water, and by the third time the water comes back to a boil, they should be done. Adding cold water keeps the outside of the dumpling from cooking faster than the inside, which would result in a tough wrapper.
We also did a few dumplings in true potsticker style by pan frying them. It’s a less healthy cooking method, for sure, but who doesn’t enjoy a little oil now and then?
Thank you, Jane and Andy, for letting me take over your kitchen to make dumplings! (Jane and Andy aren’t in this photo, but this is their table and place settings with our dumpling feast.)