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Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Tips

Hone your homemade dim sum skills with these handy tips for beginners.

Chinese New Year falls on February 8th this year, ringing in the Year of the Monkey. In honour of this celebration, I was lucky to take part in a special dumpling-making workshop at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver’s Chinese Kitchen. Singapore Slings in hand, my group and I stepped into the kitchen, where the industrial woks were firing like rockets, eager to learn the tricks of the trade from the kitchen’s resident dim sum expert, Chef Li. While the myriad of mouthwatering appetizers being passed around all night admittedly competed for my attention—my favourite was the soya braised pork belly with a steamed bun—I managed to focus long enough to successfully create a plate full of beautiful bite-sized savory treats. Here are some useful tips for the beginner dim sum maker that you can try at home with Chef Li’s recipes.

(Want to practice your new skills? Give this shrimp dumpling recipe a try!)

Braised pork belly with steamed bun from the Chinese Kitchen.
Braised pork belly with steamed bun from the Chinese Kitchen.

Moisture is your worst enemy. Always blanch and drain your vegetables before frying so that they release any excess water. Allow them time to sit, cool and drain before attempting to wrap them up in a spring roll or dumpling, as liquid will prevent your wrappers from sticking to themselves properly.

Chef Li working his magic.
Chef Li working his magic.

Work with it in small batches. Unlike spring roll wrappers or puff pastry, dumpling wrapper dough can’t be bought pre-made and it will dry out quickly, so work with it in small batches as soon as your dough is ready. On a well-oiled wood surface or a non-stick silicone pad, flatten pieces about the size of a thick quarter into thin circles. To do it like the pros, smooth your dough the flat side of a cooled cleaver, otherwise roll the dough as thin as possible and cut out circles about 3 inches in diameter. Keep dough covered in plastic to prevent it from drying out while you build your dumplings.

The pros use cleavers to smooth dough into perfect circles.
The pros use cleavers to smooth dough into perfect circles.

Pleat with precision and use both hands. Holding your dumpling wrapper in one hand like a taco, put a small amount of filling in the center and fold one end in. Pinch with the hand holding the wrapper, while pushing in even pleats with your free hand. The end result should look more like a scallop shell than a pierogi, but don’t despair if your first few don’t look flawless. Practice makes perfect!

Translucent shrimp dumplings, steamed to perfection.
Translucent shrimp dumplings, steamed to perfection.

Keep it tight and don’t overstuff. Dim sum should be small and delicate, so Li recommends less than a teaspoon of filling per bundle and then rolling or pleating tightly to discourage trapped air. This will help prevent them from bursting while cooking.

Let the flavours speak for themselves. As someone prone to going overboard with soy sauce, I was surprised and delighted at the amount of flavour folded into these little packages. Dipping sauce is allowed if you must, but give them a taste all on their own first.

Ready to put your skills to the test? Try these awesome shrimp dumplings.

For more information on catering from the Chinese Kitchen, visit fourseasons.com

 

 

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