How to Host a Lunar New Year Dumpling Party

It’s easier than it sounds, thanks to these tips from the Food Network Kitchen app.

January 25, 2020
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Even if your 2020 has gotten off to a good start, it can get infinitely better in the Lunar New Year — with lots of dumplings. Chinese New Year kicks off today, January 25, and spans two weeks, welcoming the Year of the Rat.

In celebrating Lunar New Year, there are plenty of reasons why dumpling parties are the best. For one, it’s a built-in meal prep, because you’ll be making a lot of dumplings at once, and they freeze well. For another, it is collaborative, and tricky enough to keep people focused, but easy enough that you can chat, drink and have fun. Most importantly, it’s a party that allows you to eat all day, grazing in little bites of different types of dumplings like a buffet of snacks.

Anita Lo (who is actually joining me in dumpling wrapping this weekend) makes dumplings look easy. In her class on the Food Network Kitchen app, she offers a step-by-step process on how to make the perfect Pork and Garlic Chive Dumplings. Below, check out the tips I learned for throwing the best Lunar New Year dumpling-making party.

  • Gather Everyone Around a Central Place

If you have a table where everyone can sit, that’s great, but having people stand around a kitchen island will work just as well! As Anita explains in her class, it’s ideal to do with friends and/or family. “My mother would roll out the dough, make the filling. And I have two older siblings and we’d all sit around the table and fold them. This is a common Chinese experience. And we’d cook them and that would be our lunch or brunch; it was a really fun, interactive way to spend the morning, and it brings family together.”

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Get Messy

Everything about a dumpling party is hands-on. You’ll need to wring out all the liquid from cabbage to make sure it doesn’t make your dumplings soggy; mix the ingredients in one bowl (almost as if you’re making meatloaf) and use the best tools you’ve got — your hands!

  • Always Make a Test Patty to Check Flavors

Since you’re usually working with raw meat or fish, you can’t add seasoning “to taste.” Anita’s trick is to make a tiny tester patty that she cooks in an oiled pan before filling and rolling dumplings. That way she tastes the flavor of the mixture before investing all of the time and filling in dumplings.

  • Mix Up the Fillings

Anita’s recipe in the video is for pork and garlic chive, but you can also do a version with shrimp and other seafood, vegetables (shiitake mushrooms, carrots, onions, zucchini, peppers), chopped noodles (Korean mandu uses sweet potato starch or glass vermicelli inside), or any kind of meat (lamb, pork and shrimp, chicken). It is always best to pre-cook your vegetables, as they don’t cook long inside and some vegetables can give off water — remember, water is the enemy of dumplings and can make them soggy.

  • Just Buy Wrappers

Homemade wrappers aren’t always worth the effort, and store-bought wrappers taste pretty much the same. Anita’s family grew up making wrappers, but she’s pragmatic these days. “They’re really fun to make and they’re not that hard,” she explains. “But for the home cook, it might be easier to buy them.”

  • Get Ready to Pleat — and Don’t Get Defeated

The most difficult part of making dumplings is mastering your folding and pleating. Anita has a fun way to describe how to seal dumplings: the Happy Buddha, a dumpling that is sealed on the front side in equidistant pleats so it has a “buddha belly” and flat back. (Pleating is basically just pinching against your finger to form little folds, like a fan.) If that is too tricky, you can make a taco shape, pinch the apex of the half-moon, then make two pleats — one about 45 degrees from bottom towards apex, and one on the other side, towards the apex again — that she calls a “Cheater’s Buddha Belly.” If you rip one, don’t worry! Just try again until you get the hang of it. (This is a good time to tell you to make sure to buy extra wrappers.)

  • Pan-Fry the Night Away!

While there are many ways to cook dumplings, the best one in most cases is pan-frying, which steams them while giving them crispy bottoms. Anita’s method is to put dumplings into a non-stick pan (to prevent sticking!) and make sure they aren’t touching. Add water halfway up, cover, and cook until the water has evaporated and the bottom of the dumplings can cook and get crispy. Other methods are steaming (in a bamboo basket is the most traditional, lined with cabbage leaves to keep from sticking) or boiling.

  • Drink While You Pleat and Eat

You can cook off a few batches while others are folding dumplings, and pour sake to keep things lively and pair with the dumplings. Sake sommelier Alyssa DiPasquale of o ya and Hojoko in New York City and Boston suggests Shichi Hon Yari "Seven Swordsmen" Junmai, a full-bodied, earthy, smoky, and slightly mushroom-flavored sake that pairs well with crispy pork dumplings to start. If you go for shrimp dumplings, try Kubota 30th Anniversary Junmai Daiginjo, a light and refreshing sake that is fruit-forward but graceful and balanced with notes of Asian pear and honeydew melon that won’t overpower delicate seafood. She also suggests Kurosawa Junmai Kimoto, a medium-bodied, approachable sake that is nutty with a white pepper finish to pair with most anything, especially if you have a vegetable dumpling you don’t want to overpower with too bold of flavors.

  • Freeze the Leftovers for the Rest of 2020

Once your assembly line gets in a groove, you’ll have more dumplings than you know what to do with. So we’re telling you what to do with them: Line them up on a sheet pan, not touching, and freeze them solid. Then transfer to bags to store for up to six months in the freezer. You can cook them from frozen, but know they’ll take a few extra minutes in the pan. And just like that, you have a 2020 that will be prosperous with many dumplings and you’ll have already hosted the best party of the year—and it’s only January. We already know your friends will say, “You’re all that and dim sum!”

If you haven’t already, download the Food Network Kitchen app to watch Anita’s dumpling techniques and get her recipe.

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