7 Tips for Making the Best Dumplings
Gather your family and friends to master the art of stuffing and wrapping dumplings.
If you like to make homemade dumplings, you know that it can take practice to get the filling and shape exactly right. Dumplings are truly a labor of love to make, and while you can enjoy them any time of year, they’re especially important at Lunar New Year, a time to reflect on traditions while enjoying celebratory dishes with loved ones. They represent prosperity because of their plump shape. The more filling in your dumpling, the bigger your wallet will become. But don’t be fooled — you don’t want to overstuff your dumpling wrapper! Exploding dumplings represent loss of fortune — and of course the loss of a good meal, because let’s be honest, what’s a perfect dumpling without the juicy savory filling? Here’s how you can fill and wrap your dumplings perfectly so you can experience a good year filled with good eats.
Tip #1: Season.
You should always season your filling and taste it before making a big batch. Otherwise you might be disappointed by a lack of flavor, which no one wants after all the labor of wrapping dumplings. The best way to taste your seasoning is to fry up a heaping teaspoon in a small pan and sample it. This way you know if you need a little more this or that. Remember dumplings are often served with a dipping sauce, so be sure not to oversalt. Once you get the seasoning to your liking, then you are ready to start filling the dumpling wrappers.
Tip #2: Chill.
This might be a personal preference, but I like to chill my filling before wrapping. Why? The filling has a fat component, this is what makes them juicy and rich when fried up. When fat is warm, it will melt and seep out. By chilling the filling, the fat won’t turn to liquid as quickly and you keep the little juicy bites intact. Less liquid also means the dumplings are easier to handle and the wrapper won’t tear and become soggy.
Tip #3: Cover.
When it’s time to wrap, create an assembly line: filling, water and wrappers. Be sure to cover your wrappers with a moistened paper towel or dish towel. This will prevent the wrappers from drying out. If they are too dry, they will crack, and it will be impossible to get those pretty pleats.
Tip #4: Do not overstuff!
If your dumpling was to represent your wallet, you would want to stuff it to the max. But don’t be tempted! It will be a major disaster when cooking. Never fill more than two-thirds of the wrapper. The filling should not be squishing out of the pleats and the seal.
Tip #5: Go nonstick.
Nonstick pans are your best friend when you want to achieve a crispy skin, and if you’re feeling extra festive, a dumpling skirt. Make sure you have a large enough skillet so that the dumplings do not overlap. Having a lid that fits the pan will allow you to steam while frying, but don't worry if your skillet didn’t come with a lid. Instead, grab a sheet tray and use it to cover your pan to create the steam.
Tip #6: Freeze.
Dumplings are a great make-ahead food. After filling all of them, you can easily freeze them and fry them up from frozen. The trick to freezing dumplings is to lay them on a sheet tray in a single layer, allow them to freeze, and then place them into a bag. If you pile them on top of each other in bag before they’re frozen, that’s how they will freeze — as a ball of dumplings. Then the next time you want to fry up a few, you will have to forcefully rip them apart and likely rip the wrappers too.
Tip #7: Celebrate togetherness.
Lunar New Year is all spending time together, and that includes making dumplings together. The next time you want to make dumplings, grab a few family members or friends and do it as a group. It’s a great activity to be shared from start to finish. And the best part is it will cut the time by more than half, and everyone gets rewarded with a delicious meal even quicker. Talk about enjoying the fruits of your labor!