a dumpling workshop
I love dumplings. I love them, in all their variety and in any cuisine. I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like, from Eastern Europe to Asia. But Chinese dumplings are my favourite. Light, delicate and plump all at the same time, they are a work of art.
I’ve tried to make them in the past with wonton wrappers, but they’ve been a dismal failure, thin, broken and leaking filling. Tasty enough, but not a thing of beauty and not really worth the effort.
So it was a no brainer when I discovered a dumpling workshop run by Angie Chong of The Humble Dumpling that offered vegan options. I signed up in a flash. This isn’t an entirely vegan dumpling class but the dumpling fillings are prepared and cooked separately.
I’ve discovered that the secret to perfect dumplings is to make and hand roll the pastry. The other secret is to roll each dumpling wrapper individually by hand towards the centre, not the edges, which is the more typical way to roll pastry for example. This way they are thinner at the edges so that when they are sealed you don’t get a lump of thick dough.
The pastry is made from plain flour, tapioca starch, oil and hot water. It makes a soft but not sticky dough that handles easily. The fillings can be anything you like. I made one that had Chinese cabbage, bean thread noodles, spring onions, roasted pumpkin, carrot, coriander, ginger, garlic, taro, shiitake and wood ear fungus, bound with potato starch and seasoned with salt, soy, sesame oil, sugar and pepper. Angie also kindly made me another one that had zucchini, walnuts and tofu with herbs and seasonings. I’m not going to write up the exact recipes because they belong to Angie (If you are in Melbourne you should do the class and you will get them). I will however write up the dough as there are plenty of dough recipes out there.
There were also some intriguing dumplings called Pearly Moons which are a sort of meatball rolled in sticky rice with no wrappers. Obviously I didn’t eat them, but I am going to try to create something like them using mushrooms and gluten flour. You’ll need to wait for some experimentation for those.
We ate the dumplings two ways, steamed in baskets and also done as pot stickers where the dumpling is fried on the bottom and then a small amount of water is poured in to steam the dumplings with the lid on, the water evaporated and the dumpling fried again. This leaves them with delicious crispy bottoms and delicate steamed tops.
I had a great time at the workshop and I would encourage anyone who loves dumplings to do it. It is small, friendly, held in Angie’s beautiful home and is a good combination of introduction to ingredients, technique and eating. It is very hands on, with plenty of laughter and friendly conversation as we sat round the kitchen table filling the wrappers and making beautifully pleated dumplings. And of course you get to sit down for lunch and eat them!
I cannot recommend the class highly enough. I’ve done a lot of cooking classes and this was one of my all time favourites. I went in as a complete novice and came out an excellent and confident dumpling maker.
- 1¼ cups plain flour
- ⅓ cup tapioca flour
- 1 tbs rice bran oil
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup boiling water slightly cooled
- Mix the flours and the salt together
- Add the oil to the water
- Pour most of the water into the flours mixing to combine
- Add as much water as needed to form ragged clumps of dough.
- Turn out onto a floured bench and knead until soft and smooth.
- Rest for at least 15 minutes.
- Don't cut the dough all at once or the dough will dry out. Use about ⅛ of the dough at a time and keep the rest covered with a damp cloth.
- Roll the ⅛ into a sausage and cut into 4 pieces.
- Flatten each piece slightly
- Roll each piece into a circle 8cm across.
- Do this by holding the edge of the dough and roll towards the CENTRE of the dough lightly and rotating slightly after each roll. Resist the temptation to press too hard at first or you will put the dough out of shape.
The Humble Dumpling