Each of the dumpling recipes at Mei Mei makes about 24 dumplings, depending on the size of your wrappers and how you fold them. If the filling includes raw meat, fry or microwave a tablespoon of filling to test for seasoning before you start folding. It’ll make dinner for four people with sides, or for one or two with lots of leftovers. All the recipes can easily be doubled, tripled, or more, so you have some to eat, some to freeze, and some to send home with your friends. We firmly believe in spreading the dumpling love.
MAKE THE DUMPLING WRAPPERS
Using a sharp knife or dough cutter, slice the ball of Hot Water Dough (see Hot Water Dough blog post) into four equal pieces. Set one aside on a cutting board and cover the remaining pieces with a damp towel so they don’t dry out. Roll the dough ball with your hands to form a roughly 6-inch-long “snake” (see photos below for a visual guide). Cut the snake into six equal pieces. Turn each piece onto its side and flatten with your hand slightly, then use a dowel or rolling pin to flatten into circles 2 to 3 millimeters thick and about 3 inches in diameter.
FOLD THE DUMPLINGS
When we teach dumpling classes at our restaurant, we demonstrate the classic pleated, crescent-shaped style along with the pyramid (see Cumin Lamb Dumplings blog post) and the folded empanada (which turns into the tortellini - see photo to the right), but we encourage you to play around!
For the classic pleat (see photo below), hold a wrapper in your left hand and place a spoonful of filling into the center with your right hand. Depending on how large you’ve rolled your wrappers, this is usually about 3/4 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon. Leave some space: tempting as it is to overstuff, the filling will squirt messily and make the folding process more difficult.
Fold the wrapper in half into a taco shape and, starting from the right side, pinch the wrapper shut. (If you’re using store-bough wrappers, set up a small bowl of water to help seal the wrappers. Dip a finger into the water and smear it around the edge of each wrapper before you fold so the dough sticks when you pinch it shut.) After each pinch, fold the side farthest from you into a pleat toward the pinched end and press it back together. The side closest to you should remain smooth and will gradually curve toward you into a crescent shape.
Continue to pleat and pinch until the entire dumpling is sealed, aiming for 5 or 6 pleats per dumpling or more if you want to get fancy. As you fold, place the dumplings onto a large plate or baking sheet in rows with a little space between each one. Cook them right away, or place the sheet into the freezer so they can freeze without squishing each other. Once frozen, transfer the dumplings into plastic bags for storage.
COOK THE DUMPLINGS
At home, we always use a pan-searing/steaming technique, which results in a nice crispy seat on the bottom of the dumpling and a chewy steamed top. This technique works with raw or frozen dumplings and only uses one pan. Fewer dishes = more time to eat dumplings.
Find a large skillet (nonstick works well here) for which you have a lid. Coat the bottom of the skillet with a layer of neutral oil (about 2 tablespoons) and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmery, carefully fill the pan with a single layer of dumplings (non-pleated side down), leaving a bit of room between each one. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown—you can pick one up to check.
Turn the heat to medium and grab the lid and about 1/4 cup water. Shielding yourself with the lid, pour the water into the hot pan—it will steam and sizzle, so be careful there isn’t too much oil in the pan to spatter all over the place. Cover the pan and let the steam cook the top of the dumplings, 4 to 6 minutes, or 8 to 10 minutes if cooking from frozen.
Once the water has evaporated, the wrappers should be slightly translucent and the filling fully cooked. If not, add a splash of water and cover again for a minute or two. You can test for doneness by breaking open a dumpling or using your instant-read thermometer. Turn the heat up slightly, and the remaining oil in the bottom of the pan will re-crisp the bottom of the dumplings. Depending on your heat, water, and oil levels, you may need to add more water or oil, but you’ll get the hang of it after practice, we promise.
A FEW NOTES
Traditionally, pan-seared dumplings are only fried on the bottom, but I often flip the dumplings over for an additional sear. It adds more crunch and flavor and can help if you’re using premade wrappers, which sometimes are dry around the edges. We deep-fry many of our dumplings at the restaurant for a crackly, golden exterior. For a healthier and easy-to-cook alternative, our mom loves dumplings steamed or boiled in water or broth. As cultures all around the world have learned, food wrapped in dough is fantastic cooked in a multitude of ways. Have fun with it and experiment with your own fillings, folds, and cooking techniques. As the saying (that we definitely made up) goes: the world is your dumpling.
HELPFUL STEPS AND EQUIPMENT FOR DUMPLING FEASTS
If you’re making your own dough, set out multiple sets of rolling pins and cutting boards.
If you’re using premade wrappers (we like Twin Marquis brand), set out small shallow bowls of water and wet paper towels to keep the wrappers moist.
Prepare large bowls of dumpling fillings—consider a selection of meat, vegetarian, and vegan options, depending on your guests.
Set up a sauce bar with small bowls for everyone to make their own dipping sauce—we like to include soy sauce, black vinegar, an infused oil, hot sauce, and a homemade aioli.
Set up a skillet for a pan-searing and/or a steamer setup or pot of boiling water for steaming or boiling dumplings. We typically cook about half the dumplings and freeze the remaining.
Make sure you have flat trays that fit in your freezer for all the uncooked dumplings—line up raw dumplings on top with a bit of space in between each one. Once frozen, place into labeled plastic bags for your guests to take home.
Click here to buy our Double Awesome Chinese Food Cookbook to try out more delicious recipes!