Last winter, we held a tamale-making party which confirmed our opinion that cooking parties rule: you get to talk, cook, eat, drink with your friends around you, and then you get to take home bags of deliciousness (it’s even better when the fruits of your labors can be frozen and enjoyed for months to follow). A cooking party lets you stockpile meals for those nights when cooking is literally the last thing you want to do: pop some tamales in a pot to steam and put your feet up.
This year, inspired by our friend Sang—a home cook and hostess par excellence—we decided that a dumpling party would be a fabulous way to usher in 2018.
Dumplings are the ideal festive food project—we couldn’t have reverse-engineered a better one. There aren’t many dishes that cross cultures quite so widely, or that bring more joy to the eater in the way we love most. Handmade, they are a true gift from the cook. They also prove the truth of the idiom “Many hands make light work,” making the the perfect group project, especially if you make the fillings ahead of time. Plus, assembling them is the kind of cooking task you can definitely do while chatting and toggling a glass of wine.
Dumplings have amazing symbolism. Many Asian cultures make them for New Year celebrations, and they stand for everything from good luck to prosperity—their resemblance to round coins or gold nuggets is especially prized. We’d like to imagine that dumplings’ lucky reputation also comes from the delightful surprise inside each one: they’re not only delicious but are essentially tiny, wrapped presents.
We developed three very distinct dumplings this year: two are vegetarian, with the potato dumplings definitely the least traditional of the three. Two are crisply fried in traditional potsticker fashion, with a hint of steam at the end to cook them through. The third dumpling, “mul mandu,” which means “water dumpling” in Korean, with a meat filling spiced with ginger and garlic, has a novel preparation Sang suggested. Rather than steaming or frying them, we slipped them into a pot of boiling water. To serve, ladle them into a serving bowl along with a scoop or two of the cooking water, which then mixes with a simple soy-and-vinegar dipping sauce while you eat. It’s what Sang calls a “clean” preparation which was exactly right.
Sang’s Korean Pierogies
These cross-cultural dumplings are a happy mash-up between our yen for dumplings and the leftovers lurking in our fridge. By combining your favorite mashed potatoes with scallions and sesame seeds for crunch, and some sesame oil to ramp up the flavor and silky texture, they achieve an unlikely fusion nirvana. Feel free to play around with the amounts of seasoning until you achieve peak pierogi. Serve with any dipping sauce you like: because these are mild, they go well with a Korean chili-based sauce, but they also have a nice, delicate flavor on their own if you want to serve with a bit of sesame oil, sesame seeds and scallions on top.
2 cups mashed potatoes
3 scallions, finely sliced (about ½ cup)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tsp sesame oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and (preferably white) pepper
1 package dumpling wrappers, preferably round
1 or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Canola or other neutral oil for frying
To make filling, thoroughly combine mashed potatoes with scallions, sesame seeds, sesame oil and eggs, and season to taste. Place filling in a large plastic ziploc or pastry bag (we love these disposable ones), and snip off the end.
To assemble, swipe a dumpling wrapper lighty through the egg white, then pipe a teaspoon or less of filling into the wrapper. Press or pleat the edges together to seal, then place on a baking sheet.
When you’ve made as many as you want, heat a tablespoon of neutral oil in a frying pan that you can cover. When oil is hot but not smoking, place as many dumplings in as you can without over-crowding. Cook until golden brown on each side, turning gently, then add one or two spoonfuls of water to the pan and cover for a minute or two. You can keep the dumplings warm while you make more, although they are always best when eaten immediately.
Sang’s Crack Sauce
This is Sang’s secret dipping sauce, which can be combined with soy or served on its own as a potent accompaniment to dumplings or scallion pancakes. Amounts are rough approximations: you will want to adjust them to suit your taste.
3 oz korean red chili pepper flakes (a.k.a. “gochugaru”)
1 oz sesame seeds
2 tbsp garlic powder (you can use fresh minced garlic if serving immediately).
1 tbsp ground black pepper
3 oz sesame seed oil
3 oz low sodium soy sauce
In 16 oz mason jar, fill with high quality Korean red chili pepper flakes to the 3 oz line of the jar. Add sesame seeds so that the volume of the jar is now at the 4 oz line and add garlic powder, ground black pepper. Then add sesame seed oil and soy sauce. Cap the jar and shake. It’s a thick sauce because of all the different granulated powders, so you can thin it with more soy or more sesame seed oil.
Kimchi Tofu Dumplings
2 cups kimchi
1 leek, finely sliced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 (14-ounce) block firm tofu
1/2 white onion, finely minced
2 tbsp finely minced garlic
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon honey
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and black pepper to taste
To assemble the dumplings:
48 (4.5-inch) mandu, gyoza, or pot sticker wrappers
1 egg white, lightly beaten (you may need two)
Toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds to garnish
Prepare the kimchi: drain in a sieve over a bowl to retain the brine, pressing down to remove as much liquid as possible from the kimchi, then chop finely. Reserve brine.
Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well, crumbling tofu into small pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as kimchi brine for a sharper flavor.
To assemble the dumplings, swipe one filling wrapper through the egg white, allowing excess to drip off. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, then place a second wrapper on top and press edges to seal well (you can pleat them for extra sealing and visual appeal).
To fry the dumplings, heat a tablespoon or so of canola (or any neutral oil) in a pan over medium heat. Working in batches, place the dumplings in a single layer in the pan, and fry until golden on the bottom. Turn the dumplings over, gook until golden on the second side, then add a teaspoon or two of cold water to the pan and cover tightly (you can lower heat for this part). Continue cooking for a minute or two, then remove lid: if there’s still a lot of liquid, raise heat to cook it off. Remove dumplings and keep warm until serving.
Serve with Sang’s Crack Sauce or any dipping sauce you love.
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 cup finely shredded napa cabbage
1 cup chopped bean sprouts
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 scallions, finely chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 package circular dumpling wrappers
2 egg whites, lightly beaten*
For dipping sauce:
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
Black pepper to taste
Mix together filling ingredients, preferably with your hands, until well combined.
To assemble dumplings, swipe dumpling wrapper through the beaten egg white, then place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and carefully press edges to seal well, pressing out any air bubbles. Place on a baking sheet and keep covered with plastic wrap or a clean, barely damp dish towel until ready to cook.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then carefully add dumplings. Wait until they start rising to the top (you can check carefully with a wooden spoon that none are stuck to the bottom), then add a cup or two of cold water. When dumplings rise to the top again, ladle a cup or so of the cooking water into a serving bowl, then spoon dumplings into them.
To serve, place dumplings into small bowls, add some of the dipping sauce, and slurp away.