Although they’re a traditional dish at
Lunar New Year feasts, dumplings can be enjoyed all year round. When steamed they
are soft and savoury; when fried they offer delectable crunch, but no matter
how they’re prepared, dumplings are pillows of comfort to the hungry.

There is, however, a price for the flavour
value dumplings provide: preparing them is hard work. But, hosting a dumpling
party is the perfect antidote to the monotony of stuffing and pinching.
Transformed into a social activity, repetition becomes a side-note, a whispered
tone that is lost amidst dominant chords of fun and community.

First
Things First

The host sets the tone for the party, and
it’s your choice how structured you want your dumpling fest to be. To keep
things simple for your guests (but more involved for you), prepare all tools
and ingredients in advance, and simply invite friends to attend and assemble. Alternatively,
you can host the party potluck style, asking everyone to pitch in by bringing
their own ingredients and tools.

Once all the guests and ingredients are together,
the fun of assembly begins. Some dumpling parties will assume a natural rhythm,
a communal assembly line of filling, pinching, and cooking, and others will
require more direction from the host, but whether you plan to organize your
people, or allow for freeform expression, it’s a good idea to make a few
practice dumplings yourself so you can give tutorials on the fine art of dumpling
stuffing.

How
to Make the Dumplings

1.
Lay a wrapper flat, mound about
a tablespoonful of filling in the centre, fold it into a half-moon and pinch-pleat
across the top so the filling is snugly contained. Don’t fret if your dumplings
look less than perfect—a tightly-filled dumpling will taste good no matter how
it looks, and even a loose dumpling can benefit the party.

2.
If it falls apart during
boiling it will help create a savoury broth that can be enjoyed after all the
other dumplings have been cooked. If you’re worried about your instructional
skills, treat your guests to a special presentation of one of YouTube’s many
dumpling-making tutorials.

3.
Place uncooked dumplings on
parchment lined pans, and avoid letting the sticky parcels touch as separating
them is next to impossible.

4.
It’s best to designate one
person to be in charge of each method of cooking: to prevent sticking, boiled
dumplings should not be overcrowded and are done when they rise to the top of
the pot (approximately 6 minutes). Silky steamed dumplings can be prepared in a
bamboo steamer and are done when the skins become translucent (approximately 8
minutes). To fry, carefully add steamed dumplings to a hot, oil-coated frying
pan and crisp until golden. 

The fillings listed below are specific to
Northeast Asian cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year, but don’t feel
limited to those flavours. Indian samosas, Slavic perogies, Latin American
empanadas and Italian ravioli all have very different wraps and fillings, but
they share the same stuff-and-savour concept as dumplings. Their fillings can
easily be packed into dumpling wrappers—often with surprisingly tasty
results.

Potential
Fillings

·
Ground pork, beef, chicken or
lamb, blend to a paste

·
Shrimp, deveined and chopped

·
Scallops and crab, chopped

·
Scrambled eggs, finely chopped

·
Soft tofu, pressed and strained

·
Nappa cabbage, finely chopped

·
Carrots, finely diced

·
Spring onions, finely chopped

·
Oyster, shitake, enoki, and/or
button mushrooms, finely diced

·
Zucchini slivers

·
Kimchi, finely chopped

·
Watercress or spinach,
blanched, drained and squeezed to eliminate excess moisture

·
Sweet potato or glass noodles,
oiled to prevent sticking and chopped into small pieces

·
Ginger, crushed

·
Garlic, crushed

·
Fresh, finely chopped herbs
like dill, fennel, and cilantro

·
Dried herbs like garlic powder,
ginger powder, cumin, and turmeric

Wrappers
Buying fresh store-bought dumpling skins or wonton wrappers will save a ton of
time.  Freeze unused wrappers for your
next party.

Sauce
Ingredients

·
One or more types of soy sauce
(low sodium, tamari, ponzu, or a mix

·
Rice wine vinegar

·
Chili sauce or flakes

·
Fish sauce

·
Sesame oil

·
Sesame seeds

·
Sugar

·
Grated ginger

Assembly
Tools

·
Clean, flat surfaces for
assembling – countertops, tables or cutting boards

·
Bowls of water for rinsing
fingers and fixing dough

·
Bowls for each guest to concoct
their own fillings

·
Tape, paper and markers for
labeling

·
Clean, parchment-lined pans for
stashing uncooked dumplings

·
Plastic wrap to ensure uncooked
dumplings stay moist

Cooking
Tools
Pots and slotted spoons for boiling, bamboo trays
for steaming, frying pans, oil, and spatulas for frying

Safety
Tips
Leave the raw meats to adults. Keep bowls of water
and towels handy for wiping mucky surfaces, and encourage your guests to wash
their hands frequently. Kids can stay (relatively) clean and safe making
dumplings with vegetables and pre-cooked fillings like tofu and scrambled eggs.

Tasty
Combos

·
Pork, fennel and dill

·
Tofu and kimchi

·
Beef, ginger, scallion and
glass noodles

·
Lamb, garlic and cilantro

·
Chicken, cabbage, carrot, and
ginger

You can find handy
recipes for dumpling and sauces
right here on our website, but remember:
experimentation is the spice of a dumpling party.

Be creative, have fun, and above all kung hei fat choi! (Happy New Year!)