Beginner’s Choice: A Deeper look at Dumplings

Have you ever thought of the origin of dumplings? Probably not. But it doesn’t matter, because if you are reading this article, you are about to find out.

There are many kinds of dumplings. I have always been familiar with Chinese dumplings, but during Circuit Breaker (Singapore’s lockdown period) someone at home had a craving for gyoza, which I found out are Japanese dumplings. More recently, I was introduced to Nepali momo (dumplings). One of my favourite non-meat dishes is cheese-filled ravioli, which reminds of dumplings.

Dumplings and the doctor

It was interesting to read that legend has it that dumplings were first served in China during an epidemic to counter frostbite. A physician, by the name of Zhang Zhongjing, cooked lamb with pepper and medical herbs and made dumplings by wrapping the shredded meat in dough skin in the shape of ears. The dumplings were served in a bowl of warm soup. It was probably the most tasty medicine at the time and it kept people warm. The dumplings became known as “jiaozi” or “tender ears”.

Dumplings and New Year

I have only made dumplings from scratch once. I learnt from a group of nursing students from China that dumplings are served for Chinese New Year in Shandong (where they came from). Shandong is the birthplace of Confucius, the philosopher. I also learnt that rice is not the staple food in some parts of China. In Shandong wheat is the staple food, so it is more common to serve dumplings and bread than rice.

Dumpling-making is part of the new year celebration in some places. It is a family get-together time, when everyone gathers to make the dough and to shape the dumplings. It can take the whole day. You need a lot of dumplings when they are the main meal. The dumplings will have different fillings of meat and vegetables. It’s a time to catch up on news and stories, you could say it is the “annual family chat festival”.

Dumplings and children

I am thinking of friends with young children. They might enjoy making dumplings, especially if they can be creative with the shapes. They will certainly feel a sense of achievement that they have made something they can enjoy eating.

Dumpling dough

There are a number of recipes online for dumplings, but the basic ingredients for the dough are: flour and water. I found a video by ShanShan Wei on how to make the dough (Title of the video: How to make Chinese dumpling dough at home. Super easy!). She used 5 cups of all- purpose flour and one and a half cup of water. Her method was:

  1. Put the flour in a metal bowl
  2. Drip a bit of water onto the flour
  3. Mix with chopsticks
  4. Add more water and mix again
  5. Keep repeating until a dough is formed
  6. Knead the dough until it is soft
  7. Cover the dough and leave at room temperature for an hour before shaping the dough into the wrappers

The meat fillings are usually made with ground pork, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, pepper and Chinese wine.

Nepali momo and Thai Chor Muang

Soph of Weave the Story Channel has a series of videos on dumplings from around the world. He has one on Nepali momo, which might be good for beginners.

Dumplings Around the World / Nepali Momo – YouTube

Soph has another video of a Thai dumpling snack, Chor Muang, which he said is not for beginners but is worth watching. Ploy makes beautiful flower-shaped purple dumplings.

Dumplings Around the World / Thai Chor Muang – YouTube

Dumplings are usually steamed or boiled in a soup, but they can also be fried, like the ones in the featured photo (fried dumplings and spring rolls) The sauce which goes with the dumplings is important. The usual ingredients are chili oil, garlic and sesame oil. You can also add sesame seeds.

Just as an after thought, I remember a Polish friend who made strawberry dumplings for dessert. It was hard to imagine dumplings as a dessert initially, but it was nice.

This week’s specials

Apart from this article on dumplings, I have posted Andrea’s second article on sewing entitled: Waste not, want not.

On the topic of “waste not, want not”, Len sent a photo of the banana cake she baked. Her message is not to waste bananas: if they are too ripe, bake a banana cake.

Have a great week ahead.

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 24 October 2021

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