Dumplings are ideal Shabbat food: they feed a crowd, are easy to make and are a fun way to bring everyone together around the table. The fillings are endlessly customizable, and they happen to go perfectly with Scallion Pancake Challah.
On a recent Friday night, I gathered 15 of my best Jewish and non-Jewish friends in my living room to pinch, fold and fry over 150 dumplings with me. None of us had any prior experience making dumplings, but everyone got right down to it. Sitting communally on the floor, we spooned, pinched and folded our way through five different fillings. To keep guests happy while they worked away, I made a smashed sesame cucumber salad, Sichuan dry fried green beans and General Tso’s Baked Cauliflower. Plum wine, sake and Asian beer such as Kirin, Asahi or Tsing Tao were also welcome additions to the folding marathon.
With the right setup, you can make hundreds of dumplings in one night. Here’s how to do it:
Prepare the fillings ahead of time
Choose a variety of fillings—more flavors, more fun! Using the Szechuan flavor trifecta of ginger, garlic and scallions, any protein from ground chicken to tofu can be turned into dumpling filling. For my dumpling Shabbat, I made chicken-ginger, garlic-beef, tofu-kimchi and mushroom-cabbage fillings. The fillings stay fresh in the fridge for up to two days and are easiest to work with when chilled.
Buy dumpling wrappers at the store
Wonton wrappers are sold in most grocery stores and can be either be folded into square parcels or wontons. If you prefer round dumplings that are folded into half-moons, use a glass to cut out circles or purchase round gyoza wrappers at any Asian grocery store.
Set up dumpling stations
Before guests show up, set up stations with everything they need to get folding. For every three to five guests, you’ll need:
- A bowl of filling with one or two small spoons in it
- A package of wrappers
- A little bowl of water to seal the edges of the dumplings
- A sheet pan lined with parchment paper to put the folded dumplings
Set up the cooking station
Once the dumplings are folded, they move to the stove where they can be fried, steamed or boiled. My preferred method is to either boil them in a large pot of water or fry them in a big nonstick pan.
To boil the dumplings, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the dumplings, and cook until they float at the top for two to three minutes.
To fry the dumplings, heat up a couple glugs of sesame oil in a large nonstick pan. Add the dumplings, then add enough water so it covers the bottom of the pan and goes about one-third of the way up the dumplings. Put a snug lid on the pan, and steam on medium-high heat until the wrappers become translucent. Take off the lid, and let all the water cook off. For crispy dumplings, cook for two to three minutes longer. For this task, only two or three people are necessary; rotate them out, or assign designated steamers and fryers.
Condiments, condiments, condiments
What makes dumplings taste even better? Sauces to dip them in. The classic dumpling dipping sauce is half a cup of soy sauce, half a cup of rice vinegar and one teaspoon sesame oil whisked together. Hot chili oil is another great addition, as is sambal oelek, fresh ground chili paste. Toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions to sprinkle on top are not required, but definitely welcome.
The best part about a dumpling party: all the leftover dumplings are yours to freeze and reheat for future dinners.