Photography by Ryan Brook Image by: Photography by Ryan Brook
1. Not all dumplings are created equal.
Dumplings are sweet or savoury balls of dough that can be filled with anything from shrimp to sweet red bean paste. Other dumplings, like gulab jamun, don't have any filling at all. Most Asian dumplings are made of wheat, rice or tapioca, and they are all delicious in their own way.
2. Don't go overboard with the filling.
You can literally put anything you want inside a dumpling, but the simplest dumplings are often the most delicious. Try flavours that work well together: shrimp and cilantro; chicken and mushroom; or cabbage, carrot and ginger.
When it comes to assembling your dumplings, make sure you don't overfill them. The filling will expand as it cooks and it's best to underfill them slightly to avoid tears.
Many cooks like to use a simple egg wash to seal their dumplings, but if you don't want to use egg, it's perfectly fine to substitute with a bit of water.
3. Cook dumplings based on your preferred method.
Dumplings can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried or deep-fried. There aren't any strict rules, but some types of dumplings do taste better when cooked a certain way. For example, Chinese jiaozi are best when pan-fried to get that signature golden brown colour, while delicate soup dumplings are best when steamed. How you cook and enjoy your favourite dumplings is largely based on personal preference, so feel free to experiment!
4. Choose complementary condiments.
Asian dumplings are often dipped in a vinegar-based sauce because the acidity helps to cut through the richness of the filling.
When choosing a dipping sauce, make sure that it complements what is inside the dumpling. For example, a rich peanut-based sauce would be great with a vegetable dumpling as opposed to an already-rich pork dumpling. If your dumpling has a very subtle flavour, like crab don't overpower it by adding an overly spicy sauce. A condiment should highlight what you're eating, not mask the flavour.
Other condiments can include hot sauce, chili oil, spicy mustard, soy sauce, peanut sauce, sesame-almond satay dip or sweet chili sauce.
Bonus Tip: How to avoid making a mess when eating a soup-filled dumpling:
If you've ever tried Xiao Long Bao (pictured below), you know they can be messy. These delicious soup-filled dumplings are usually filled with ground pork and a rich broth that threatens to stain your clothes with each bite.
Here's how to eat these dumplings without losing a single drop of broth:
- Using an Asian soup spoon and chopsticks, hold the dumpling up to your mouth.
- Take a small bite of the dumpling skin and suck out the soup inside.
- Enjoy the rest of your dumpling with any condiment you choose, but we suggest black or red Chinese vinegar with a bit of fresh ginger.
Inspired? Learn how to fold dumplings step-by-step.