I’ve had the acclaimed Asian Dumplings book since forever, but I haven’t exactly made anything from it until recently, when I finally managed to pick out which recipe I wanted to start with.
Every time I flip through this book, it gets more and more difficult for me to find just one recipe to do first. Everything looks amazing! And especially for a dimsum-lover like myself, it’s fairly difficult to resist the photos. If I’m not intending to make any dumplings, I try to avoid looking through this book because every time I do, I always end up holding a dimsum menu in a Chinese restaurant.
I have always wanted to make my own dimsum at home, however I think I’ve been hesitant mostly because I am afraid of failing with making the dumpling wrappers. Now if I really wanted to learn about dumplings, buying the wrappers ready-made pretty much defeats the purpose. I was afraid that I would roll them too thick, turning them into these inedible rubbery things that awfully cheap dimsum sometimes come in. I was also afraid that I would roll them too thin, to the point that they would break apart if I so much tried to pick them up or form them. Trauma stemming from bad dimsum experiences in restaurants, I think.
Or maybe I just had to wait until I ran out of excuses.
When I finally got around to making dimsum, I realised mostly three things:
1. It’s quite time-consuming.
2. I never expected the process itself to be this easy.
3. Homemade dumplings are freaking amazing!
But before I share with you which dumpling I decided to attempt (rather successfully!), I wanted to write first about how it was like making the dumpling wrappers.
And before that still, I just want to tell Ms. Andrea Nguyen three things:
1. You are my dimsum hero/goddess!
2. I am going to cook through every single recipe in this cookbook.
3. You are awesome for including yummy foods from the Philippines in your cookbook!
Let’s focus on point #1. Any cookbook author who gives me the necessary push to attempt things I have always wanted to gets an A in my book. And then when I am extremely pleased with the result, then that’s an instant A+ right there. Not only did I learn how to make dumpling wrappers and dumplings from this book, I also gained a whole lot of confidence when it comes to making them. This Basic Dumpling Dough is actually so easy I quickly memorized the process.
The second time I made this, I didn’t even need to look at the book anymore! I did not use any special equipment except for my hands, because I feel more comfortable with the instructions using this method. I have provided the instructions below for using the food processor, but I still prefer making the dough by hand.
The instructions may seem intimidating because of its length, but read it through carefully first and you’ll see that it is not difficult at all, only detailed and meticulous in explaining the how’s and why’s, as it should be. I’m sorry if the process photos aren’t very good though. It’s very difficult to photograph myself!
Makes 1 pound, enough for 32 medium or 24 large dumplings
- 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- about 3/4 cup just-boiled water*, or more as necessary
- 1. Shape your kitchen towel into a circle and fit a bowl in the middle to prevent it from slipping while you work. Put the flour in the bowl and make a well in the centre.
- 2. Use a wooden spoon to stir the flour while you add 3/4 cup water in a steady stream. Aim to evenly moisten the flour. You may pause to stir or add more water if having difficulty doing both simultaneously.
- 3. Once all the water has been added, there will still be lumpy bits in the bowl. Knead the dough in the bowl to bring all the lumps together into one mass. If the dough doesn't come together easily, add water by the teaspoon.
- 4. Transfer the dough and any leftover bits to a clean work surface. Flour you work surface only if necessary, and even then only sparingly. Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for about 2 minutes. **
- 5. After kneading, the dough should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic. To test if the dough is ready, press on it. It should slowly bounce back with a light impression of your finger remaining.
- 6. Place the dough in a zip-top plastic bag and expel any excess air before sealing. Set aside to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the plastic bag and become earlobe soft.
- 7. After resting, the dough can be used immediately to form the wrappers. Or it may be refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.
- 8. Remove the dough from the bag. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut in half. Put the half back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it to prevent the dough from drying out.
- 9. Roll the dough into a 1-inch thick log and then cut into the number of pieces required by the recipe. To cut even pieces, quarter the log first; the tapered end pieces need to be cut a little longer than the rest. Weigh each piece of dough to be super precise.
- 10. If your dough pieces are oval-shaped, stand each one on a cut end and use your fingers to gently squeeze them it into a round. The resulting squat cylinder should resemble a scallop. This makes it easier to form a circle while rolling.
- 11. To prevent the dough from sticking on your work surface, take each piece of dough and press on side of the cut ends in flour, flattening the dough a bit. Then flip it over and do the same on the other end. You should end up with a disc roughly 1/4-inch thick. Set the floured disks to one side of your work area.
- 12. Flatten each floured round dough into a thin circle about 1/8-inch thick using a heavy, flat-bottomed object, or your flattened palm. You can flatten the dough between layers of plastic wrap to avoid sticking, and it will be necessary to press more than once to get the desired thickness. (You may also use a tortilla press if you have one-- lay a plastic plastic square on the bottom plate and press only once using moderate pressure.) Whichever method you choose, repeat with the remaining dough pieces, setting the finished wrappers into ones side of the work area as you finish them. It is okay to overlap the wrappers only slightly.
- 13. To finish, take a flattened wrapper and and place it on the work surface; flour the work surface only when needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Imagine a quarter-sized circle in the centre of the wrapper. This is called the "belly" of the wrapper and is the thickest part of the wrapper. The goal is to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size but retains a thick belly***.
- 14. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure on the outer 1/2 to 3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the pin with the flat palm of one hand applying medium pressure, while using the other hand to turn the wrapper in the opposite direction. For instance, use your right palm to roll the pin in short, downward strokes from the centre of the wrapper toward your body as the fingers of your left hand turn the disk counterclockwise about a quarter of a turn between each stroke (vice versa if using the left hand to roll). Keep the thumb of the hand used to rotate the wrapper near the belly of the wrapper to guide the rolling pin. (See picture above with green wrappers.)
- 15. Resembling a flat fried egg, the finished wrapper doesn't need to be a perfect circle. Frilly edges are fine. The finished diameter of the wrapper depends on the dumpling as each recipe specifies an ideal size. Once the first batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portion of dough, or else the wrappers may stick together as they wait to be filled for too long.
- If the wrapper sticks to the work surface or rolling pin, pause to dust the wrapper with a little bit of flour and then continue.
- If you cannot get you wrappers flat enough at the first try, set it aside to relax for about 1 minute, and then roll again.
- Should the wrapper tear or be hopelessly misshapen, roll up the dough, let it rest for a few minute, then press it again and roll it out.
- * Because handling very hot water can be dangerous, Ms. Nguyen normally lets her newly-boiled water rest for around 30 seconds to at most 2 minutes before using it. I let mine rest for about a minute and a half.
- ** If using the food processor, put the flour in the bowl and add the 3/4 cup water in a steady stream through the feed tube. As soon as all the water has been added, stop the machine and check the dough. It should look rough and feel soft, but it should be firm enough to hold its shape when pinched. Add flour or water by the tablespoon as necessary. Once satisfied, run the processor for another 5 to 10 seconds to further knead the dough and until it forms a ball around the blade. Avoid overworking the dough. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead for about 30 seconds. Continue with Step 5.
- *** Creating a wrapper with a thick belly and thin sides ensures an even distribution of dough after the wrapper's edge has been gathered and closed around the filling.