There are a few universal truths in cooking and eating that I’ve learned over the four or five years that I’ve cooked fairly seriously: fried is better than not, sausages are almost always awesome, homemade bread tastes nothing like anything else, broilers kick ass, farmers>supermarkets, etc. etc. etc…

Things are better wrapped in dough. I learned this final truth while on a mission to find the topic for a series of future blog posts. All kinds of things. Think calzones, ravioli, pierogi, pies of all sorts, wontons, the list truly goes on and on. My friend (the intrepid hand model and brains behind this particular dumpling operation) is Chinese and suggested we have a night of ramen and dumplings, homemade of course. Who am I to deny tradition?

Dumplings at their most basic have a filling (usually pork or shrimp, ours happened to be beef with bok choy) and a wrapper of some sort (buy these at any reasonably well-stocked grocery store or chinese market). The filling can feature any array of spices you might fancy, usually soy sauce, a little sesame oil, an egg, vegetables, herbs. You get the idea here, it’s actually a fairly good use for whatever you might have in the fridge, provided you have a food processor or the patience to chop it all up. Figure each dumpling will use 1-2 teaspoons of filling. Then comes the hard part…

First step: set aside a lot of time and if you’ve ever rolled a cigarette, get in that mindset (if you know what I mean, you know what I mean). Each dumpling is going to take you maybe a minute or two to make and you’ll need at least six per person, probably more like ten. Even better, get a helper, preferably one who’s Chinese and whose mother and grandmother each have their own “school” of dumpling-crafting. If not, try to follow these instructions and watch some videos on youtube. There are probably five or more common dumpling shapes, but you’re welcome to try your own.

1. Lay out the wrapper in your hand, ours were square, and spoon a fat teaspoon of filling into the center of the wrapper.
2. Wet your finger and moisten one of the four edges of the wrapper, fold the opposite edge over the filling and press it down to adhere it to the wet wrapper, leaving about half an inch of overhang.
3. Fold the whole contraption approximately in half, lengthwise, and then widthwise, bringing the dry edges together on the other side of the filling. Seal the connection with a little water.

If this is confusing, don’t worry. It took me a few tried to get it right and that was with the most professional instruction I could find. Definitely look at the pictures and look around the internet for better directions and videos. Once they’re made you can boil or fry these babies right up and enjoy them with a little soy sauce/vinegar dressing, in soup, the sky is the limit.

So that’s it. The first in what I hope to be the definitive series of blog posts about everything encased in dough. Why not?