Dumplings: From wishful thinking to weeknight dinner

Each week, I scroll through my many recipe repositories to figure out the following week’s dinner plans: Pinterest, NYT Cooking, Food52, cookbooks, and Instagram. It’s my way of coping with the Sunday scaries.

This blog has meant that in addition to finding dinner recipes that don’t leave us in a food rut, I also need to find a new ingredient to center my next blog post around.

This isn’t quite as difficult as you might think because 1) surprise!—there’s a lot of foods I haven’t tried, and 2) although this blog only started a few months ago, my ambition of eating more adventurously has been rearing its head in my bookmarked recipes for years. Scrolling through my saved NYT Cooking recipes, you’ll find recipes for seafood, beans, and elaborate Korean dishes that I can’t spell or pronounce.

Perhaps those writers caught me in the right mood, or maybe I just got confused and meant to click on neighboring recipes for chicken and tacos. But my ambitious saves from years gone by are coming in handy these days.

They’re the reason why I had a dumpling recipe from Tejal Rao and Helen You waiting for me this Sunday.

Although this recipe calls for homemade wonton wrappers, I had every intention of buying these at the store. I’m not a hardo, and I have nothing to prove when it comes to wonton making.

Unfortunately, my un-cultured grocery store had other plans, and I went through much more trouble than I had originally planned just to try a dish that I could’ve ordered at any of the 10 Chinese takeout spots within a mile of my apartment.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Wontons take a long time to make. I’m sure this time decreases the more comfortable you get with the process, but it was pretty long and tedious this time around.
  • They’re also difficult to fill and seal. I’ve never been good at arts and crafts, and trying to seal these dumplings reminded me of that.
  • Once filled and sealed, they’re easy to poke holes in while cooking.
Did I mention I made a mess?

So, yeah, it was a rough path to dinner the other night. BUT with that said, once the dough was made, they only took a few minutes to cook, and I eventually got edible dumplings on the plate.

I slightly adapted the NYT Cooking recipe by adding grated carrots and garlic and subbing out garlic chives with scallions and sherry vinegar for rice wine vinegar. I also adapted Margaux Laskey’s dumpling dipping sauce recipe, adding honey and chili flakes.

The verdict

So after all that trouble, how were these dumplings?

They were great! Thank God because we were starving by the time these were ready. I decided to pan-fry them first before steaming. I was excited by how crispy I got the bottoms, but unfortunately, that crispy exterior was compromised by the steaming. I’ll need to work on my technique in the future (suggestions welcome!). But the wonton wrapper turned out to be the perfect thickness, and the filling was delicious.

How else do you remove these from the pan if not by aggressively poking them with tongs?

The pictures may not look like much—the dumplings were misshapen, and most were falling apart due to shoddy wrapping and aggressive tong-poking. But the taste of both the dumplings and dipping sauce made up for the failed arts and crafts hour that preceded supper.

And you may be thinking, “Bethy, dumplings aren’t much of a reach. You already eat all the ingredients that went into them.” WELL, SIR. The thing about picky eating is that logic doesn’t prevail. In the OG Picky Eater Chronicles, I documented my first experience eating tacos, as a 21-year-old. On that blog post, I explained how just because I eat separate components of a meal, doesn’t mean I want to mix those components. And it definitely doesn’t mean that I want to conceal those components in an opaque wrapper!

If we’re being honest, I was actually pretty nervous to take my first bite even though, rationally, I knew I’d like these. Thank goodness for this blog because if it wasn’t for writing to you guys, I probably would’ve continued to avoid dumplings for many more years out of fear of ~the wrapper~.

Tejal Rao and Helen You’s dumpling recipe has officially moved from my “see but ignore” recipe category to “weeknight dinner” option. Just with store-bought wonton wrappers next time!

How else should I fill my next dumplings? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles—just don’t try telling me to use dried shrimp like someone in the NYT Cooking comments section did! That’s a bridge too far!

Published by Bethy St. John

Lifelong picky eater with a love for all things cooking. I'm a complicated woman.

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