In Nepal, they’re called momos. In Japan, they’re gyoza. In Taiwan, the name is jiaozi. You could even throw empanadas, samosas, pierogies and gnocchi under the dumpling umbrella. A dumpling is, in essence, a pocket of dough stuffed with filling.
It’s the quintessential toddler food – an entire meal in one bite. And if you keep some in the freezer, you’ll have some crazy, hectic weeknight dinners covered.
People all over the world eat dumplings. We just call them different things. The dumplings I grew up eating are jiaozi.
Jiaozi are a requisite dish during Chinese New Year because they symbolize prosperity. They’re good the other 50 weeks of the year too. They’re good for lunch or dinner or breakfast. They’re good steaming hot just out of the boiling pot, they’re good cold, eaten standing in front of the fridge. Between the filling and the wrapper, a dumpling covers at least three food groups. You can make a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, vinegar and green onions, but I think dumplings are tastier on their own.
You can buy premade wrappers at an Asian grocery store, but why would you, when homemade wrappers are so much yummier and so ridiculously easy? All you need is all-purpose flour and very hot water (but not hot enough to scald you). Slowly pour the hot water onto the flour, kneading as you go, until you reach dough consistency. Then cut off a little piece of dough and flatten it with a rolling pin.
There are too many different types of filling to list here. The standard filling is a mix of chopped-up Chinese cabbage, green onion, pork and shrimp, but you can use whatever type of meat, vegetable and flavor you’d like. Spoon some filling into a wrapper, pinch it shut and freeze the finished dumplings separated on cookie sheets. Once they’re frozen, you can dump them into a bag.
To cook, put frozen dumplings in a big pot of boiling water. Wait for the water to come to a boil again, and pour a glass of cold water on it. Repeat this step three times.
When I visit my mom, every time I turn around she’s whipped up another fresh batch of made-from-scratch dumplings. It’d kill her to hear this, but at times I’ve even resorted to frozen, pre-cooked, sodium-filled dumplings from Costco (which aren’t even Chinese. They’re Korean).
It used to be really hard to find restaurants selling frozen dumplings; the margin of profit is so much lower than serving a couple on a plate in house. But because of the pandemic, many Chinese restaurants are now selling frozen dumplings.
Here are the best, in my opinion:
Szechuan Noodle Bowl
420 8th Ave. S., Seattle; facebook.com/szechuannoodlebowl
We loved the homey comfort food at Szechuan Noodle Bowl before the pandemic, and we love that they are now selling frozen dumplings. It’s a small, mom-and-pop shop – cooking directions, if you need them, are handwritten on notebook paper. Don’t dump out the water you use to boil the dumplings; they’re so flavorful, you’ll want to drink the cooking water as a fragrant broth. $40 for 50 dumplings. Cash preferred, Venmo accepted.
Xiao Chi Jie
278 106th Ave. NE, Bellevue; thexcj.com
One bite of these bad boys and I thought I’d died and gone to xiao long bao heaven. (For the uninitiated, xiao long bao are dumplings with a bit of soup inside.) The beautiful thing? XCJ delivers – free with a $99 minimum, so you can get a couple of bags to stash in the freezer. $40 for a bag of 50 xiao long bao.
Various locations; doughzonedumplinghouse.com
Dough Zone is a chain, but it’s a local chain, started in Bellevue in 2014. It’s since grown to eight locations in the Seattle metro area and the Bay Area, with two more in the works. The restaurant feels more upscale than its neighbors in Seattle’s International District, but the prices are lower than those at the gold standard of dumplings, Din Tai Fung (which does not sell its dumplings frozen). Frozen xiao long bao, $35 for 50 dumplings, are a bit smaller than those from XCJ.
Ping’s Dumpling House
508 S. King St., Seattle
Another tiny shop in the ID. The menu here is handwritten on a white board. The proprietor of Ping’s Dumplings, Ping Liu, is the nicest lady; she even tried to give us a free milk tea. (Seriously?) Ping handmakes her dumplings and her prices are unbeatable. $30 for 50 dumplings.
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