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I had previously mentioned that I wanted to bring food along to the book club happening at my Kung Fu school. I had finalized the Chines 5-spice molasses cookie recipe and it was time to try my hand at Jiaozi making, the Chinese style dumpling. I was originally contemplating this vegan recipe from One Green Planet but then decided to veganize Alton Brown’s Vegetarian recipe. I chose his because the filling appealed to me the most, my favorite dumplings have always contained cabbage, we already cook a lot of Bok Choy but hardly cabbage. But mainly, I’ve a strong aversion to mushrooms and that seemed to be a common ingredient in many I found. I omitted the egg, because egg, and the tofu since I was serving non-vegans and people can be so gosh darn weird about tofu (I used to be one of those people). I also substituted savoy cabbage for the Napa cabbage because 3 stores later, Napa was nowhere to be found. I double-tripled the batch (basically I multiplied everything by 6) because I wanted to use the entire head of cabbage and have a nice freezer stock pile so I ended up short on the ginger, which was apparently a good thing since my family said it was still too ginger-y. Ginger wimps.

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Shanghai style works great for boiling.

The most important step was to head to the Asian market and purchase pre-made dumpling wrappers because I had about 12 hours to figure this out and hand rolling out the wrappers wasn’t going to happen. I had read the Twin Marquis were a good brand and were made in the USA. There were two styles available, one was white and said Shanghai style and the other was a more yellow Hong Kong style. For whatever reason, I went with the white. Mistake number one. I knew I definitely wanted steamed dumplings but didn’t know there were different types of dough for steaming and boiling. As usual, I learn everything I need to know after the fact when I start googling to find out what went wrong.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect for difficulty regarding the folding and pinching. It seemed like something easy enough to wing and I went in using all of the dumplings I’ve consumed over the years as reference. For some reason, my first dumplings turned out the prettiest and just as I was feeling super confident, my pinching ability quickly declined. Once again, only after I failed, I started researching the best way to do it. That’s when I came across this dumpling folding article that said for your first time making dumplings, do the easier triangle fold. Then advance to the crescent fold. Once you’re a pro, then move on to the pleated fold. Well, it was too late for entry level folding as I had already jumped right into pro-pinching level and there was no going back. Despite more research, my pinching didn’t seem to improve and my first batch will always be my best batch, I’ve concluded. 

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My first test run steamed up oh so beautifully so imagine my disappointment when my first taste was a slightly dry, rubbery dumpling. That’s when I learned the difference between wrappers made for boiling versus steaming. Off to the Asian Market I went once again and picked up a pack of the yellow Hong Kong style wrappers, which the nice cashier confirmed would be best for steaming. (All photos are of the first Shanghai wrapper batch because I didn’t feel like doing a re-shoot, time was running out.) The Hong Kong style wrappers were so much thinner, I’m not sure I’ll ever get through the pack with how thin they are, it must contain 60,000 wrappers. Quite a bargain for $1.89. They steamed up with a nice texture, similar to what I’ve received in restaurants, however, they were not nearly as pretty. Because they were so thin, once the steam escaped and the dumplings deflated, the wrapper clung so tightly to every veggie nook and cranny they gave the appearance of brain folds. Even though the taste was great, I couldn’t bring myself to take them to book club. I was going to be in the presence of experienced dumpling makers and I wasn’t about to bring my un-cultured ass in there with ugly dumplings. My family was all to happy to claim them.

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Since I had some of the thicker ones that were already steamed, but too chewy, I gave them a quick boil to not waste all that work. That did the trick and although it was a hodge podge of test dumplings, it made for a nice Sunday night dinner. we really enjoyed both versions and would choose those over fried any day. I don’t know if that makes me some kind of monster or not, but I’m okay with that. Despite the bumps along the way, it was a fun experience and I’m all to happy to know I can have dumplings at home whenever the mood strikes as long as I don’t get hung up on looks.

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Unrelated, I need to apologize for the choppiness of this writing, I had no less than 100 interruptions and just can’t get the flow at this point. It’s always a frustration when I’m in the mood to be productive in one way, when my time for this kind of thing is already limited, and life wants me to do something different. I hope you followed and hope you give your own dumpling making a try!

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