Learn How to Make the Best Chinese Dumplings
I am no expert on cooking dumplings but Suzanna Foo is and I know because I have been to her restaurant in Philadelphia and enjoyed some of the most delicious pork dumplings imaginable. Her restaurant offers some of the most innovative, tasty Chinese food I have ever experienced.
I wanted to learn how to make dumplings at home so I checked out her cookbook, Suzanna Foo Chinese Cuisine, and was happy to see not only how she makes dumplings but how she cooks them so they come out perfect. She describes boiling just made dumplings as well as frozen and then explains how to pan-fry them.
Boiling Fresh Dumplings
The technique is very similar to cooking fresh pasta with a few unique twists. For example, you want to use a lot of water when cooking both pasta and dumplings. Start by bringing a big pot of water to boil, add your dumplings, then immediately stir them so they don't stick together.
Bring the water back to a boil and as soon as the dumplings start to float to the top, add ½ cup of cold water. The reason for this has to do with the filling inside. Most likely inside is still raw so you add the cold water to slow down the cooking process of the dough so it doesn't break apart while allowing the filler to finish cooking.
Continue to cook until those wonderful dumplings start floating again. Now it's time to taste one to see if they are done. They should be done at this point but if not, just add another ½ cup of cold water and wait till they float again.
When done, remove them from the pot with a Chinese strainer or a slotted spoon. Be careful not to place them on top of each other or they will stick and break apart.
Boiling Frozen Dumplings
You do no want to thaw frozen homemade dumplings. Just add them to your pot of boiling water and once they start floating, add 1 cup of cold water to slow them down. Bring the water back to a boil and as soon as they start floating to the top, add another cup of cold water.
Again, when they start to float they should be done. Taste and if not done, add some more cold water and wait until they float again. When they are done, strain and serve with your favorite dumpling sauce.
If you pan-fry a dumpling, they are called Pot Stickers. Why? Because when frying, the bottom sticks to the bottom of the pan making them crisp and delicious. Also, when pan-frying dumplings, you don't want to cook frozen ones. You want to be sure to defrost them or they will burn.
In a large nonstick pan, add a tablespoon of corn or vegetable oil and heat it up. Add as many dumplings as you can that will fit into the pan in a single layer without a lot of touch feely going on. Now for the interesting part.
Add ½ cup of cold water to the pan over the dumplings, cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Don't even think about flipping them or checking them out. Let them cook until all the water is cooked off and the dumplings are golden and crisp on the bottom.
If they are not golden and crisp on the bottom, continue to cook until they are. When done, remove and serve or start another batch.
Excellent article. Perfectly presented cooking instructions. Even a person with "two left hands" who is able to reed will do it! Well done.
Thank you for presenting this info. Ive seen srudent from China do it the same way and had no idea why the cold water.. Now I do thanks to you.
What about steaming the dumplings?
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Hallie, steaming is a very common way to prepare dumplings and one of my favorite techniques. This post was more about what I learned from reading Suzanna Foo's cookbook about how she prepares them but I see I need to write a new post about steaming them.
In the old days there is no way to adjust the flame so when the water reaches the boiling temperature the only way to prevent it from overwhelming the wok is to cool it down by adding small amount of cold water. Three times? Because that’s how long it usually takes to have the dumpling well cooked.
Nowadays we can adjust the flame, be it gas or electric stove, what you do then when the water reaches boiling point? Adjust the flame to the point where it boils but won’t overwhelm.
Oh the old guys don’t like this because they’ve been solving the problem by adding cold water, what they do then? They find all sorts of reasons, last like: it tastes better, it’s Chinese culture/tradition...or as this author was told, it has to do with the ingredients...
Haha, enjoy your dumplings, be full but not be fooled.
G. Stephen Jones
Thanks James for these interesting points about cooking dumplings. I never knew that about gas stoves. We had an electric stove growing up and you could adjust it for low, medium and high but you had very little control like you do with a gas stove.