They go by many names, take on many forms, and you would never know what was inside by a simple glance. You’ve hungrily stared at them floating about in your wonton soup, or cried out with glee at the sight of them steaming hot in a just-opened takeout box at the end of a long day (probably). You know them as gyoza, shumai (siu mai), wonton, momo, etc. By now you’ve probably figured out that we’re talking about dumplings.
Because dumpling wrappers come pre-packed, pre-stacked, and pre-dusted (with cornstarch) 60 – 80 per package, dumplings are incredibly easy to make at home (although you can certainly craft your own dough if you’re so inclined). Taking the DIY (Dumpling It Yourself?) route gives you the freedom not only to customize your filling, but also your presentation. Out of all of the attractive and practical ways to shape your dumplings, we’re going to walk you through four of our favorites.
How to Work with Dumpling Wrappers
You can find these at any Asian market, or in the Asian foods/specialty foods section of the supermarket labeled as “Won Ton Wraps,” “Won Ton Wrappers” or “Won Ton Skins.” They also may be in the refrigerated section, not too far off from the tofu.
When buying dumpling wrappers, there’s only one real choice to make: circle, or square?
The two shapes serve the same purpose, which is folding up your dumpling filling and making sure that everything is sealed in nice and tight. The difference is solely in the geometry. With a single fold, you can use either a square wrapper to create a triangle, or a round one to create a half moon.
These are the starting points for most other shapes, but you can also leave it just like this (crimp the edges with a fork, and that’s a wrap). So, pick your squares or circles based on how you’d like your dumplings to look… hopefully we can help you decide. Buy both to try out a variety of shapes all at once!
Once you have your wrappers and you’re all ready to roll (wrap, fold… you get it), there are a few things you’ll want handy: a bowl of water, a wet towel, and plenty of napkins. The bowl of water is necessary to help seal the dumplings (for each wrapper, you’ll dip your finger in water and then trace all along the edges). You’ll keep the wet towel over your stack of wrappers to keep them moist. The napkins will do what they do best (contain the mess).
Now, for the shapes…
A fairly classic crescent shape (also called the pleated crescent, among other descriptive names), this is what you usually see when you order “Gyoza” or buy frozen potstickers. Their flat bottom makes them ideal for pan frying.
Cooking Method: Pan frying (or steaming)
How to Shape:
Folding method begins around 3:25
#2: From the Triangle: “Flowerbud” or “Nurse Cap”
These are just two of the ways that you can give a twist to your triangle, and two shapes that you can prepare pretty much any way that you’d like (often used in wonton soups).
Cooking Method: Steaming, frying, or boiling
How to Shape:
Also referred to as star or bow-shaped, this shape is especially great for frying and then pulling apart, piece by piece (think crab rangoon).
Cooking Method: Frying or steaming
How to Shape:
Pleated at the top, this one makes for a perfect (and pretty) little bite. This shape is great for steaming and is also the shape used for soup dumplings (xiao long bao) – which are actually filled with a little bit of soup (but not themselves part of a soup).
Cooking Method: Steaming
How to Shape:
This shape begins around 1:50
How to Store or Use
Frying, steaming and boiling are three basic ways that you can prepare your dumplings. If you make a large batch, you can easily freeze any leftover dumplings for later. They can be cooked either fresh/thawed or frozen (depending on the preparation technique; cooking them frozen usually just requires a few extra minutes). Below are a few helpful links with tips (and some recipes) that may help you in your dumpling endeavors.
Frying or Boiling:
As far as freezing goes, one thing that you can do is lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, let them freeze for a few hours and then transfer them to a container, like a large mason jar or zip-lock bag (they need to freeze separately first so that they won’t stick). Another option is that you can freeze them right into a large zip-lock back by laying them out in single layers on wax paper and stacking them. Then every night can be dumpling night!