I grew up with lots and lots of dumplings. Pork, chicken, shrimp, snow pea leaf, spinach, chives, fish, crab, roe, combination of, and many I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Sometimes they are boiled, sometimes steamed, sometimes fried. At times, we would make the dumplings from scratch, dough, filling, and all. But, we always had frozen dumplings in the freezer for convenience. As a matter of fact, I could not have survived my college years without them.

pour out bag of frozen dumplings 8

Preparing frozen dumplings has always seemed like second nature so I had never looked at the instructions on a bag of frozen dumplings, until recently. A few friends had started asking me how to prepare frozen dumplings, telling me that they followed the instructions on the bag and it didn’t work. I started looking through the frozen dumpling case in the Chinese market and I was shocked! Floored! The instructions are not at all like the methods I was taught growing up. Curiosity caught the better of me and I started trying the methods described on the bags. I was mortified to find out that, more often than not, the result was terrible, especially for potstickers!

frozen dumplings in a row

Here is how you really make frozen dumplings…

#1 Do not defrost the frozen dumplings, no matter which method you are using. They go straight from frozen into the cooking method. If you de-frost frozen dumplings, they will get stuck together.

#2 Occasionally a frozen dumpling will be suitable for more than one cooking method, but often they are made for a specific cooking methods so check the packaging to see if they are intended for steaming, boiling, or frying.

Steamed Dumplings (Djung Jao)

Steaming dumplings is the most straight forward. Whether you are using a bamboo steamer or metal steamer, use a piece of lettuce or cabbage to line the bottom. Place frozen dumplings on top in one layer and don’t crowd them. Give them at least 1 inch of space in between. The steaming time varies depending on the size and density of the dumpling but don’t assume the magic number on the bag is correct. (It’s not like the pasta box instructions which are usually dead-on.)  To find out the cooking time, you’ll have to try it out. Start checking at 5 or 6 minutes to see if it looks cooked. Once it looks cooked, cut one open and try it. If it’s not done, continue steaming, and check again in a few minutes. The majority of the dumplings I tried were done around 10 minutes.

frozen soup dumplings ready in steamer

Boiled Dumplings (Sway Jao)

It’s sort of hard to go too wrong with boiled dumplings. The instructions on most bags for this method is just boil them for x minutes, or until they float, and then boil for x more minutes. Done. Nothing terribly wrong will happen if you do it that way, but occasionally the dumpling dough was getting too soft. Here’s how I was taught to make them: Bring water to a rapid boil. Add frozen dumplings and stir for a few seconds to prevent sticking. Bring it back to a boil, then add about a cup of cold water, and bring it back to a boil again, cold water… I repeat this until the dumplings float. Done.

Pork and Leek Dumplings

Potstickers (Gwo Tye)

Potstickers are the ones that will take a little practice to make right and definitely DO NOT follow the directions on the bag. Most will tell you to use the boil method first to cook the dumplings through, then pan-fry them. It fails to mention: spend a lot of time scraping and scraping to get them off the pan, and half of them will break. This is not how the Northern Chinese (homeland of dumplings and where my mother is from) make potstickers. It ended up being too hard to describe in writing so I made you a little video with my mom. Let me know how your potstickers come out!

posted by jessica at 09:18 AM Filed under Basics, Chinese, Un-Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.