Is a dumpling an ingredient? How exactly do you define ingredients? In my book, anything that you use in the preparation of a food item is an ingredient. Ladyfingers? An ingredient when used for making tiramisu. Meat sauce? Ingredient when used for making lasagna. When dumplings are used to make a soup, they are ingredient too. Precisely. Anyways, I was looking to use up some leftover frozen chicken jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) and what better way than a soup? And yay, I got something nice for my ‘D’ as well! All around win! 🙂
Dumplings are believed to have originated as a luxury food item for the rich in northern China around 500 BC. But as wheat and wheat flour production improved they became available to everyone. From northern China, dumplings spread to the rest of China and the world.
Dumplings can be steamed, pan-fried, boiled, or even deep fried. The method of cooking will depend on how you are going to use them.
Steamed most often in a bamboo basket, they are eaten dipped in a sauce.
For pan frying, the dumpling is placed in an oiled skillet and fried until golden brown on the bottom. Then a bit of water is splashed over them and the pan is covered till the steam fully cooks the dumpling.
Boiled dumplings are not eaten on their own but as a soup, along with the broth they were cooked in. The broth can thin or thick, flavored in a variety of ways. Additions like vegetables, seafood etc builds up the soup to be a rich and delicious meal.
Much more recently, the Japanese created a version of their own called gyoza, with thinner skins and finer chopped fillings, which are often pan-fried.
Dumpling skins are made of wheat flour and water, with or without salt. You can either make them yourself (a time consuming task) or buy ready to fill ones from a Chinese grocery store.
Chicken, pork, beef, fish and shrimp, and vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, onions, and celery are the most common fillings in dumplings. Though you can use any flavorings of your choice, ginger, garlic, scallions, and soy sauce are used traditionally to flavor them.
BTW, Dumpling soup and soup dumplings are entirely different. A dumpling soup is a delicious broth with all kinds of goodies in it, main among them small dumplings. Whereas a soup dumpling is a tiny bundle of fillings and soup which you eat whole and bursts in your mouth. We are talking about the first kind here… dumplings, mushrooms, tofu and baby corn floating in a gingery broth.
Hot and Sour Dumpling Soup
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 8 ounces shiitake or portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 green or red hot chili, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 8 cups broth of your choice
- 6 ounces firm tofu, cut into small strips
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 ounces canned baby corn, drained
- 20 frozen pork dumplings
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium.
- Add mushrooms, ginger and chili and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.
- Add broth, tofu, soy sauce and baby corn, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Add dumplings and simmer over medium heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ¼ cup water to form a slurry. Add slurry and vinegar to saucepan and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and more pepper, if desired.
- Serve hot, garnished with minced scallions.
Central and south eastern Europe has its own version of dumplings variously called pierogi and varenyky. Several other regions have their own version of dumplings like the suet dumplings of UK.