Shaping Asian dumplings: four shapes, three flavors, all delicious

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Sift magazine teamed up with Cynthia Chen McTiernan to share her recipes and techniques for shaping Asian dumplings. Cynthia is the curator of the blog Two Red Bowls, where she presents comfort food influenced by her Chinese and her husband’s Korean family backgrounds.

Shaping dumplings is a wonderful skill to have, and perfect for getting together with family and friends to practice folding and sharing the results. Once you’ve assembled a bunch of dumplings, you can do as Cynthia’s family does: pull frosty bags of them from the freezer and toss them into a boiling pot of water until they bob to the surface. They make a wonderful impromptu meal or quick Saturday lunch.

Try your hand at shaping Asian dumplings with King Arthur Flour and Two Red Bowls. We'll show you how! Click To Tweet

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Shaping Asian dumplings

It isn’t difficult; when you make the dough from scratch it’s quite pliable (almost floppy), but soothing to work with.

To start things off, let’s make the dough, which takes only three ingredients:

3 1/8 cups (13 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) boiling water

Follow the steps laid out in any of the three recipes that Cynthia shared in Sift: Pork And Cabbage DumplingsShrimp and Chive Dumplings, or Tofu and Mushroom Dumplings. (The dough is the same in all three.)

After the dough has rested, it’s divided, portioned, and rolled into 3″ circles. We like to use a French pastry pin for this; it allows us to make thinner edges on our circles, which results in more delicate pleats.

Next, decide which shape you want to tackle: half moon, rosebud, square, or pleated crescent.

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

 Half moon

This is the shape we’ve chosen for our Tofu and Mushroom Dumplings, but, really, any of the three fillings work with any of our four shapes.

With the wrapper in your off hand, place 2 teaspoons of filling in the center. Bring the edges of the circle up to meet above the filling and pinch the dumpling closed. Simple as that.

Rosebud

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

If you want to make them a little fancier, simply bring the ends of the half moon dumpling together, placing one over the other, and pinch to seal; now you have a rosebud shape.

You can cover the dumplings with a an inverted bowl or rimmed baking sheet so they don’t dry out while you shape the rest, or put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the freezer, if you’re making enough to freeze them for later.

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Square dumplings

We chose this shape for our Pork and Cabbage Dumplings. The first two steps are the same as for half moons.

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Put the wrapper in your off hand, place the filling in the center, then pinch the opposite edges together just in the center.

Shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Now bring the open edges to the center, and pinch where the edges meet each other, creating four seams in a cross shape.

Set aside and cover with plastic or a damp towel while you shape the rest, or pop into the freezer as described above.

Pleated crescent

This is the shape we think of most often when it comes to shaping Asian dumplings. Some versions have pleats in two directions, each pointed toward the center. This version is pointed in one direction only, and we’re making Shrimp and Chive Dumplings.

shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour With the wrapper and filling in one hand, gather the dough from the opposite side and fold it into a pleat. It helps to moisten the edge of the dumpling to which you’re gathering and pressing the dough.

shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Keep gathering, folding, and pressing the folds to the opposite side of the dumpling. Once you’re all the way across, the dumpling is done.

shaping Asian Dumplings via @kingarthurflour

Here they all are. Rosebuds in front, squares behind that, pleated crescents, then half moons in the back row.

Cooking dumplings

Once the dumplings are filled and folded, you can cook them in the way you prefer. Simplest is boiling, where the dumplings are dropped into boiling salted water until they float. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve them from the water, and serve with dipping sauce or in broth.

Steaming is accomplished in a bamboo or vegetable steamer. It’s best to put the dumplings on small squares of parchment so they don’t stick to the basket. Cook in a single layer (don’t let the dumplings touch each other) over 2″ of simmering water for 6 minutes, or until the wrappers are no longer doughy and the filling is cooked through.

To pan-fry dumplings, heat a tablespoon of oil until it shimmers in a wok or large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add as many dumplings as will fit in a ring (without touching each other) around the edge of the pan, flat side down. Cook until the bottoms are crisp and browned, about 2 minutes.

Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water and cover. Let the dumplings steam for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the fillings and wrappers are cooked through. Usually once the water cooks off and you hear sizzling from the pan, the dumplings are done.

Friends and family

Shaping Asian dumplings is the perfect get-together project. Everyone learns a new skill, the task goes quickly, and if you double your fillings, there’s plenty for everyone to take home. We hope you’ll give shaping Asian dumplings a try soon, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Carolyn

    Small matter but needs to be fixed. In the recipe for Shrimp and Chive Filling, the ingredient list has a heading ‘Filing’. I think that was supposed to be ‘Filling’.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for keeping us on our toes, Carolyn. We appreciate you pointing that out, and we’ve asked our Recipe Team to make the appropriate change. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. sandy

    What a great post. I love Asian dumplings. Love’em, Love’em, Love’em! I often make a big batch and freeze before cooking. I do the half moon shape, but am gong to try the square shape described above. I think they will sit up nicely in the pan when I fry them and get well browned bottoms. Thank you Susan! Going to do these tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      There is something very soothing about making these, and the rewards for dinner are even better! Have fun! Susan

  3. Vivian

    Timely post with Chinese New Year coming on Friday. Dumplings are considered to be a lucky food (I think it has something to do with the resemblance to a small purse). A couple of tips based on my 40+ years of experience making these:

    1. Easiest tool for rolling the wrappers is a short wooden dowel from the hardware store (3/4 inch dia., and around 8 inch long). It gives you the most control, and is really cheap.

    2. Easiest method for pleating the half moon dumplings is to fold the wrapper around the filling, pinching closed at the top dead center. Then pleat from the center towards the ends, with pleats facing the center. You can let the dumpling rest on the counter while you pleat. This method is so simple that a child could do it (that’s how my mother taught me when I was 8 years old).

    Reply
  4. Marti

    Can whole wheat or white whole wheat be substituted in this recipe? My husband is in remission from Colin cancer and his doctor has put him on the Mediterranean Diet.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re welcome to experiment using whole wheat flours in dumplings, Marti. The dough will require more water, so boil extra to drizzle into the dough as needed. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Looking for a recipe for delicious dipping sauce? Try this one here. It’s made from a soy sauce base so it’s full of flavor and the perfect complement to practically any dumpling. Kye@KAF

  5. Merle

    I am lookin for new ones interested in sauces for dumplings. There are many and I am always wanting to try new sauces. The sauce is what makes the dumplings better.

    Reply
  6. Maria

    I’m just curious, what would these dumplings be like baked? Would this dough be any better than baked commercial wonton wrappers, (which don’t turn out very well)?

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Maria. The moisture from steaming or boiling is critical to the edibility of the finished product. Dry heat would result in hard outsides and not in a good way. You could try baking the dumplings in a covered container with some moisture, but I suspect they would merely solder themselves to the bottom of whatever baking dish you used and disintegrate when you try to remove them. Susan

    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Hi, Jeanie. We haven’t specifically tested these with Measure for Measure, which would be the non-gluten flour of choice to try. Another option would be to to try making the dumplings with rice noodle sheets that you soften in water. They’re bigger than what’s called for here, but it could be worth soaking and quartering them before filling and folding. Susan

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