How to Wrap a Dumpling

This essay, by Jacob Wang, 16, of Godalming, England, is one of the Top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s new “How To” Informational Writing Contest for Teenagers.

How to Wrap a Dumpling

“Any successful dumpling’s dough must be as soft as an earlobe,” says Andy Ma, the Chef de Cuisine for 12 years at the Michelin-starred Bo Innovation. Start with store-bought dough until you’re ready to make your own. Having a “Q texture” (the Chinese’s al dente) keeps it together when wrapping, which, in Ma’s words, “is the most important part!”

The consistency of the dough makes or breaks your dumplings, literally. Only flour and water are needed. First, measure out your ingredients into a large mixing bowl. General rule of thumb is one-part water, two-parts flour. The water should be lukewarm; the flour should be all-purpose. “Don’t let its simplicity fool you,” Ma adds.

Dumpling dough is like no other: it’s not as stretchy as pizza dough, nor as chewy as pasta dough. To knead it together, only use your hands. Toss it; twirl it; toy with it. “Dig your fingers in, like a claw machine,” Ma says, until the dough feels smooth and tacky. Put it into a covered container to rest for no longer than an hour.

Unlike their dumplings, chefs have little time to relax. As Ma says, “Dumplings show a chef’s experience.” Novices tend to over-roll the dough. The kneading should be intuitive, but the portioning should be numerical. Sculpt the dough into a log, then segment off equal pieces.

To make the wrappers, you’ll need a rolling pin. Dust your table with flour; palm the dough into a circle, then, hold the pin with one hand and the wrapper in the other; roll halfway through, all while spinning the dough. Repeat, repeat, repeat: “Eventually you will get a flat round circle at around 2-3mm thick.”

Finally it’s time to seal the deal … and the dumpling. Put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of your wrapper. Kiss each side into a half-moon. Pinch from the top to fold pleats with enough pressure to seal the dough, readying them for the next stage: boiling.

However, there are countless types of dumplings, each with countless folding techniques. “It’s like trying to count all the stars in the sky,” says Ma.

Yet, Ma figures he has made thousands of dumplings: not at Bo Innovation, but at home. Such careful dumpling wrapping fosters his deep appreciation for the food that most people take for granted. “Wrapping dumplings brings all the components together,” he says. “They’ve brought my family together, too.”