I love to spread and share the wealth when it comes to cooking and eating dumplings. You don't have to do all the work. Let go and invite others to participate. Aside from organizing a dumpling making party, you can also hold a potluck! Over the weekend, I attended an Asian Dumplings cookbook club potluck organized by 18 Reasons, a non-profit organization in San Francisco that’s part of the Bi-Rite family of locally-owned businesses in the Mission district. About 20 people attended with an amazing array of dumplings prepared from recipes in the book. They totally strutted their Asian dumpling stuff.
My goodness — there were Korean mandu, pot stickers, Chinese poached water dumplings (shui jiao), Vietnamese water dumplings (banh bot loc), Shanghai soup dumplings, Filipino lumpia, spiced lamb Nepalese momos, Cantonese shrimp rice rolls, samosas, taro puffs, and Indian gulab jamun milk dumplings. I brought Singaporean spiced pineapple tarts. I’d never seen such a range of Asian dumplings in one place at one time (even my own kitchen). The potluck warmed the cockles of my heart and gave me a dumpling carb overload! (See photographer Emily Heller's montage of images to get a sense of how much fun we had.)
It was fabulous to hear people's experiences with making dumplings, how they didn't think they could do it and how they practiced and persisted. As someone at potluck said, "Dumplings are instant smiles."
Rachel Cole, the 18 Reasons program director, organized the gathering and surprisingly, no one brought the same dish. “It happens every time. We don’t have overlaps,” she said. Rachel is an exceptionally organized person, and I noted that she had some great strategies for a successful potluck:
- Several days earlier, Rachel sent a reminder email with a headcount so everyone knew how much to make.
- All the plates and utensils were set out before guests arrived.
- The savories were positioned apart (away) from the sweets so people would not be confused.
- Have a steamer and skillet ready in case someone needs to reheat.
- As guests arrived, she asked them to write down what they brought on small identification cards. We each displayed our card(s) by our dish as not only a symbol of dumpling pride but also, you don't have to repeatedly tell people what you brought.
- After we filled our plates and sat down, each person took turns to tell the group what they brought. Rachel insists that no one apologizes or makes excuses for what they bring to 18 Reasons potlucks. I concur.
How did people transport their dumplings to the potluck so that they tasted fresh? I was impressed by everyone’s thoughtful ingenuity and even brazenness. Tips for bringing dumplings to a potluck include:
- Bring them on baking sheet. The Vietnamese tapioca dumplings came on a baking sheet, each one atop some of the scallion oil. This made it easy for each person to pick up one of the sticky dumplings and get enough of the garnish. The sauce was on the side in a recycled jar.
- Use low glass baking dishes for easy self-serving. The couple that
brought the rice noodle rolls arranged them in layers in a Pyrex pie
dish. Their Nepalese momos (third photo from the top) were placed on cabbage leaves so they would
look pretty and would not stick. The low baking dishes did not require
extra reach to get to the dumplings.
- Fried dumplings are great at room temp. Lumpia, taro puffs, and gulab jamun were great as is, no reheating necessary. Of course, they were recently fried. Don’t be frying the day before and bringing them cold to a potluck; you’ll have to reheat.
- Match the container shape with the dumpling shape. The poached water dumplings arrived in a round Tupperware container, which was perfect for the half-moon shuijiao. We slid the dumplings from the container into a shallow bowl. The round balls of gulab jamun were not worse for wear in a big glass bowl. We carefully spooned each one out onto our plates.
- Resteam before serving. The Shanghai soup dumplings arrived in a plastic zip top bag and after we pried them apart, we arranged them in the steamer. Some of the dumpling suffered in transit and had holes. My solution? Put the hole facing up to minimize the leakage possibilities.
- Paper cupcake holders are good buffers. To keep my tarts from bumping up against each other on the 1 1/2-hour drive, I put each one in a cupcake holder. All of them went into a metal cake pan and I packed them snug so there would be little shifting around. They survived unscathed.
- Reheat or not reheat? Check with your potluck host on what kind of cooking equipment is available.
- If there’s a regular or toaster oven, consider bringing a baked or fried dumpling.
- You can re-pan-fry dumplings to refresh them.
- Re-steaming at moderate heat is possible for all steamed dumplings.
- Arrive early if you have to reheat something, or your dumpling may not be ready to serve along with those that other people brought.
- Or, just bring your dumpling already warmed up and ready to go.
If you have tips for dumpling potlucks, do share them!