As people settle into the Asian Dumplings cookbook, they want to spread the carb fun by organizing get-togethers. Wayne F. from Vancouver emailed this morning with this question:
Hi Andrea. I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your Asian Dumplings book. You've done a great job with the instructions and providing fascinating background behind the recipes. I had a copy from the library but it is in so much demand that I can't renew it so I bought two copies. We are planning a dumpling party so I have to lend out one book to friends so they can practice.
Any advice on which dumplings to serve together? I'm looking for relatively easy ones to make and a variety to expose my friends to. Here is our proposed menu:
Boiled – pork and napa cabage water dumplings
Pan-fried – pot stickers
Steamed – har gow, siu mai, Chinese chive dumplings
Deep fried – spring rolls, taro puffs
Wayne, I want to come to this party not just because you purchase two copies of Asian Dumplings(!!), but there will be fabulous food! Unfortunately, I am geographically challenged, being in California and you in Canada.
Your Northern and Southern Chinese dumpling menu is quite ambitious. You’ve got a lot of different kinds of doughs and fillings going on. Pulling off that menu will require a fair amount of work and coordination on your part.
You seem like an organized fellow since you've lent out a copy of the book and given assignments to your friends. I like that! Nevertheless, I suggest scaling down the menu.
Here are a few tips on Asian dumpling menu planning:
Make a dumpling but cook it 2 ways. Depending on the number of guests you have, make a single or double batch of the pork and napa cabbage dumplings. Poach/boil half of them, pan-fry the other half into pot-stickers. It's great to compare and contrast the textural differences that you get from the two cooking methods.
Know your steamer tray limits. Don’t
your steamer trays by making too much and cooking them up all at once. To save time and minimize stress, make 2 steamed dumplings, not 3. You’ve smartly selected dumplings that can be steamed off in advance and then gently resteamed to refresh.
However, each batch makes a lot so you’ll be working triple instead of double time to get the dumplings out to guests. Unless you have tons of steamer trays, and lotsa kitchen slaves to fill, steam and serve up dumplings, things can get hairy.
If you’re determined to make all 3, steam the Chinese chive dumplings
earlier in the day and pan-fry them. They are awfully good that way. You can also put the pan-frying station to greater use!
Use a deep-fry thermometer for tricky dumplings. Deep-fried Asian dumplings are spectacularly good, showy morsels. Pick either the spring roll or taro puff for this initial party. When you’re deft in doing dumplings, do both.
If you choose the taro puff, do a practice run first, if you haven’t done so already. Taro puffs made at home are a zillion times better than what most dim sum houses produce.
The taro puff dough and filling can be made days in advance so that’s super cool. However, they are best when cooked a la minute. I ALWAYS cook taro puffs with a deep-fry thermometer. When I have guests over and if I’ve had too much champagne, beer, or wine, I can be off my game when it’s time to deep-fry.
My final tip: Don’t forget the dipping sauces! Make them in advance and set them out at the table.
My final final tip (really!): Have fun. If things don’t go exactly as you envisioned, your guests will still have a good time. They will be deeply grateful for your generous hospitality.
Okay, one last tip: Be considerate of vegetarians. There are lots of vegetarian fillings in the book, even vegan ones and gluten-free ones (use tamari instead of soy sauce).
If you have tips for Wayne, or questions for me, type your thoughts!