Dumplings: History and myths

Even though dumplings aren’t of Indian origin, many of us enjoy the juicy bite-size dish. To many, it’s become a comfort food.

A distant cousin of ‘momos’, dumplings come in various shapes, sizes and colours. It’s the fillings in them that make them so delicious.

Dumplings are nothing but a bite-sized ball of dough that is stuffed with a filling of your choice. You can make the dough with bread, flour or potatoes.

However, in the case of momos, many of us look forward to the chutney to dunk it in and enjoy.

Dumplings aren’t like that — at least the chutney or the sauce doesn’t always sum up the dish. However, there are certain condiments like soy sauce, garlic, vinegar and chilli oil that are used to dip the dumplings.

A friend once suggested that you mix two parts of vinegar with one part of soy sauce for the perfect dumpling sauce.

There’s a certain way of making a dumpling that completes the meal. From steamed, boiled and fried, the cooking method can vary as per one’s liking.

You even make soups using the dumplings, especially wonton soup. Random fact, in Chinese, wonton means ‘swallowing clouds’.

The Cantonese dish’s fillings are endless. Pork, chicken, lamb, beef and shrimp are the usual non-vegetarian stuffing. Vegetarian options include everything from cabbage, mushrooms, carrot, tomato to even cream cheese.

Each of these stuffings have symbolic references to them. Mushroom symbolises luck and wealth, and cabbages represent 100 years of life span blessing.

Fish stands for more wealth and beef means unbreakable economic growth as the bull symbolises power and strength.

There’s actually a belief that if you serve dumplings boiled in water for Chinese New Year, you’ll have an exceptionally lucky year. You have to place coins in the center of the dumplings and whoever bites into the dumpling with a coin will be the lucky one. Just a word of caution though, be careful and don’t
accidentally swallow it or bite too hard.

It’s also said that if you have dumplings at the Spring Festival, it’ll bring you good fortune both physically and financially. It’s believed to be so as dumplings look similar to ingots which used to be Chinese currency back in the day.

One of the best things about a dumpling is the freshness of it. You know it’s freshly made when it’s springy and lint. And the best way to know if its frozen is just by looking at it. It usually tends to be soggy.

Interestingly, there are various things within Indian cuisines that are considered to be dumplings.

For example, ‘Kachori’, a round ball made of flour filled with a stuffing and ‘Nevryo’ usually found in Udupi districts are called dumplings.

There’s also ‘Ada’ that Malayalis like. It’s scarped coconut and sugar or jaggery stuffing made in rich-dough. Tamilians and Kannadigas like ‘Kozhakkattai’ which has its sweet and savoury versions.

Overall, dumplings have become those snacks or lunch/dinner meals that you can as much as you want. It’s one of those dishes that’s hard to pass on. 

Vegetable Chive Dumpling

Recipe courtesy: Pradeep Gomes, Head Chef of Yauatcha

Ingredients

For the filing

Carrot, 200 gm

Celery, 200 gm

Water chestnut, 100 gm

Potato starch powder, 30 gm

Salt and pepper to taste

Ginger water, 10 ml

Sesame oil, 1 tsp

Chive flower chop, 15 gm

For the dim sum dough

Wheat starch, 100 gm

Potato starch, 100 gm

Chive juice, 170 ml

Method

To prepare the filling

Wash, peel and chop the carrot, celery and water chestnut.

Blanch the vegetables and drain them.

In a pan, add sesame oil, blanched vegetables and ginger water. Cook it on a high flame for about 1 minute.

Add salt, pepper and potato starch powder to it. Transfer the filling to a flat tray and spread it evenly. Keep aside to cool.

After about half an hour add chive flower chop and salt & pepper to the above celery filling.

To prepare the dim sum

For the dim sum skin, mix wheat starch and potato starch.

Heat the chive juice till boiling point and add it gradually into the starch mixture.

Mix it using a spoon to form a dough Knead the dough till it forms a ball. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

Use a drinking glass with about 2 inches diameter and cut circles out of the dough. Stack and set aside.

Lay out the dumpling wrappers and fill it with 1tbsp or more of the filling.

Fold-over the dumplings in the shape you like and pinch to seal.

Steam the dim sum in the steamer for about 3 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with pomegranate. 

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