So it’s senior year, and apparently the powers that be (i.e. my parents who sign the checks) have decided that I’m finally grown-up enough to have my own kitchen. After two years of common-room-less living in Morse, I’ve finally taken the plunge and moved off-campus. Equipped with a kitchen (i.e. the capacity to make meals) and a living room (i.e. capacity for more than one guest), it didn’t take long before I caught the Martha bug, the condition when one suffers from a compulsive desire to entertain. But the difference between Martha and me is that I lack 16 on-call apprentices (not to mention two nationally televised programs and a felony conviction).

Entertaining is lots of fun, but very few of us enjoy or for that matter have the time necessary for the preparation involved. In addition to preparation, there’s also that time when your friends have arrived, you’re still stuck in the kitchen cooking last minute, and they are waiting, waiting, waiting … awkwardly.

The solution? Make your guests your apprentices — put your friends to work!

There are few collaborative kitchen projects more fun than making dumplings. Having made 500 dumplings for lunch for 50 with my host family in Beijing I feel confident in this bold claim.

You probably will want to make the dumpling filling before your friends arrive, but that takes no more than 15-20 minutes. Many unseasoned cooks may panic at the prospect of having to cut all the ingredients into such small pieces, but the nice thing about dumplings is that the filling is hidden, so whether or not you have mastered the technique of brunoise (a fancy French term for a fine and exact dice) is of no concern here — just make sure everything is relatively small. And if you have a cleaver sitting around, this is the time to break it out. It’s just more fun than a traditional knife.

You’ll want to enlist your guests’ help when it comes time to fill the dumplings. Yes, dumpling folding is a skill that takes a great deal of practice to perfect, but we are not looking for perfection but rather a good time — so now would also be the time to open those first bottles of cold beer. Encourage creativity among your friends, and each one can create a signature dumpling look.

This recipe may seem a bit intimidating, but if you take it one step at a time, you and your sous-chefs (friends) can easily get through it. One of the most daunting aspects of the recipe is the ingredients, which are easily and cheaply available at Asian groceries such as Hong Kong Grocery on 67 Whitney Ave. Hong Kong Grocery also sells ground pork that is perfectly suited to dumpling filling.

PORK AND GINGER FILLING (makes 50 to 60 dumplings)

2 cups chopped or shredded Napa cabbage

1/2 Tbsp. salt

1/2 lb. ground pork (don’t get lean pork, the fat is good for flavor and juiciness)

1/2 c. chopped Chinese chives (optional, some consider these an acquired taste)

2 T minced ginger

1 1/2 T minced garlic

2 T soy sauce

3 T sesame oil

1 egg

1 package circle dumpling wrappers (preferably white)

1. Sprinkle cabbage with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the cabbage on a clean dish towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out any water.

2. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the cabbage with all of the other ingredients.

3. If you wish to taste the filling for seasoning, cook a little piece in boiling water or a frying pan before tasting.

VEGETARIAN DUMPLING FILLING (makes 50 to 60 dumplings)

1 c. dried black mushrooms

2 bunches finely chopped Chinese chives

1 c. finely chopped medium to firm tofu

2 Tbsps. minced ginger

1 1/2 T minced garlic

2 T soy sauce

3 T sesame oil

1/2 T salt

1 egg

1 package circle dumpling wrappers (preferably white)

1. To re-hydrate mushrooms, place in enough very hot tap water to cover. Let sit for 20 minutes and remove them and squeeze to remove all water. This soaking liquid can be strained and saved, making a great addition to any number of sauces. Finely chop mushrooms.

2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the filling ingredients together.


1/4 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. rice wine vinegar or Chinese black vinegar*

1/4 c. sliced scallions

1 t. chopped garlic or ginger

1 t. sesame oil

1. Mix all ingredients together. Without adding the scallions, this can be done in advance and in fact the flavors will meld together nicely.

MAKING THE DUMPLINGS: Place a small mound of filling (a good heaping teaspoon) in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to form a half-moon shape. Starting on one end, fold/pinch the wrapper tightly together. Proceed with this fold/pinch method until the dumpling is completely sealed. If done properly, the dumpling edge will look “pleated.” Typically, the more filling you can fit in and the more pleats, the better the dumpling, but be careful not to have any filling oozing out of the creases because these dumplings will probably break during cooking.

COOKING THE DUMPLINGS: Both varieties of dumplings can be boiled in ample water. Boil about five to 10 minutes, certainly until after the dumplings have floated to the top after sinking initially.

VARIATION: Some people, namely me, cannot resist the fried goodness of pot stickers. The cooking method requires a little more attention but is well worth the result.

In a hot saute pan coated well with oil, place pot stickers flat side down and cook until the bottom is browned. Have pan cover ready. Add one cup of chicken stock or water, cover immediately. Be careful, the liquid will splatter! The stock or water will steam the pot stickers. Check them in five minutes as more stock may be needed — by the time the pot stickers are done, the liquid will all have evaporated, and the bottoms will be crispy golden-brown.

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