From Wontons in China and Ravioli in Italy to Momos in Nepal and Empanadas in Spain, almost every cuisine has its version of dumplings. So, what are dumplings actually made of?
Dumplings are made of a filling wrapped in a layer of dough. The filling can be of meat, tofu, fish, vegetables, cheese, fruits, or sweets, and the dough can be made of different types of flour, like wheat, rice, potato, bread, or buckwheat. Dumplings can be savory or sweet in taste.
Let’s now take a closer look at some fun facts about dumplings.
Fun Facts About Dumplings
The term “dumpling” can refer to any food that is a blob of dough with a filling inside it.
Interestingly, almost every cuisine has at least one version of a dumpling. Dumplings are considered a comfort food across cultures.
The dough and the filling vary across different cultures and cuisines. In some parts of the world, the dough is wheat-based. It may be made with rice, potatoes, or bread in other places.
The fillings used for dumplings may also vary. Different ingredients like meat, fish, vegetables, and cheese are used as fillings for dumplings. Some dumplings don’t even have a filling.
Let’s briefly examine the different parts of a dumpling and how they’re prepared.
What Are The Ingredients Used To Make Dumplings?
Technically, dumplings have two main ingredients:
- Dough, and
1. Dumpling Dough
Dumpling dough is made by mixing flour and water. Different types of flour can be used according to the purpose.
The choice of flour usually depends on the type of dumpling being made, where the recipe comes from, and the food grain that is a staple of that place.
Wheat-based flour is most widely used. Both whole-wheat, refined, and all-purpose wheat work well. The flour is mixed with water and salt to achieve a dough-like consistency.
It’s usually thicker than batter but thinner than cookie dough. Spices and herbs may also be added to the dough. The filling is placed inside the rolled-out dough.
In some places, the wheat may be mixed with additional ingredients like tapioca starch or rice powder to make it sticky or stiff. Some recipes also include oil, egg, milk, and other binding agents.
Apart from wheat flour, dumplings are also made with rice flour, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, bread-based, and potato-based dough. Special flours like barley flour, chickpea flour, and rye flour are also used in certain parts of the world.
For instance, South-Asian dumpling recipes use rice flour, while Scandinavian dumplings use crushed potatoes and barley or wheat for the dough.
Dumpling dough will usually have a neutral taste. So, the filling provides the flavor for dumplings.
Dumplings are a very versatile food item that you can make in hundreds of ways. Not only can you change the dumpling dough, but also use almost any filling of your choice.
So you can have sweet or savory dumplings with plant-based or meat-based fillings, based on your preferences.
In some places, dumplings are entirely made of dough. The dough is cooked and eaten on its own, or you may add it to recipes like stews and soups.
However, dumplings with fillings are more popular. Different dumpling recipes call for different types of fillings.
Nonetheless, some of the commonly used ingredients for fillings are:
- Vegetables like onions, carrots, spinach, and potatoes,
- Chicken, turkey, and other types of poultry meat,
- Sausage meat,
- Seafood like tuna, shrimp, crabmeat,
- Dairy-based fillings like cheese and cottage cheese,
- Fruit-based fillings like banana, coconut, jackfruit, and
- Sprouts and lentils.
How Are Dumplings Made?
You can use different methods of cooking to prepare dumplings. The most common methods are boiling, steaming, baking, frying, and steam frying.
The cooking method depends on the type of dumpling recipe and the shape of the dumpling. Let’s examine each of these methods closely.
In this method, the dumplings are placed in a steamer with a lid. The steamer is placed over a pot or wok with boiling water.
The steam from the water cooks the dumplings. The steamer can be made of metal. However, traditional dumplings like Momos are made in bamboo or wooden steamers.
The steaming time would depend on the ingredients used for the filling. Raw ingredients like meat and vegetables take longer to cook, while pre-cooked fillings need less time.
If you use store-bought dough wrappers for the dumplings, they will turn translucent upon steaming. Homemade wrappers will usually puff up but not change color.
In the boiling method, the dumplings are cooked in boiling water. Wontons are an example of boiled dumplings.
Here, the dumplings are in direct contact with hot water during the cooking process. Unless the dumplings are made well, they can break apart.
Hence, it’s essential to use thick dumpling dough that can hold up to the pressure of the water.
You should wrap the dumplings properly to prevent breaking. It’s helpful to press down on the dumplings and expel as much air as possible before sealing them. This will help them remain sturdy and prevent disintegration.
Boiling dumplings at a lower temperature will also help them keep their shape. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, you can turn it down to a simmer and cook the dumplings slowly.
The main advantage of the boiling method is that you can quickly prepare a large batch of dumplings. It will also allow the flavors of the ingredients to shine through.
The steam frying method is also called the potsticker method. In this technique, the dumplings are first seared in a pan till they develop a crispy golden base.
Then, water is added to the pan, and the dumplings finish cooking in the steam from the boiling water.
This method takes more time, but the results are worth the effort. The water will usually splutter vigorously when added to the pan. So you should be very careful to avoid getting splashed or burned.
Steam frying is one of the best ways to prepare frozen store-bought dumplings. You can directly transfer the dumplings from the freezer to the pan without thawing them.
Deep-frying produces tasty dumplings that are crispy and brown. However, it’s not the best way to make them.
For this method, you will have to add oil to a deep pan or wok and heat it to a temperature of 370°F. Then, drop the dumplings into the hot oil and let them cook.
Wait till the bubbles around the dumplings reduce, and they’re a beautiful shade of brown to remove them from the hot oil.
Air-frying is another technique to prepare crispy dumplings. It’s healthier than deep frying because it uses less oil.
For air-frying dumplings, you will have to preheat the air fryer. Then place the dumplings in a single row in the air fryer basket and allow them to cook till they’re crisp and golden.
You can brush the surface of the dumplings with oil to improve the texture.
Although seldom used, baking is another method by which you can make dumplings in an oven. In this method, you will place the dumplings on a perforated tray and use the steam setting on the oven to cook them.
Depending on the filling used for the dumplings, it can take 6 to 9 minutes for the dumplings to cook.
If your oven doesn’t have a steam setting, you can use the regular oven setting to cook dumplings. However, you should place a bowl of water in the oven to provide the moisture required for the dumplings to cook.
In the absence of a liquid medium, they will crisp up and become biscuits that lack the characteristic stickiness of a dumpling.