Shumai-ny Food Staples: Filling you up on Dumplings

Any dumpling has three quintessential components: 1) a delectable parcel of dough that carries 2) a small but punchy amount of incredible filling which is 3) heated in a particular way to give the skin a defining texture.

This entry into the series on food staples will look at three types of dumplings that I personally love – and  have munched on as a snack and then gone on to devour for dinner. These would be the Chinese Xiao Long Bao, Japanese Gyoza and the Polish Pierogi.

The wrapper has three common ingredients across the three dumplings, which in fact any dough would have. Water, flour and salt. My research didn’t show any variation in the type of flour used (just good ole’ all-purpose flour), except that the gyoza wrappers are also commonly dusted with potato starch. The pierogis, however, also have eggs mixed in to the dough, which makes it much richer and denser than their Asian counterparts. Gyozas and baos are almost identical in their ratios of ingredients, except that gyoza wrappers are generally rolled out thinner and cut smaller than those of the bao.

Now, for the filling itself: the factor that makes each dumpling so distinct. Gyozas use minced pork and are flavoured with soy sauce, rice wine and scallions which creates a very clean and fresh feel. On the other hand, Xiao Long Baos are wrapped with minced meat and a small amount of congealed soup. So, as the bao steams, the soup melts and when it’s ready to be ravenously consumed, you’re expected to poke a hole with your chopstick and slurp up the punchy broth before biting in to the rest of the bao. Lastly, the meatless pierogi relies on mashed potatoes and cheese to make it such a heartwarming snack.

I’ve already revealed that baos are steamed and the scrumptious, traditional pierogi is deep fried, but the gyoza process is slightly more complicated. Gyozas are pan-fried: first, in a small amount of neutral-flavoured oil, and second, with a small amount of water added and the lid put on so that the rest of the gyoza is steamed. This results in the interesting texture of the gyoza being crunchy on one side and chewy on the other. Of course, you’re going to have to have them fresh – otherwise it’s all soggy, all over.

These are just three random dumplings pulled from a world filled with them. Shumai, ravioli, empanadas, samosas, curry puffs merely scratch the surface of the list but my-oh-my is it a list that just made me hungry.