let’s talk dumplings. You know, those bags of delicious cooked dough with a delicious filling of your choice that can be steamed, fried, baked or boiled? Whichever way you choose to cook them, one thing is for sure: Eating just one dumpling is impossible.
There’s no denying we all love them. But have you ever prepared yourself one? The process is not simple, as each dumpling is usually handmade (very meticulous), which can take several hours to complete. Indeed, the quest alone will give you a new appreciation for this dish.
To that end, we wanted to learn more about the intricacies of dumplings—more specifically, soup dumplings—and their rich cultural background, so we contacted Tim Ma, a five-time Michelin-award-winning chef and co-founder and culinary restaurateur. director of Laoban Dumplings, a company that makes frozen dumplings.
Cultural significance of soup dumplings
One of the famous products of Laoban Dumplings is the soup dumplings, a dish that if you have never eaten before, you will enjoy. What sets these apart from traditional dumplings is that upon taking the first bite, the dumplings release a broth (hence some soup) that is extremely delicious. faint.
But soup dumplings are not only delicious and enjoyable to eat; They also carry cultural significance, especially in the Chinese tradition, making eating them all the more special. “Like all dumplings, dumplings signify wealth and prosperity. Soup dumplings are very specific and unique to Chinese culture due to the complex nature of having soup inside the wrapper. Most other cultures have dumplings, but the nature of the soup is quite unique to the Chinese,” Ma said.
“Like all dumplings, soup dumplings signify wealth and prosperity.”—Tim Ma, a five-time Michelin-awarded chef and co-founder and culinary director of Laoban Dumplings
Because the process of making them is quite laborious, it is not unusual to cook soup dumplings at home on a regular basis. “Dumplings are rarely made at home; They tend to be eaten only at restaurants or made at home for special occasions. I didn’t learn how to make soup dumplings until I tried it at one of my restaurants as a special,” Ma said.
So what does making soup dumplings really entail? Mom broke it for us. “Technically, it can be difficult because there are many long steps, such as cooking the broth, cooling, and gelatinization, all before you make the dumpling crust and filling,” he said. Ma also points out that the double-digit number of folds made to seal the dumplings is also remarkable. “18 times is optimal for making the perfect soup dumplings, and this number is considered lucky in Chinese culture,” he said.
“18 times is optimal for making the perfect soup dumplings, and this number is considered lucky in Chinese culture,” he said.
This also means that preparing this particular dish often becomes a family affair, as it often takes everyone on deck to make a large batch. “Dumplings have been a tradition in my family since I was alive. It’s more of a family bonding event than making ‘food’,” said Ma. And although the chef says he can eat dumplings with every meal — something he still does for days — they’re mostly for special occasions like the Lunar New Year.
What inspired this chef to open his own dumpling business?
“The inspiration to open Laoban Dumplings came from my co-founder Patrick Coyne’s time in China and a small dumpling shop in the village he taught,” says Ma. The duo have been working since 2019 to perfect their dumpling recipe together. The brand sells different variations such as ginger chicken, pork and chives, and vegetarian dumplings.
The most rewarding part of owning a dumpling business, if you ask the chef? Introduce people to dumplings that you may not have had the opportunity to have before. “It is rewarding to be able to share that on such a large, far and wide scale,” Ma said.
To make their vision come true, Ma explains that dumplings must have several essential ingredients: a dough, a filling (usually ground meat and flavorings) and aspic (a jelly made from a broth). “Besides, it’s all about shaping and cooking,” he says. Which leads us to the most important part: Eat a lot of them.
But before you dig in, Ma warns that there’s definitely a Right How to do it—and avoid the dreaded third degree tongue burn. “There are a lot of articles and videos on how to eat dumplings, and it’s more of an art than a science. The way I eat them is to bite a hole in the top to cool, sip the soup, then dip the dumplings in black vinegar and eat with fresh ginger,” he said. Yep, officially drooling.