It’s a good thing that dumplings are small because Lee Anne’s goodies will make your willpower vanish as you reach for ‘just one more’.

~ Roger Mooking, Musician and Celebrity Chef

True confession. I have two massive obsessions in life, collecting cookbooks and eating dumplings. Both started sometime in my early adolescence and intensified as I aged (and cured). The limits of how far I would travel for either knew no boundaries and certainly, there is no excess too great in order to obtain just one more. I attribute both of their roots directly to my dearly departed father Real. He was a classicist with an unbridled passion for literature and books combined with a mastery of language unmatched. He learned to speak, read and write fluently in Chinese and Arabic in less than two years through an aggressive immersion deep into their native cultures. Well, at least as immersed as one could be based in Chicago.

It was in the skilled hands of Chef Jimmy of Moon Palace that I experienced my first real profound dumpling revelation, a moment in time I can and will never forget.

— Me

Moon Palace

I arrived promptly at seven to meet my father for dinner at his new favorite restaurant. The unimpressive facade of Moon Palace perfectly concealed the life-changing moment I was about to experience.

I remember being annoyed that the dumplings took so long to arrive at the table. 15 minutes had passed as I finished my first strong Mai Tai and started to order the second from a waitress who obviously had not been in the country too long. Between excruciating pantomimed gestures and broken English, I managed to secure a second drink.

The table was laid with the usual array of Chinese sauces and spicy condiments on top a rubberized table cloth with sets of cheap bamboo chopsticks snuggly wrapped in bright red paper. A quick survey of the dining room revealed only three tables with customers at various stages of their meal.

Why was the food taking so fucking goddamned long?

Dumpling Ecstacy

Impatiently I lifted my second mai tai just as the aluminum steamer of dumplings arrived. Next to the steamer was a tray lay of freshly cut thin slivers of ginger root. I slowly lifted the lid as a fragrant burst of pork and ginger scented reality hit me squarely in my face. I knew instantly I had met authenticity. An authenticity that was squarely at odds with the industrial half-moon shaped dumplings found at most low-end Chinese eateries.

I closed my eyes, took one bite, and let the seductive fatty juices trickle down my throat in pure ecstasy. A minute or two passed while I sat in quiet revelation. I think my father thought I may have passed out from the Mai Tais; side note: I used to party quite a bit in my formative chef years.

From that moment forward, every dumpling I would ever eat had a new bar to be measured against.

Fried Chicken Dumplings (Yes, you read that correctly)

It wasn’t until this past weekend when I leafed through a dumpling book purloined from my mother’s cookbook collection that I had my second dumpling orgasm. BTW, the book, ‘Dumplings All Day Wong’ written by Lee Anne Wong, should be part of everyone’s collection. You may already be familiar with Lee Anne as she is quite a celebrity chef and tv personality. Forgive my coming to the table so late, I don’t get out much and I haven’t owned a TV in more than 17 years.

Lee Anne’s book will take you on an incredible, edible journey from classic pork and chive dumplings to a constellation full of so many imaginative stars like those pretty Korean fried chicken dumplings you will want to make all at once.

For my lunch Saturday, I settled on five that were completely inspired (you could substitute ‘stolen’ or ‘appropriated’ if it makes you more comfortable) by Lee Anne.

  1. The classic pork and Dungeness crab dumpling from my friend, chef Jimmy of Moon Palace. He never gave me the recipe but after eating a minimum of 5,000 orders I feel fairly confident I am close. Here is the recipe for both the filling and the skins.
  2. Crispy shredded Halibut collar dumpling ~ Sweet and Sour Sauce
  3. Lamb Satay Shumai ~ Peanut Sesame sauce
  4. Peking Duck Dumplings ~ Hoisin sauce
  5. Korean Fried Chicken Dumplings ~ Spicy Gochujang sauce

My New Favorite Dumpling

Here are my favorite two favorite recipes to share with you. The Korean dumplings are lifted directly from her book with only a few small edits.

Korean Fried Chicken Dumplings

A spicy dumpling reminiscent of fried chicken wings, only super-sized and better.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon mashed ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon mashed garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 2 Tablespoons gochujang
  • 2 Tablespoons soy

Filling

  • 1 Tablespoon mashed ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon mashed garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon soy
  • 1 Tablespoon gochujang
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 pound ground dark chicken meat

Assembly

  • 30 gyoza wrappers available at most Asian grocery stores
  • 2 quarts frying oil
  • scallions for garnish

Instructions

Sauce

  1. Melt butter and sesame oil together
  2. Add ginger and garlic.
  3. Add rice wine vinegar, honey, gochujang, and soy.

Filling

  1. Mix ginger, garlic, soy, gochujang, sesame oil, scallions, cornstarch, egg white, and chicken meat together.

Assembly

  1. Lightly wet the edges of a gyoza wrapper with water.
  2. Put a tablespoon of filling in the center and fold over gyoza to make a half moon. See notes.
  3. Crimp edges and repeat till all the filling is used up.
  4. You can freeze dumplings at this point or cook them.
  5. Heat frying oil to 350 degrees in a large pot.
  6. Drop dumplings in one by one and cook till golden brown. Open your first one when you think it is done. The trick is to get good brown color with having the chicken fully cooked.
  7. Toss dumplings in sauce and arrange on a plate.
  8. Garnish with chopped scallions.

Recipe Notes

I am a visual learner. YouTube has an endless supply of great videos such as this one for how-tos on forming dumplings. Here is the first one that came up in a search.

Written by

My earliest attempt at cookery began with the filleting of my sister's goldfish at age 2 and cooking my pet rabbits by age 7. Life has been downhill ever since.

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