Dumpling. That’s probably my favorite word in the whole entire world. It encompasses so many possibilities of flavors, textures, cultures, and more. It speaks of comfort and temptation. I can close my eyes and picture my happy place, and I’m surrounded by them, piles and piles of delicious dumplings in all shapes and sizes.
I’m a little obsessed. This is no surprise. I’ve shared countless recipes and photos of dumplings over the years on this blog, I’ve celebrated National Dumpling Day and Chinese New Year even though I’m not Asian, nor did I grow up eating traditional dumplings. My home-grown dumpling comfort came in the form of manti, and it has only grown from there.
I own no less than 5 cookbooks completely devoted to the subject, as well as several others on broader topics that include varied dumpling recipes as well. It’s my religion. I love them.
So it should come as no surprise that when a new dumpling cookbook is being released, I’m all over it! The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook features recipes and insights from Helen You, owner and chef of Dumpling Galaxy in New York City’s ultimate Chinatown located in Flushing, Queens.
I have taken many trips on the 7 train to Main Street station in Flushing to quench my dumpling craving, but have not had the pleasure of visiting Dumpling Galaxy. I will certainly add it to my list for my next visit!
The book is kind of adorable, using imagery of planets and imaginary dumpling-inspired constellations throughout the book’s design to play on the galaxy portion of the book and restaurant’s title.
Helen hails from Tianjin in Northern China, which boasts dumplings that vary in style a bit from some of their more Southern counterparts. I definitely notice some differences immediately when I read through recipes and notations throughout the book.
Shaping the dumplings is a bit different, and is much more simplified. While there are tons of different ways to shape and pleat dumplings, Helen includes two very basic techniques which will probably be a relief for dumpling novices in particular, and certainly a time-saver for anyone making dumplings from scratch. There’s essentially no pleating involved, but rather pinching and sealing, and using your hands to manipulate the dumpling into the appropriate shape.
Reading through more of the recipes, I was a little surprised to see Helen’s use of sweet cooking sherry in place of what I’ve grown more used to in dumpling recipes, a traditional Shaoxing rice wine, but alas Helen has an explanation for this in one of her recipe notes.
Shaoxing wine is more traditional in Southern China and is not really used in Northern China, where she grew up. So using the sweeter sherry is a more appropriate choice for her slew of dumpling recipes. Even with years of dumpling-making experience under my belt, I learned something new about regional Chinese cooking that I can now use in my dumpling adventures.
Her technique for cooking pan-fried dumplings is also a bit different, and finishes the process with a slurry instead of plain water for the pan-steaming process. This results in a thin and crispy crust in the bottom of the pan.
I’m sure you could pan-fry the dumplings either way depending on your preference, but super crispy dumplings are my absolute favorite, so I’m definitely on board with trying this out.
Recipes range from classics to vegetable based recipes, creative variations as well as desserts, and finally a chapter devoted to sauces, sides, and a handful of Northern Chinese specialties to serve with your dumplings as desired.
Some recipes that are particularly enticing to me include Pork and Mushroom Shumai, Eight-Vegetable Dumplings, Pork and Pu’er Tea Dumplings, Chicken and Broccoli Dumplings, and Crab and Chive Dumplings.
One recipe in particular stood out to me as perfectly appropriate not only for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, but also convenient timing for any and all NFL playoff viewing opportunities. The intro even comments on pairing it with an ice cold beer.
I’m talking about the pan-fried Spicy Beef Dumplings, infused with a combination of chile oil and fresh ginger and balanced with a bit of sauteed onion, scallion, and sesame oil among other aromatics.
The spicy beef filling is incredible. The smell alone will make you drool, even before cooking it or tasting it.
As I mentioned earlier, Helen’s technique of adding a slurry is a bit different than the way I normally pan-fry my dumplings, but I was intrigued and followed her instructions (with the exception of cooking more dumplings in one slightly larger pan than she specifies–10 versus 6).
I cooked mine a bit longer than the recipe states to ensure a nicely browned bottom, but otherwise found this to be a great alternative to what I’ve done in the past. The thin and crisp pancake is a treat! It still feels like a bit more work than my other method, but it’s a fun presentation.
It’s finally time to eat! And oh my gosh, are these dumplings delicious! I know I may have been a bit critical with my dough issues, and will likely make some tweaks in the future (as simple as weighing the flour), but the resulting dumplings are absolutely fabulous!
The beef filling is juicy and so flavorful. It’s perfectly seasoned, and just excellent. These are not actually too spicy on their own, but the raw garlic sauce is super pungent and definitely elevates the spice factor. You could also add some of the chile sediment from your chile oil (if it’s homemade chile oil) when you make the filling to make it spicier as well.
I am very pleased by the variety and detail in The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook. There are several enticing fillings I look forward to trying, and am happy to learn some new techniques which will hopefully improve my overall dumpling repertoire.
I’ve also learned a bit more about Northern Chinese style dumplings, which will further expand my dumpling universe. If you’re an avid dumpling fan, this is another great cookbook to check out, particularly if you are a fan of The Dumpling Galaxy. I hope to visit Helen’s restaurant on a future trip to Flushing’s Chinatown.
Spicy Beef Dumplings
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- About 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons just-boiled water (boil water, then let it sit for a minute off the heat before measuring)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chile oil, store-bought or homemade
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 scallions, finely chopped, white and green parts
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Raw Garlic Sauce:
- 14 to 16 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Place a large mixing bowl over a damp paper towel on your work surface, to keep in place while mixing. Add the flour and make a well. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour while you add the water in a steady stream. Mix together until you have a lot of lumpy bits, then knead the hot dough in the bowl until the dough comes together. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough does not come together.
- Continue kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface (only flour if necessary, and do so sparingly) for a couple more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (my mixing bowl was very large so I finished kneading directly in the bowl and it was just fine). The dough should bounce back when pressed with your finger, but leave a light impression of your finger. Place dough in a zip-top bag, seal tightly, pressing out excess air, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and soften. After resting, the dough can be used right away, or refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.
- In a medium skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 9 to 10 minutes, until they turn soft and translucent. Stir in the chile oil, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
- In a medium bowl, use your hands to combine the beef, scallions, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, sesame oil, pepper, and salt, and mix until well blended. Gently fold in the onions and mix until fully incorporated.
Raw Garlic Sauce:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of cold water. Transfer to a glass jar or plastic container and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days to let the flavor mellow. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Makes about 3/4 cup.
- Remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if the dough is sticky. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. Put half back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it closed to prevent drying.
- Roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick log and cut into 16 pieces (cut in half, then cut each half in half, and so on to create pieces that are even in size. The tapered end pieces should be cut slightly larger). If your pieces are oval, stand them on one of the cut ends and gently squeeze with your fingers to make them round, like a scallop. Take each piece of dough and press each cut end in flour, lightly pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and set aside.
- Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick, either with a tortilla press (lined with plastic wrap), or with a heavy flat-bottomed object like a frying pan (also lined with plastic). Alternatively, I used a dowel (which is a good lightweight rolling pin alternative for fast and flexible dumpling making) to lightly roll out each disc into an 1/8 inch thick circle.
- To finish the wrappers, place wrappers one at a time on your work surface, and flour only if sticky. Imagine a quarter-size circle in the center of the dough. This is what the Chinese call the “belly” of the wrapper. You want to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size, but still retaining a thick “belly” in the center. This ensures an even distribution of dough when the dumpling is sealed. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure to the outer 1/2-to-3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the rolling pin in short downward strokes with one hand while the other hand turns the wrapper in the opposite direction. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When a batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portion of dough.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if planning to refrigerate dumplings for several hours, also dust with flour to prevent sticking). Holding a wrapper in your palm, add about 2 tablespoons of the filling to the center of the wrapper, then lightly pat down the filling to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Fold the dumpling into a half-moon, pinching it shut with your thumbs and index fingers, then press the center of the dumpling while pulling on the corners to push out any air bubbles and shape it into a curved crescent. Inspect the dumpling for any holes and pinch them shut. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers.
- When all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours and can be cooked straight from the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze them on their baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and frozen for up to 1 month. To cook after freezing, partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.
Slurry & Cooking:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, vinegar, and 1 cup of water until combined to make a slurry. Brush the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium cast-iron or nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat, until the oil starts to shimmer. Add 6 dumplings with the sealed edges lying flat in the pan (I set my on their bottoms as opposed to on their sides), spacing them 1 inch apart, then slowly pour in just enough of the slurry to come one-third of the way up the dumplings. Partially cover the pan, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
- Increase the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes for cast-iron (1 minute for nonstick). Lower the heat to medium for 2 minutes for cast-iron (3 minutes for nonstick). Then lower the heat to low for 2 to 3 minutes for cast-iron (3 minutes for nonstick) (in general I probably cooked mine a bit longer on medium because the bottom just wasn’t browning enough–use your judgement).
- Cook until the water has evaporated, leaving a paper-thin disc of golden-brown starch on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and slide a thin, flexible spatula around the rim of the pan to loosen the edges of the starch disc, and carefully slide the spatula underneath and flip the disk onto a plate in one piece, crispy side up. Serve immediately, then clean the skillet and repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve immediately with the Raw Garlic Sauce.
Notes & Nutrition
*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.