I am a huge fan of any Asian style dumpling. I like them steamed, pan-fried, baked or any other way you want to make them. My first reaction to the dumpling workshop I took at Salone del Gusto was mixed to say the least. It began with a serving of wine. I understand that due to the location in Italy and so many wine producers forming an important part of the Slow Food community that perhaps that thought it was a good idea to pair wine with Chinese dumplings.
I unfortunately disagreed and continue to disagree. The Chinese chef from Ristorante Zheng Yang however said that he did not think it such a strange pairing. Call me old-fashioned, but boy was I relieved when they bought out the hot tea. Once things were back on track in a way that my palate could agree with, the panel began to discuss dumplings. Mistakenly many thought we would be eating dim sum, which is a type of dumpling from the canton region that tends to be smaller in size than the jiaozi varieties we sampled.
There is such science to dumpling making that it is truly an underappreciated art. Each dumpling is shaped by hand. The steamed ones are cooked in this fashion to maintain nutritious values and enhance the flavor of the fillings. With names such as baozi, jiaozi, xia jiao, guo tie and xiao long bao, it is no wonder that a dumpling menu can be a bit intimidating for the less adventurous foodies out there.
We sampled beautifully shaped dumplings with fillings that ranged from bamboo and peanuts to pork, onion and ginger. We were even served a sweet one with a red bean filling served on a camelia leaf. The workshop ended on a wonderfully chaotic note when the chef presenting her live demonstration on how to shape dumplings allowed audience participation. The panel members gave up trying to regain the crowd’s attention and with that the dumpling fest was over.
If you would like to see the dumpling making in action you can check out the short video I shot of the demonstration.