Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Dumpling Party

My Chinese American friend grew up celebrating the Lunar New Year in Queens, NY, and she misses those festivities in small town GA. This year she invited her family and friends to gather at her home for a potluck dumpling party to ring in the Year of the Monkey.

Of, the table simply overflowed with tasty dumplings from different cuisines.

The hosts made tofu-vegetable potstickers with a salty-sweet-gingery dipping sauce, and kimbap, Korean rice and seaweed rolls (brief recipe at the end of this post).

I wondered what to take. The various Indian cuisines have dozens of dishes that qualify as dumplings and I love them all- from karanjis to kachoris. In the end I went with two of my own favorites (that are also easy to make)- idli with cilantro- coconut chutney, and "faux-mosas" or samosa-style puffs made with frozen puff pastry.

I've been slowly working towards making the soft, melt-in-the-mouth idlis of my dreams and this batch turned out beautifully. You pick up tips here and there and get better every time, I feel. This time I used this tip for grinding soaked methi seeds on their own just before adding in the urad dal, and this tip for adding water to the batter- I realize now that I had not been adding enough water while making the batter. People dream of running ultramarathons and climbing Mt. Everest. Me, I dream of consistently making idlis that taste like clouds. With this batch, I feel like I turned a corner.


For the puffs, I wanted to make the standard filling of potato, cauliflower, peas and carrots seasoned with ginger and garlic, and then realized that I had no potatoes on hand. I cooked some cauliflower and mashed it and used that as the base of the filling, and it worked very well. The only thing to keep in mind is to not let the filling get soggy.

There was lots of filling left over and it made for great masala dosas over the next couple of days.


The other dishes at the party were- a piping hot vegetarian version of chicken and dumpling soup, filo dough dumplings with two different fillings- some with sweet potato and others with feta and spinach, and fusion "taco dumplings" with black beans and Mexican spices.

For dessert, cookies and candy were passed around, and the kids all got red envelopes with cash tucked inside, as per tradition. In the end, we were a bunch of happily stuffed people who not so secretly hope that our friend will make this party an annual tradition.

19 comments:

  1. Hello Nupur,
    Dumpling party sounds fun. Years ago we celebrated Chinese New Year at work and as part of Asian diversity team, we made some samosas and my Chinese friends got some dumplings. In addition, Chinese friends also had to get some photos, costumes and such to show and share their culture with others. It was actually more fun than we thought and everyone had a great time. Your post reminded me of my friends and fun we shared on that day :-)
    Love your entries for the party as well :-)

    Happy Valentines to all :-)
    Meena.

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    1. Meena- what fun! Dumplings are the perfect food to share with friends.

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  2. such a fun party! I love dumplings (both the word and for eats)!
    And I can so identify with your aim to makin great idlis. I am currently in that obsession, having recently started making batter from scratch. How times change...few years back I used to have goals of hiking a xyz peak (hiking obsession). Now, though these goals are still there on the backburner, my current idli obsession stage is taking over everything ;). I will check out the tips you mentioned and use them for the next batch! Happy valentines day to you and your lovely family!

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    1. Neha- Living in Bangalore you're probably surrounded by idli experts! Happy Valentine's Day to you all :)

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  3. Your dumpling party sounds like fun and I am interested in the dumpling recipe the hosts made - I made dumplings the other day and was thinking about the best way to cook them - might try your way. And have bookmarked the recipe

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    1. Johanna- The potstickers are surprisingly easy to make. I love that they don't need any special equipment, just a pan for fry/steaming them. So tasty! Do give it a shot.

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  4. Nupur ..Do you use mixer or traditional electric stone grinder for making idli dosa batter? What brand? Thanks.

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    1. I use an electric stone grinder- ULTRA grind brand.

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  5. I found that a handful of poha added to the soaked rice (I usually add it while the urad dal is being ground) also helps in fermentation.
    My mother makes a largish batch of very thick batter, and then ferments only half of it (after appropriate dilution of the batter and adding salt); she stores the reserved batter in the fridge for a few days, and then brings it room temperature, dilutes it and allows it to ferment. This way, she can get fluffy idlis twice from the same batch (I get fluffy idlis only on day 1 after fermentation). Just thought I would share her approach.

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    1. Thanks for the tips- much appreciated! I've never even tried to make idlis after day 1 of fermentation- it works out because the family loves dosas more anyway and I make big batches of idlis on day 1 to freeze.

      I do usually add a handful of poha to the batter, but this time I did not and still got excellent fermentation. I think poha helps in non-ideal conditions (eg. when it is cold).

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  6. Wow, dumpling party sounds wonderful, especially with dumplings from around the world must have been fun tasting.
    We had a 'hot-pot' themed Chinese New year party. I was initially skeptical but cooking greens, tofu and veggies in hot boiling flavored liquid sure makes everything taste delicious. Chinese have a knack of making even the simplest dish taste great :-)

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    1. Pavani- what fun! I've heard of hot pots but haven't ever tried it.

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  7. I love dumplings!! What a fun idea for a potluck party. Isn't it amazing how dumplings are made in so many cuisines...so many kinds and so many ways!

    The day I made cloud like idlis that we couldn't stop eating and admiring I felt I have achieved a major milestone in my life but the cloud like lightness was not consistent in my attempts. Since I ferment my batter in little batches in temp controlled yogurt setting on my InstaPot the inconsistency has got to do with the grinding. When the urad dal batter looks light as foam I know the idlis will be cloud like in my case. The YouTube video by thamil virundhu - 'How to make soft idly - preparing idli batter - soft idly recipes' has been very helpful to me. I don't understand tamil but follow instructions in english. I like your tip about grinding the methi seeds first because I always felt they don't grind that well with urad dal.

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- I'm finding that grinding is the key= and it can take a while to get a feel for the consistency. It takes quite a bit of water to get to the cloud like fluffiness- I was being too careful to not dilute the batter too much.

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  8. Thanks for the idli tips! To this day, I have not succeeded in consistently making soft idlis and am always on the lookout for suggestions. Will also watch the video mentioned by Priti in the comment above. I also love the idea of the cauliflower filling for potatoes - will certainly try it.

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    1. Kamini- I was delirious this weekend when I thought I had finally cracked the code ;) Of course the real test will be if I can repeat the success next time!

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  9. Wow, and to think I found my perfect idli recipe from your blog. I always make a little watery batter (mom's tip), and soak idli rice, urad dal and poha all at once. Yields the softest, cloud like idlis. So thank you. Next on the list - perfect, crispy dosas. I can never seem to spread them properly without the batter clumping up at one spot. Any suggestions?

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    1. Shilpa- that recipe does work well and has worked well for a while. I think the water content is key- I wasn't adding enough. And Soaking urad dal and rice separately this time gave me better results, I thought, so I will continue to take that extra step.

      Dosas- now those do turn out terrific for me. Just try adding a few more tablespoons of water to your batter and see if it spreads better. I get that clumping when the batter is too thick.

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  10. wow Nupur, Dumpling party is such a cool idea!
    My MIL adds Methi seeds too to the idli batter.

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