One of the things that had attracted us to Lazybones Hostel was that they had a free dumpling party every Friday night. Basically, they teach you to make dumplings and then you get to [have to?] eat your culinary masterpieces.
It seemed like the entire hostel was participating – it’s clearly a popular event. They’d rearranged all the tables to make one long table, and this was laid out with bowls of dumpling filling and rolling pins, and dusted with flour. We took our place at the table and waited for it to start.
The girl running the show gave everyone a lump of dough – just plain flour [wheat or rice, you can use either] and water – which needed to be kneaded until soft and stretchy. Having had plenty of practice kneading dough, I quickly had my dough perfect and was rudely accused of being a teacher’s pet when MY dough was held up as a most excellent example. John needed a little help with his dough.
Once we’d rolled our dough into a nice little tube, the girls at the hostel chopped them into pieces and dumped the pieces back in front of us. Now it was time for the tricky part. Each piece of dough was to be rolled into a nice little thin circle. First, you press the dough piece with your palm to form a rough circle. Then, holding the dough by one side, you roll the dough halfway then turn it; into the middle and turn; and so on until you have a nice little circle. And it’s surprisingly harder than it looks to get a perfect circle! I settled for a bunch of vaguely circular bits.
A circle of dough in hand, it was time to make it into a dumpling. We had two different fillings – one with pork and one vegetarian which was basically cabbage, onion and egg. John made pork dumplings while I made vegetable dumplings, knowing which ones I’d be wanting to eat. A bunch of chopsticks were stuck in each bowl of filling, and while my chopstick skills have improved I’d still have preferred a teaspoon here!
A ball of filling was to be placed in the middle of the circle and opposite sides brought together. The remaining sides were joined in the opposite direction so that the dumpling looked a bit like an H with a long middle bit. Then, the sides were folded [on one side only] to the middle bit so that the end result was, in theory, a crescent shape. It’s fair to say that with about 30 people making dumplings for the first time there wasn’t a whole lot that looked like anything you’d ever seen when ordering dumplings in a restaurant. But we were all having fun, and were trying out different styles and making up our own.
I’d like to think that the good ones there were mine!
Once we all had only a couple of pieces left, they whisked away our dumplings to be cooked. While this was happening they ran a competition – everyone had to sculpt something, anything, out of the dough. Once finished, we’d all vote [for as many different ones as we felt like], and the winner would get three free beers. Second place would get two, and third one.
John made a snake. I made a cat with a scarf and sunglasses. I came second. John didn’t place, although as I don’t drink beer he still scored two free ones so he wasn’t complaining.
Soon enough the dumplings were cooked and we sat down to eat. Some were more delicious than others – there were definitely a few that seemed to have missed out on filling and been lumps of chewy dough. Even the chilli sauce couldn’t improve those ones! And while they weren’t exactly Michelin-starred dumplings, I think it’s safe to say that our first attempt at making dumplings wasn’t a complete failure. They did, after all, ALL get eaten!