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Want to Make Your Own Dumplings? These Tools Could Make Things Easier

We asked dumpling pros for the spatulas, scrapers, rolling pins, and other utensils they keep in their kitchen arsenal

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Particularly gorgeous soup dumplings at Imperial Lamian in Chicago
Jeff Schear Visuals

If you’ve ever watched a nimble-fingered pro roll, fold and seal their way through a whole batch of dumplings (at a restaurant or in a movie), you know how utterly transfixing the process can be. Some chefs spend their lives dedicated to mastering the fine blend of agility, speed, and finesse required of perfect dumplings, but the good news is that even total amateurs can make satisfying versions at home, of different varieties: boiled, steamed, pan-fried...

You’ll be rolling (and folding and sealing) in no time with a little practice — and some tools. Some products are pretty essential, while others are fun extras to make your life easier or take your dumpling-making to the next level.

A dough scraper

The first step in making dumplings is making dumpling wrapper dough — if you’ve decided to make it from scratch, of course. If you do, a dough scraper is a handy tool to keep your work surface clean and clear when dealing with flour and water. “Any leftover bits of dough stuck on your cutting board can harden into little pebbles that break the wrappers,” says Dumpling Galaxy owner and cookbook author Helen You. She uses a metal scraper while kneading the dough, and again while cutting it into individual portions to roll out into wrappers.

Buy Oxo Good Grips Multi-Purpose Scraper & Chopper, $10

A nakiri knife

It’s not a must, but You likes to use a nakiri-style knife for cutting said dough, which has a rectangular blade resembling a miniature cleaver. “The blade is straight and thin, so it cuts straight down, making precise edges for the wrappers,” says You. (It’s pricey, though, so it’s definitely a luxury purchase.)

Buy Anryu AS Nakiri 165-Millimeter Knife, $160

A mini rolling pin

Once the dough is portioned out, pros use miniature rolling pins, usually made of bamboo or wood, to flatten the dough into petite individual wrappers. “You only use your palm to move the rolling pin, so it’s easier to work with a smaller tool,” explains Vincent Lawrence of Imperial Lamian in Chicago. For the soup dumplings his restaurant is famous for, Lawrence explains that the edges of the wrapper should be rolled more thinly than the center, a delicate task that’s challenging with a clunky full-sized pin. Even if you’re not tackling xiao long bao at home, a mini rolling pin makes fast work of all manner of dumpling wrappers.

Buy Uxcell 11-Inch Dumpling Dough Rolling Pin, $8

Dough being rolled out at Drunken Dumpling
Eater

A food scale

While experienced dumpling chefs may instinctually nail the correct dough-to-filling ratio, a small digital scale can help train newbies (and help make more consistent batches, even for the pros). “We weigh every single dumpling skin and every single portion of filling,” says Lawrence. “If you have too much filling, the skin can rupture during cooking, and no one wants that.” It’s not essential, but if you want to get super precise, give it a shot.

Buy Oxo Good Grips 5-Pound Food Scale with Pull-Out Display, $30

A flat spatula or knife

Once the wrappers and rolled and the filling is measured, you’ll need to transfer the former into the latter. You may not need to buy something new: Lawrence recommends a mini flat wooden spatula, similar to a Popsicle stick, while dumpling cookbook author and Rickshaw Dumpling founder Kenny Lao says a butter knife will work in a pinch. “It just needs to be something flat — if you scoop with a spoon, the filling gets caught in the well and you can’t get it all out,” Lao says.

Buy ACrossCuts Mini Spurtle/Spreader, $8

A bamboo steamer…

When it comes time to actually cook the dumplings, you have options, depending on the style of dumpling and your own preferences. For steamed dumplings, you’ll need a bamboo steamer, which range in size, though 8 to 10 inches gets the job done for most home cooks. And you’ll also need to line the steamer with something before adding the dumplings, which might be perforated paper sheets, cabbage or banana leaves, or, as Lawrence suggests, circular silicone sheets. “Silicone is the best we’ve found to keep the skin from breaking or sticking,” he says. “They’re inexpensive, environmentally-friendly, and dishwasher safe.”

Buy Helen's Asian Kitchen 10-Inch Bamboo Steamer, $20

… or a pan for frying

Or maybe you’d rather pan-fry your dumplings. You likes a well-seasoned eight to ten-inch cast-iron pan for this, which distributes heat evenly and cooks the dumplings thoroughly (and, conveniently, you may already own).

Buy Lodge Round Cast-Iron Fry Pan, 12-Inch, $23

But there’s no hard and fast rule for how to pan-fry. Lao, for his part, prefers a no-frills nonstick pan with a cover. “A cheap Teflon model, the one you’re slightly ashamed to have, is perfect for dumplings,” he says.

Buy Choice 10-Inch Non-Stick Aluminum Fry Pan, $8

Pho soup dumplings in a bamboo steamer at Rice & Gold in NYC
Robert Sietsema

Something to lift your finished dumplings free

When it comes to utensils, the tools depend on the cooking method. For pan-frying, Lao often uses a thin fish spatula for flipping the dumplings once they’re browned on the bottom, but he has another unconventional recommendation: “Sometimes it’s hard to get a fish spatula under the whole thing to check if they’re golden, so I use a paint scraper instead.”

Buy Victorinox 3-Inch Slotted Fish Turner, $17

For boiling, Lao suggests a wood-handled spider to easily retrieve dumplings from the hot water.

Buy Helen's Asian Kitchen 7-Inch Spider Strainer, $12

And for steaming, Lao advises investing in a pair of extra-long cooking chopsticks, for gracefully maneuvering delicate dumplings that need adjustment in the steamer. “As a Chinese kid, I understood that the long chopsticks were a special tool reserved for the person doing the cooking — they’re the boss.”

Buy Donxote 16.5-Inch Cooking Chopsticks, $7


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