I’ve been making dumplings for years but for the past 12 months, as I’ve been developing recipes for the new cookbook, I’ve led a 24/7 life of Asian dumplings. (There was some weight gain, if you must ask.) What I’ve learned along the way is that you definitely don’t need much to make a bunch of different kinds of Asian dumplings. In fact, dumplings are prepared from everyday ingredients. That is their nature and genius. Most ingredients for making Asian dumplings are available at regular supermarkets. Ethnic food aisles are better stocked now than ever so do check them out. However, some ingredients will require a trip to an Asian grocery store.
I kept replenishing certain pantry ingredients, and have provided a list here for you, should you want to share in my fanaticism. If you already make lots of Asian food, you’re likely to have these items in your kitchen. Believe me, with these ingredients around, you’ll be ready for many kinds of Asian dumplings:
FLOURS AND STARCHES
All-purpose flour, bleached and unbleached
Gold Medal, available at regular markets, is my go-to brand. It’s similar to wheat flour in Asia in terms of having a moderate protein level (10 to 11 percent). It’s not as heavily bleached as Asian flour and actually tastes better. King Arthur all-purpose has too high of protein count to produce tender dumplings.
Regular Rice flour
Buy this fine flour at Asian markets. Use a Thai brand, such as Erawan with the 3-headed elephant logo. Don’t mistakenly select glutinous (sweet) rice flour when shopping for rice flour. Most manufacturers use different-colored lettering to distinguish the two flours. In general, red is for regular rice flour and green is for glutinous (sweet) rice flour. Mix up the two and your recipe will not turn out right! Health-food store rice flour won’t work as the grains have not been soaked before grinding.
Glutinous (sweet) rice flour
I use both domestic and Thai glutinous (sweet) rice flour for making Asian dumplings. Domestic glutinous rice flour produced by Koda Farms under the Mochiko Blue Star label is ground straight from the grain whereas glutinous rice flour from Thailand is soaked first and then ground, rendering it just slightly finer in texture and lighter in weight. The applications vary. For Thai glutinous rice flour Use the same rule of thumb here as for regular rice flour. Select a Thai brand. The Koda Farms rice flour is sold at many grocery stores and was carried at Trader Joe’s for a while.
Pretty straightforward, but I stick with Kingsford for consistency in developing Asian dumpling recipes.
Any Thai or domestic brand will do. Erawan, the same as the suggested rice flour brand above, is great. It has blue lettering, in case you’re wondering.
Mostly sold at Chinese markets. It’s bright white and used for har gow shrimp dumplings, and the likes. I’ve not seen it sold online.
Soy sauce (light and dark)
Pearl River Bridge is my standard brand. Go with Kikkoman at a regular market. Lee Kum Kee is okay too.
At a regular market, go with Lee Kum Kee’s standard Panda oyster-flavored sauce. The oyster flavor is there, but if you can step up to the lady with the boy in the boat, made by Lee Kum Kee, you won't regret it. This premium oyster sauce has extra oyster extractives and a better flavor. It's sold at Asian markets.
Shaoxing rice with or dry sherry
I usually buy Pagoda brand, which comes in tall slender bottles and is sold at Chinese markets. Choose the more expensive one. It tastes like a dry sherry.
Dark, smoky and lightly tart. Plum brand, available at Chinese markets, is terrific. You can substitute Italian balsamic vinegar but dilute it a tad as it’s heavier than Chinese Chinkiang.
Unseasoned rice vinegar
I prefer Japanese kind but there are great Chinese vinegars too.
Select the toasted, darker kind. The lighter sesame oil is made from untoasted seeds and does not have a robust, nutty flavor. Black sesame seed oil is nutty and nice but a tad bitter.
Are used in many Chinese dumpling recipes. I always have a bunch in the crisper. They can are a great substitute for Chinese chives (a.k.a., garlic chives, gow choi).
Who can have enough? Keep a nice chubby hand of ginger in a thin produce department-style plastic bag. Store it in the vegetable bin and it will stay nice for weeks.
Select nice firm heads of garlic and buy a few at a time to ensure that they don’t sprout or go bad before you get to them!
If you are sensitive to gluten, jump over to Vietworldkitchen.com for a post on gluten-free Asian ingredients.