I could practically live off dumplings—and, thanks to the dollar dumpling joint a few blocks from my house, there have been periods in my life during which I nearly have. I prefer not to think about how many of their pork and chive dumplings I've consumed in the past year and a half, but the total is certainly somewhere in the hundreds.
Judging from the number of examples found worldwide—from Polish pierogi to Japanese gyoza to Tibetan momos—stuffing tasty fillings into some sort of starchy wrapper appears to be a basic human need, though Asia is arguably home to the greatest variety and devotion. If you've never tried making your own dumplings, rest assured that it's easier than you might think: Some recipes do require homemade dough, but others work just fine with store-bought wrappers. Plus, building your own dumplings gives you complete control over what goes in them—carrot and tofu, maybe, or pork and shrimp, or any other combination your heart desires, really. These 12 recipes for East Asian–style dumplings are a good introduction to different techniques, fillings, and presentations, and, with just a little practice, will have you stuffing (and eating) like a pro. And, because the only thing a good dumpling could possibly need is a good dip, we've also got five recipes for easy and delicious homemade dipping sauces.
Pan-Fried Vegetable Dumplings
These crisp, well-browned vegetarian dumplings are complex in flavor and texture, but relatively easy to make using store-bought dumpling skins. They're stuffed with a mixture of rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, five-spice tofu, and seitan, flavored with sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallion. Pan-frying them lends a nice contrast between the tender filling and the crispy bottoms.
Simple Pork and Scallion Dumplings
The secret ingredient in these pork and scallion dumplings? More pork—specifically, in the form of bacon, which adds pleasant fattiness and smoky notes to the filling. Here, we gently steam the dumplings in a bamboo steamer, lined with wilted lettuce or parchment paper to avoid sticking.
The Best Japanese Pork and Cabbage Dumplings (Gyoza)
Japanese gyoza are similar to their Chinese relatives, but tend to be subtler in flavor. One big perk of gyoza is that they're made with a thinner, stretchier dough, so store-bought wrappers work just as well as homemade. Fillings may vary, but minced cabbage and pork, seasoned lightly with ginger, scallions, garlic, and white pepper, is a fine traditional choice.
Crystal Skin Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
Har gow—plump, juicy shrimp packed into translucent purses made from a combination of wheat and tapioca starch—are a particular dim sum favorite of mine. Pork fatback mixed into the shrimp provides plenty of moisture, melting as the dumplings steam. Pleat the edges of the wrappers for the prettiest effect, but if you're no great shakes at dumpling construction, you can simply crimp them closed instead.
Pan-Fried Leek Buns (Shui Jian Bao)
A "bun" in this context is just a slightly different kind of dumpling, made with a heartier and more forgiving flour dough. They're often cooked like pan-fried dumplings, getting nice and crispy on the bottom. To fill them, try garlicky Chinese chives mixed with umami-rich dried baby shrimp. If you can't find Chinese chives, the milder flavor of leeks will work, too.
Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai (Steamed Chinese Dumplings)
These little gems are just about as easy as dumplings get: Simply spoon the ground shrimp, pork, and fat mixture into the center of each store-bought wonton wrapper, then squeeze the wrapper so it forms a wrinkled cup around the filling. Maintaining bigger chunks of shrimp while grinding the pork finely provides some textural contrast.
Homemade Wonton Soup
Though it can be hard to separate wonton soup from the sad, fluorescent-lit takeout joints of my childhood, it can be wonderful when it's done right. This Hong Kong–style version features sturdy, fat dumplings bursting with ground pork. Serve them in a rich broth made from pork trotters, Chinese ham, and chicken, fortified with kombu and dried shrimp, and dotted with bits of Napa cabbage and bright green scallion.
Sichuan-Style Wontons in Hot and Sour Vinegar and Chili Oil Sauce (Suanla Chaoshou)
So you want to skip the formalities and just knock back as many wontons as you can stomach, huh? We got you. Suanla chaoshou omits the broth and instead serves the dumplings coated in a fiery aromatic sauce. Make it with garlic, vinegar, and a homemade oil infused with roasted chilies and Sichuan peppercorns for their signature mouth-numbing heat. Forming the wontons does take some time—even with the help of premade wrappers—but they're easily made in bulk and frozen for later.
Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)
Filling a little dough parcel with actual soup might seem like impossible magic, but really, it's all about collagen. That means using real chicken or pork broth, which is chock full of the stuff. As the broth cools, it will gel and solidify; once you steam the dumplings, it melts back into a fatty soup—allowing you to impress the heck out of your eaters with the incomparable sensation of biting into a solid and finding a liquid. In other words, this is the dumpling to make if you're looking for lots of cool points.
Sheng Jian Bao (Pan-Fried Pork Soup Dumplings)
Sheng jian bao are the pan-fried, thicker-but-not-overly-doughy cousins to xiao long bao. In this case, the liquid derives not from gelled and melted broth, but from the water that's released by the cabbage and the fat rendered from the pork in their flavorful filling. They end up more like small buns, and less soupy—though no less tasty—than xiao long bao.
Kimchi, the peppery Korean fermented cabbage that's usually treated as a condiment, makes a great addition to dumplings—say, as a spicy replacement for the cabbage in a typical pork and cabbage version. Here, though, we highlight the kimchi and keep the recipe vegetarian by pairing it with vermicelli noodles and tofu. An egg helps to bind the filling ingredients.
In a nod to the diversity of dumplings all over the world, these fun fusion snacks pair a traditional Polish pierogi filling of potatoes and farmer's cheese with Chinese seasonings, including soy sauce, fermented bean paste, sesame oil, and hot Sichuan peppercorns. It's a nice match-up of comforting, soft, and mild ingredients with piquant, bright, and funky flavors.
Ponzu-Ginger Dipping Sauce
You may not need sauce for your dumplings, but it's a good opportunity to provide a contrasting flavor. If you're gonna dip, you can do better than soy sauce or jarred chili oil, without expending a ton of effort—as in this no-cook sauce, which enriches citrusy ponzu with scallions, ginger, mirin, and sesame oil. It works best with a mild dipper, like the pan-fried vegetable dumplings described above.
Thai-Style Dipping Sauce
This sweet-tart sauce starts with equal parts fish sauce and lime juice and adds lots of raw garlic for heat. It's mellowed out by sugar, plus cilantro for freshness. We love this one for its versatility—although it's terrific paired with dumplings, you could easily use it to marinate a steak, or even as a salad dressing.
Coconut Curry Dipping Sauce
A richer, South Asian–inspired option that starts with simmering creamy coconut milk and Thai red curry paste into a thick, fragrant sauce. After it comes off the heat, mix in honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, and lime.
Kimchi and Honey Dipping Sauce
Kimchi paste is a tangy mix of the flavors generally found in kimchi: red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. It's too concentrated to consume on its own, but becomes a killer dip when it's enriched and mellowed out with honey and melted butter.
Black Bean Dipping Sauce With Maple Syrup
In this unusual sauce, the salty, funky flavor of fermented black bean paste is reined in with two somewhat unexpected additions: peanut butter and maple syrup. The peanut butter softens the aggressiveness of the paste, while the syrup adds sweetness. Add chili oil for a bit of heat, then thin it out with a splash of water to reach a dippable consistency.