Ever Been To A Dumplings Of The World Party?

Now you have! Writer Molly Yeh celebrates her family's blended Chinese–Eastern European heritage with sweet Nutella-filled sesame balls, Hanukkah doughnuts, samosa knishes, potstickers, and more.

January 11, 2017
steamed rolls filled with schnitzel
Chantell Quernemoen

Growing up with multiple holiday traditions—among them, Christmas from my dad’s side of the family and Hanukkah from my mom’s—I was truly blessed. Over the years, we have gone through a patchwork rotation of celebrations inspired by a variety of factors: our close proximity to Chicago (we lived in the ’burbs), a love of food-themed parties, and our decidedly global family tree. It was not unusual for us to feast on blintzes at a Russian tearoom in the city one year (because my father had studied Russian and wanted to show off his language skills), only to follow it up with a gingerbread-house-building party the next (we made houses with pretzel sukkahs in yards made of shredded coconut). 

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But by far the silliest and tastiest tradition we practice is our annual Dumplings of the World Party. The idea grew out of our blended Chinese–Eastern European heritage and is based on the notion Mom and I share about what constitutes a good time: getting all of our favorite people under one roof and cooking together.

Molly Yeh and her husband making pot stickers
Chantell Quernemoen

For the party, my mom and I set up prep stations around the house with dough, rolling pins, and fillings, where guests can construct their own dumplings. The recipes come from our family cookbook, an old three-ring binder in which an entire soy sauce–stained chapter is devoted to dumplings. Some of the recipes hail from a dim sum class my mom took 20 years ago. As new people married into our family, we added others, such as the ricotta pierogi from my brother-in-law’s mom, who has strong Polish roots. As family members tried out new diets—like my sister’s short-lived veganism—recipes for items like soy chorizo empanadas made their way into the binder. 

These days, the party takes place at the farmhouse on the border of Minnesota and North Dakota where I live with my husband, but it’s as sprawling and mixed up as ever. Every gathering includes at least six different types of dumplings. Gingery chicken pot stickers always make the cut, as do big, fluffy steamed buns—stuffed with cross-cultural fillings like PB&J, American cheese, or barbecued chicken—served out of a huge double-decker steamer. With so many fillings and so much dough (and wine) being passed around, it’s easy to create mash-ups, such as sweet Nutella-filled sesame balls, savory tomato jam sufganiyot (Hanukkah doughnuts) and samosa knishes, as well as Cornish pasties, arancini, blintzes, and tamales. Not all of them are totally textbook, but to my family any food stuffed inside another food qualifies as a dumpling.

Related: How To Fold Classic Pot Stickers + Knish Dumplings

steaming knishes
Chantell Quernemoen

Our parties are chaotic, and the decorations are limited to a light dusting of flour around the house, which might be taken as a metaphor for snow, except that it’s not at all intentional. We eat dumplings throughout the night whenever they are ready; we never sit down for a formal meal. The huge proportion of dumplings to guests (we aim for a ratio of 50 to 1) guarantees that everyone present will slip into a food coma by the end of the evening—which means it’s time for our other immutable holiday tradition, a screening of Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause.

samosa knishes
Chantell Quernemoen
Samosa Knishes

For these savory morsels, a blend of Indian and Jewish cuisines, a spiced-potato filling is baked in piecrust. 

Makes 12

3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½" cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg
14–15 ounce pie dough, store-bought or homemade
Yogurt and chutney, for serving 

1. Fill a large pot with water, add 3 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion and a pinch salt and cook until soft and translucent, 5–7 minutes. Add garlic, garam masala, cayenne, coriander, turmeric, ginger, paprika, and pepper and cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Stir in peas and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. 

3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Beat egg with a splash of water; set aside. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into 12 portions, roll into balls, and use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into a 4½"–5" round. Place ¼ cup of potato mixture in center of each round and brush edges with egg wash. Fold edges up and pleat them. Hug them between your hands a little so that everything sticks together, and brush outside of dough with egg wash. Place them on prepared pan 1" apart and bake until lightly browned, 20–30 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with yogurt and chutney. (Check out these step-by-step illustrations for folding your knishes.)

nutella-sesame balls
Chantell Quernemoen
Nutella-Sesame Balls

Jian dui, or deep-fried sesame rice balls, are spherical and space-age looking, and biting through their crunchy shell and into their chewy, gooey, sticky inside gives a satisfying combination of textures that you don’t get very often. This version includes a chocolate-hazelnut filling, but you can also use sweet red bean paste or homemade marshmallow fluff. 

Makes 12 

2 cups glutinous rice flour, plus up to ⅓ cup more for dusting 
¾ cup light brown sugar 
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
½ cup white sesame seeds
3 tablespoons Nutella
Canola oil, for deep-frying 

1. Place rice flour in a large heatproof bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir into rice flour to form a thick, sticky dough. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. 

2. Turn dough onto a surface liberally dusted with rice flour. Knead until just smooth enough to handle but still slightly sticky, about 2 minutes, adding more flour as needed (this may take quite a bit more, up to ⅓ cup). Divide dough into 12 balls; cover with plastic wrap. 

3. Place sesame seeds on a plate. Flatten each ball slightly with your thumb, add ¾ teaspoon Nutella to center, gather up sides, and pinch to seal shut. Roll in sesame seeds to coat, brushing each ball with a bit of water to make seeds stick, if necessary. 

4. Pour 2" oil into a large, heavy pot. Clip on a deep-fry thermometer and heat oil over medium-high to 360 degrees. Working in batches, fry balls until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Let cool slightly before serving.

chicken pot stickers
Chantell Quernemoen
Chicken Pot Stickers

These delectable pan-fried dumplings feature crunchy wrappers enveloping a filling made from chicken, scallions, and fresh-grated ginger. (See exactly how to fold them here.)

Makes 24

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup boiling water
½ cup ice-cold water

Dipping Sauce
2 scallions, finely chopped
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons dark sesame oil

1 pound ground chicken
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon grated ginger 
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup chicken broth 
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Canola oil, for frying

1. Make dough: In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in boiling water, stirring until coarse meal forms. Stir in ice-cold water to form a dough. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and slightly sticky, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary. Cover dough with a damp kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes.

2. Make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine all dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside.

3. Make filling: In a large bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Set aside.

4. Assemble dumplings: Divide dough into 24 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 4" round. Place 1 tablespoon filling in center of each and fold into half-moons, pleating edges to seal.

5. Cook dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of canola oil over medium-high. Working in batches, add dumplings to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon, allowing excess water to drip off, and transfer to the hot oil (be careful, as dumplings will splatter). Fry, turning, until dumplings are evenly browned. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, cool slightly, and serve with dipping sauce.

Note: You can steam the dumplings instead: Line a bamboo steamer with blanched cabbage and steam over boiling water until the filling is cooked through, 10–15 minutes.

steamed buns
Chantell Quernemoen
Steamed Buns

You can stuff these puffy rolls with whatever you like. 

Makes 16 

¾ cup warm water
¼ cup warm whole milk
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon plus ½ cup sugar
13½ ounces (3 cups) unbleached white flour, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces (¼ cup) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Canola oil, for greasing
Fillings of choice  

1. In a small bowl, combine water and milk. Add yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and set aside until mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour, salt, and remaining sugar. With mixer on low speed, pour in yeast mixture and add butter. Increase speed to medium-high and knead for
5 minutes, adding more flour if needed (just enough to keep dough from sticking to the bowl). Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Turn to coat; cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

3. Cut sixteen 3" squares of parchment paper. Turn dough onto a clean work surface and divide into 16 balls. Keeping dough covered, work with 1 ball at a time. Flatten into a 3" round, fill with desired filling, and pinch edges shut to seal well and make a ball. Place seam side down on a square of parchment paper. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; set a steamer in the pot. Place buns in steamer 1" apart on squares of parchment. Steam until fluffy, 15–20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

steamed bun fillings
Lisel Jane Ashlock
Filling Options For Steamed Buns

American Cheese Buns

This is like the softest grilled cheese ever. Technically, you don’t have to use American cheese, but if you’re going to be serving up softer-than–Wonder Bread buns, you might as well. (And in case you were wondering, yes, organic American cheese exists!) To make, fill each bun with a ¾" cube of cheese.

PB&J Buns

These are a fresh, homemade answer to Uncrustables, the almighty, frozen, store-bought crustless sandwich snack food of my youth that provides the same heavenly sensation as these homemade buns. To make, fill each bun with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon jam.

Barbecued Pork Buns

Go old-school with this traditional Chinese filling. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium and add the thinly sliced whites of 3 scallions, reserving the thinly sliced greens for later. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in 2 tablespoons Shaoxhing or dry sherry. Add 12 ounces chopped roasted pork and ¼ cup hoisin sauce. Stir until well combined. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Stir in scallion greens right before stuffing into buns.

Taco-Shaped Buns

To make steamed buns that can be filled after they’re steamed, roll out dough balls into ovals that are about 6" long and 3" wide. Brush them with a thin, even layer of melted unsalted butter (you’ll need 2–4 tablespoons melted butter total) and fold them in half lengthwise. Let rise again and fill with schnitzel and pickle slices, shredded spiced chicken, or whatever you like.