How to Throw a Dumpling Party

Gather your friends and family to create a delicious dumpling dinner together.

Three generation of women making dumplings, hands only
Photo: XiXinXing / Getty Images

Every culture around the globe has a dumpling. From raviolis to pierogis, empanadas to samosas, the idea of wrapping something carby around something intensely flavored is no new concept. Cultures make dumplings of every size and shape, from tiny fingertip-sized manti in Turkey where you might get as many as six or eight in one spoonful, to giant Chinese soup dumplings, where a single one can fill a bowl. Asian cultures have given the world an entire alphabet of dumplings from Japanese akashiyaki to Nepalese gong'a momo, Korean pyesonu to Chinese zhaliang, and literally every other letter in between. Which means, no matter what your background, there is probably at least one or two traditional dumplings to explore. So, what is stopping you?

Generally, unless you have a strong dumpling-making history, most of us shy away from labor-intensive, fussy foods. Everyone is living busy lives, and dumplings go down fast, so the idea of having to batch up dozens of small pouches for family dinner between work and home life seems incomprehensible to most of us. But we have forgotten the fundamental rule of all dumplings: They are not meant to be made alone.

Why a Dumpling Party?

In most cultures, dumplings are a communal effort. You might have one person making dough, one or two rolling wrappers, and countless others stuffing and sealing, while someone mans the pot or griddle or steamer. Simple production lines for dumplings have been employed at kitchen tables all over the world, and as with all things, many hands make light work. Mexican women will gather to form, roll and steam hundreds of tamales (a cousin of the beloved dumpling) at a time for special occasions and holidays. Italian nonnas could teach Henry Ford a thing or two about the efficiency of the assembly line, knocking out tortellini by the score.

The communal nature of cooking together tends to bring up interesting conversation and shared storytelling, and usually more than a little deep laughter, which is as important as faster production. So, while you might not be thinking about homemade dumplings for Wednesday night dinner after a day of work and school, dumplings are actually the perfect way to have an interactive gathering at your home. They also make an excellent hands-on dinner party for friends, special weekend family meal with the kids, activity for a slumber party or birthday party, or even just a romantic dinner á deux. Creating food from scratch with people you like is fun and extends the meaningful interpersonal interactions. You can't be on a phone or looking at a screen when your hands are busy forming dumplings!

Dumpling Ingredients

Today's markets are full of treasures to make your dumpling party easier. Fresh or frozen wonton or egg roll wrappers are available everywhere, in round and square shapes and every size from two to six inches or even larger. And while non-traditional, they make perfectly great ravioli in addition to potstickers or gyoza. Many other dumplings use more of a pastry-style wrapper, like empanadas or samosas, and store-bought pie crust does a great job of subbing in if you don't want to make your own dough.

There are recipes galore for interesting fillings, but dumplings are an ideal place to experiment. You can stuff them with last night's leftover chili, and serve as an appetizer with a guacamole dip for the big game, or with peanut butter and jelly for a fun twist on a kid-friendly classic. Dessert can be as simple as a square of chocolate enrobed in your chosen wrapper, deep fried, and tossed in cinnamon sugar.

How to Host

Hosting a dumpling party is easy, just choose your style of dumpling, decide whether to purchase or make the wrappers from scratch, identify a few different fillings, and gather the troops! If you aren't confident on your ability to talk your guests through the process, source a YouTube video on proper forming and sealing technique for your chosen dumplings and have the crowd watch together.

You can set up little stations with some wrappers and fillings for two or three people to share, or more of an assembly line style where someone starts at one end and goes down the line depositing the finished dumpling at the end and heading back to the front to start again. You can make all of the dumplings at once and then cook or cook as you go with some people stopping to snack while others make the next batch.

A dumpling party can also be a wonderful way to stock up your freezer while you have the labor force on hand. Plan on making enough that everyone can take a couple of dozen home for future meals.

Whether you want to teach your kids their great-grandmother's vareniki recipe, host your best friends for a DIY canapés cocktail party, or just have a quiet night with your love connecting and cooking together, dumplings are always the way to go.

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