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Chef Talk

The Almighty Dumpling

Recently I went to visit the newest Las Vegas Casino, Lucky Dragon. I have heard good things about the food and wanted to give it a try. My first choice was Dragons Alley, reminiscent of Chinese street food. Unfortunately this area was being renovated which is weird since they just opened in time for Chinese New Year, in November of last year. Instead I ate at Pearl Ocean restaurant. One of the dishes I ordered was the five guys xiao long bao. This beautiful dish consisted of five different dumplings, all different colors and flavors. They were a black squid-ink skin with black truffle filling, yellow turmeric skin crab-roe filling, bright red beet skin with a savory filling, green spinach skin with a kale filling and a white flour skin with a classic pork filling.

This beautiful dish made me think about the concept of the dumpling. One of the things that always intrigues me is how certain food items carry over from one country or group to another. One example is sandwiches, another example is chicken soup and a third example is dumplings. I’m a big dumpling fan. I like them from all nations, and any type of dumpling works for me because the filling is flavorful and the wrapping is light and tender.

Dumplings are easy to make and cook quickly since the filling is usually ground or precooked, while the outside is usually light tender dough. Many of the outsides are available to buy commercially rather than being handmade but they are usually very easy to make including ingredients such as flour and water. Typical outsides include dough, pasta, phyllo, rice, potato and cornmeal.

Some types of the dumplings include ravioli, pierogi, krepalch, wontons, empanadas, gnocchi and knishes. The fillings are usually made from either the protein or they are commonly stuffed with potatoes. Once the dumplings are stuffed, they are steamed, boiled or baked.

One of my favorite Asian dumplings is the soup Xiao Long Bao. These are made by putting a cube of gelatinized meat aspic with a protein inside the wrapping. When heated, the aspic melts and when you cut or bite into the dumpling it is filled with liquid.

A common version of a dumpling dish in the United States is a dish called Chicken and Dumplings. In this dish the dumplings are very easy to make with few ingredients and are cooked in the chicken broth after the chicken was cooked, and what it will be served in. The only ingredients in this non protein dumpling are flour, baking powder, salt, water and oil.

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