A few weeks back, my husband and I went for dim sum with friends and took our one and a half year old. Dim sum is a style of eating Chinese food, where you order a wide variety of small, shareable portions. In some restaurants you order from a menu, in others you pick what looks good from a cart that circulates around the dining room. It’s fun. And delicious.
We’ve been pretty consistent about taking our kiddo with us to restaurants, so behaviour-wise it’s a situation we’re comfortable with. As far as what she’ll eat, we’ve officially exited the ‘she’ll eat any damn thing you put in front of her’ phase and now we’re in the finicky ‘I know how to say no and spit stuff out’ phase. So it’s anyone’s guess.
Turns out, dim sum is the BEST kid friendly option because you order like, 15 things, so the kid’s guaranteed to like something. In her case, noodles (shocker), bao (steamed pork buns) and dumplings! On top of variety, if you’re looking for a good restaurant experience for kids, dim sum offers family style eating, where kids really benefit from getting to choose what and how much to eat all while watching the adults around them model good eating behaviour. If you can manage to eat this way at home from time to time (family style, not necessarily dim sum), the chances you have of raising a happy, healthy, adventurous eater drastically increases.
The next step for me? Recreate some of the experience at home!
*disclaimer. Like a typical toddler, she totally flipped the switch on dumplings and wouldn’t touch these ones. Whatevs, more for the grownups.
As always, we’re looking to create easy family-friendly recipes for our How to Eat friends. This one is damn simple. Using store-bought wonton wrappers is obviously key.
The recipe itself is not ours. While I love to adapt recipes to make them easier, more healthful etc. this one was just too good to change. It comes courtesy of Mark Bittman from a piece he wrote for the New York Times in 2000 (I can’t believe that was 17 years ago!)
The prep is incredibly simple. I used pre-package coleslaw instead of cabbage and chopped up the onions, garlic and ginger in less than 10 minutes.
I’ve used pork for this recipe, but chicken, turkey or beef would all work well. You could also used cooked, chopped mushrooms (I would use shiitake) or crumbled firm tofu for a vegan/vegetarian option.
It takes a few minutes to get rolling on the assembly, but soon enough you’ll get into the groove. Choose a good playlist or crank up your favourite podcast and the 20 or so minutes it takes quickly becomes mindless and actually, rather therapeutic.
Of note, we normally buy ground meat pre-packaged in roughly 1lb portions and this recipe calls for 3/4 lb. Use the remaining meat for a. a part of a second batch OR b. a few meatballs or a mini meatloaf for another meal.
Once the dumplings are wrapped you can cooked them straight away or freeze them. If freezing, freeze them right on a baking tray (shown above). Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. I would definitely recommend making more than one batch at a time, because they are so good they’ll be gone before you’re totally satisfied!
The cooking technique is totally genius and adds a lot of great flavour. Follow it closely and having a decent quality non-stick pan is absolutely essential. Each pan-full takes around 5-7 minutes, so within about 20 minutes, you’ll have 4 dozen perfectly browned, insanely flavourful dumplings on your hands.
A delicious home dim sum adventure!