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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Bite Sized Stories: Dumpling night

Entering our last semester here at Tufts, it was only fitting that we celebrated both our friends and good food, kicking off our senior spring with a potluck dumpling night. Dumplings are never made in small batches, so it only made sense to get as many hands folding wrappers and as many stomachs to fill as possible. With more time on everyone’s hands before the first day of classes, everyone prepared a unique dumpling dish. 

While Maddie spread masa on banana leaves and filled them with either tomatillo chicken or chipotle peppers and cheese for her tamales, Alice boiled pork belly in a fragrant mix of cinnamon, soybean paste, garlic and onions for her bossam, a Korean pork dish. Both dishes stretched the definition of “dumpling,” but they were still filled in wrappers — not dumpling wrappers, but steamed banana leaves and pickled cabbage, respectively. 

After we finished cooking, Jaclyn Tsiang, our housemate, began to cook her cha siu bao. The cha siu was purchased from Chinatown the night before, which allowed Jaclyn to focus on the bao dough. Her grandmother tries multiple different dough recipes throughout the year and declares a new favorite dough recipe at the end of every year, before sharing it with her family. Jaclyn got started with cornstarch and yeast and, after letting the dough rest for about half an hour, began to roll them out into circles using cut pieces of PVC pipe, which her grandmother gave her specifically to roll out dough. It was incredibly efficient, and soon enough, she was pinching the bao closed, stuffing them either with cha siu or cooked mushrooms. After they rested for another 20 minutes, they were ready to be steamed, with the vegetarian bao denoted with a small scallion topping.  

Two rounds of steaming later, the baos were done and cooked through, resting on squares of parchment paper, and we were ready to leave with all our dishes and our housemate’s strawberry basil lemonade. 

Dumpling night was a successful celebration of good food and good friends. Other dumplings on the table that night were Russian meat dumplings,  called pelmeni, which were boiled and served alongside a healthy scoop of sour cream and homemade sauerkraut. The Chinese pork and chive dumplings were either boiled or pan-fried. Then there were the Nepali momos, which are traditionally made with buffalo meat. That night, however, they were stuffed with cabbage and carrots to fill the stomachs of our vegetarian friends and served with a spicy tomato chutney. The Polishpierogi were boiled and then pan-fried with shallots, which added a sweet crisp to the creamy potato and cheese filling. With plenty of dumplings to go around, there was also japchae, or Korean glass noodles. We finished with chocolate chip cookies and apple crumble for dessert.

There was more than enough food to go around, and by the end of the night, we saw that so many different flavors and ingredients — from sweet pork to gooey cheese to spicy vegetables — can be wrapped up into bite-sized pieces.