By Kim Cody
In mid-February, I had the pleasure of attending a Chinese dumpling-making demonstration as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
If, like me, you have an ungodly obsession for the salty, savoury, bites of heaven that are Asian dumplings, then I implore to explore the menus at M&L Chinese and its little sister, The Vintage Teapot. Located centrally, just off O’Connell Street in Dublin, M&L is widely known to serve some of the best and most authentic Chinese food in the city.
Owing to my unhealthy devotion to the humble dumpling, I have separated this piece into three parts: one on the event, the process of making and an accompanying recipe and method for the dumpling preparation.
The Vintage Teapot is a more casual affair than M&L, serving cakes, coffee, and a selection of very high-quality Chinese teas. Most importantly: they serve dumplings.
Every few weeks, The Vintage Teapot puts on a variety of events- music evenings, tea ceremonies, and cooking demonstrations. I was delighted to attend what I can only describe as my idea of umami heaven: a dumpling-making demonstration with one of the dumpling cooks from M&L.
The event took place on Saturday, Feb 17th. It was my first time attending an event at The Vintage Teapot, and my second time there.
Arriving, in my true style – very slightly late – I was seated at the head of one of two long tables filled with people for the demo. There was a wide spread in attendees- a few, like me, were dumpling-lovers the their mid/late 20’s, wondering why they can’t keep a damn succulent alive, and the others ranged from families with children, to meet-up group enthusiasts.
The event promised us fine-quality Chinese tea, and dumpling making/tasting. They delivered the tea promptly, and with notepad in hand, I was ready to learn all of the secrets to one of my favourite foods.
I have to say, this event was a quaint and fun affair. Our wise tutor in the Art of the Dumpling was, beyond a doubt, authentic, requiring a translator to explain each part of the process. We were shown how to make a simple dough of flour (plain, as agreed after about 60 seconds of Chinese conferral and discussion), boiling water, and vegetable oil. Then we learned how to roll the dough, slice it, flatten it, and then form it into discs, which would be filled with the delicious meat filling.
Only mildly embarrassing was the most interactive part of the event: each of the 21 attendees was brought up to the head table, and was shown how to fill and fold each dumpling. I wish I could describe the fluid way our chef filled and folded each one.
Her hands moved deftly, and I could, in no way, keep up. I can honestly say that my attempt was too ugly for even a token humorous photo… Thankfully, we were first served dumplings that had been folded by the master. These were delightfully washed down with a very high-quality Chinese tea, provided in abundance throughout.
The best fun of the afternoon was getting to speak, and bond, with our cohorts at the event. The table of each group of attendees was set with trays, gloves, and bowls of the pork-meat filling of the dumpling. We shared in each others chagrin at our ugly, misshapen, but still-delicious dumplings. We each made 5, and these were cooked and brought to us along with the more professional-looking outputs.
It was such a joy to spend a weekend afternoon in the company of others who had a similar interest in, or love for, Asian food. We spoke about the day, and how we ended up at that table, swapped suggestions for eating out in Dublin. Myself and my companion really felt that, by the end, we should all be making an effort to go to more events in Dublin that don’t include drinking until 3am on a Friday. The shared connection, food, and bonding over our failed technical skills really added to my whole week.
Hats off to The Vintage Teapot for arranging this event. I left feeling full, happy, and attached to the Dublin community. I highly recommend making time for one of their many events, which they frequently list on their Facebook page; prices ranging from about €8-25. Based on my experience that Saturday, I would happily return to their shop again.
If you’re popping in on the fly, I urge you to try some of their siu mai dumplings, and a pot of one of their many quality teas. Sit with a book and let the day melt away after work, or on a lazy weekend. They open until late at night and offer a selection of wines. For a quiet drink, bite, and catch-up with friends over a shared plate (literal bird cage actually, more than a plate) of dumplings, you couldn’t do better. Come say hello if you spot the blue laptop and a scattering of empty plates.
And make sure to look forward to Part II of the Dumpling Chronicles, where I walk you through each step of the demonstration and for the recipe supplied by the lovely staff at the VT in Part III. So good, I couldn’t write about it one article!