salmon dumpling gang

Last night, I was invited to Angie & Yiyi’s long-planned pizza dinner and dumpling-making party. Yay me!

I was a little late to show up because I had to run home after work, collect the dog because she’d spent the day in the garage snoozing on her own, fill my car with gas, get an iced green tea at Starbucks (just cuz), stop at Mirror Lake (pictured above) to let the dog have a swim, fend off all the kids who wanted to try out my ball-flinger, which Sadie did not appreciate one bit because kids are gross (according to her — I didn’t teach her that). There were several large picnicking parties there, including a Native Alaskan drumming circle that also sang in deep, booming voices, which was pretty awesome to listen to lake-side. Kids were in abundance. Sadie didn’t want to come out of the water because they were waiting on shore for her, calling out her name. She had a wild look in her eye that said, “How do you know my name?!” And when she did emerge from the lake, she ran in nervous circles with the ball in her mouth and the kids chased her because they wanted the ball back so they could fling it again. I had to run after the kids telling them not to chase her because she was afraid of them.

As my mom said when I recounted this story to her: this is the stuff that Sadie’s nightmares are made of.

In the middle of all that, Angie called to ask where I was. I said I’d be there shortly and asked if I’d missed the food. Yes I had, she told me, but she’d make more. As I pulled out of the lake parking lot, she texted to say she’d just put my pizza in the oven. Music to my ears.

Apparently, Angie’s potsticker dumpling wrapping skills are not up to snuff (when she brings them to a Japanese co-worker, he tells her they’re pierogies, not dumplings) (not that that stops him from accepting her dumplings/pierogies) so she asked Yiyi to show her the ropes. Yiyi is one of the law school student summer interns at work. She’s of Chinese descent. She’s from New York City. Her family gets together on special occasions and they all sit around the table gossiping and making countless pork dumplings. I love that idea. Add up all those facts and you know her dumplings are for-sure up to snuff.

While I like to cook, I’m not a huge fan of tedious recipes. I’m more of a slice-and-dice-and-toss-it-all-together-in-one-pan-and-then-dig-in kind of a cook, so I didn’t expect to enjoy myself as much as I did. I thought I was just along for the ride. But it was so meditative, watching Yiyi mix the dumpling dough by hand out of just a little hill of flour with a well in the center, plus a little water and a little milk.

She formed the dough into snakes:

She fussed over them. Adding a little more water, a little more flour, and said this was just how her dad taught her to make them.

That’s the filling in the plastic container in the photo above. Classic dumplings are made with pork and vegetables or shrimp and vegetables or a combination of pork and shrimp and vegetables, but this is Alaska and we’re nearing the end of dipnetting season and so our dumplings were to be filled with salmon. Angie’s recipe came from the Fishes and Dishes cookbook which you should totally check out. If you’re anything like me, that book will have you pining to kick your desk job to the curb so you can take to the high seas and get paid to fish. Their salmon dumpling recipe calls for salmon (duh), sesame oil, green onions, cilantro, and salt and pepper, plus Angie added a couple of mystery ingredients that had that dumpling filling smelling divine.

The dough snakes were sliced into little balls, sort of like gnocchi. Yiyi declared Angie’s big marble rolling pin to be too bulky and she put a drinking glass to work in rolling out the dumpling dough into flat, hopefully round, disks.

Here’s my first attempt:

Dumplings coming together:

I’m not sure if I mastered Yiyi’s pinch-and-twist method of dumpling wrapping. Mine ended up looking alot like stegosauruses, according to Angie.

Yiyi’s expertly wrapped dumpling:

As we sat around the table making these, I decided it had the makings of a great party. As soon as possible I hope to get my peeps together around the table to gossip and make an abundance of dumpings!

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