If you’re looking for a fun food project to take on with your kids, you can’t go wrong with making dumplings. Delicious little packets stuffed with the fillings of your choice, dumplings are easy to make and a great way to introduce children to new foods, especially picky eaters! Plus, you can make a large batch and freeze some for quick meals the whole family looks forward to.
Dumplings are a traditional food in many cultures. Basically, dumplings are cooked balls of dough made from flour; most are stuffed but not all. They come under a variety of names, but they’re dumplings just the same. You may be familiar with these dumplings already; ravioli, pierogi, momo, har gow, kreplach and samosa!
Dumplings are incredibly versatile, not just in the variety of fillings and cooking styles but they’re suitable for any occasion. They make great finger-food snacks for toddlers or fancy party guests. In China, dumplings are an important part of the Lunar New Year celebration. In fact, in several cultures including Swedish and Chinese, small treats are hidden inside some of the dumplings and whoever finds them has luck and prosperity for the New Year. Try small edible treats like dates or golden raisins for a sweet surprise. Kids will love the treasure hunt!
Whether you’re creating dumplings for a traditional celebration or just want to make dumplings with your kids, it’s easy to get started. There are many ways kids can help. Involve your children in selecting ingredients for dumpling fillings to provide them with a sense of project ownership. Once you start cooking, even little kids can help wash and dry vegetables, sift flour, knead dough and stir mixtures. Older children will enjoy the challenge of learning to wrap dumplings.
Find a good dumpling recipe to create the dough. The internet is full of them. Here’s an easy recipe for Chinese dumplings that includes from-scratch dough. If you’d rather just focus on the fillings, you can purchase packets of pre-made dumpling wraps at major grocery stores and Asian markets.
When it comes to fillings, the sky’s the limit! Most dumpling fillings are a combination of leafy vegetables and meat. Experiment with greens like Bok Choy, Napa cabbage, kimchi, Swiss chard, or whatever is close at hand and in season. Leafy greens don’t top popularity lists with kids (or many adults), so this is a great way to get those important vitamins and nutrients into small bodies.
Popular meats to use as fillings include ground pork, chicken and beef. Just be sure it’s not too lean. Vegetarian dumplings are an option too!
Learning to make dumplings with kids is a wonderful way to spend quality time while giving them a sense of connection with food, family, and tradition.
Read about one woman’s tradition of making dumplings with her grandmother at seven years old and get her Shanghai dumpling recipes here.