Five steps to taking dumplings from frozen to perfectly pan fried

It never hurts to keep a bag of frozen dumplings for a quick weeknight dinner, Lunar New Year celebration or when you’re straight-up snowed in.

They’re easy to boil and pair perfectly with dozens of locally made chili oils and hot sauces. Pan-fried dumplings, however, require a bit more skill.

Toronto-based chef Ken Yau has been selling his line of frozen dumplings — a wide variety ranging from traditional pork and chive to the less conventional mapo tofu and beef teriyaki — on his website, k.Market.

He broke down the perfect pan-frying technique, which he learned, of course, from his mom.

Step 1

“Pull them out of the freezer when you’re ready to cook them,” he says. “When they defrost, they start to stick together and they’ll break.” He opts for a non-stick pan with a fitted lid, the latter to form a tight seal that allows for the dumplings to properly steam (and to prevent splatters of oil and water). Cast iron will also work, as long as there’s a fitted lid.

Step 2

Yau adds vegetable oil to the pan over medium heat, enough to just coat the pan. He prefers vegetable oil because it has a neutral flavour and a higher smoke point. To see if the oil is ready, he holds his hand over the pan to see if it gives off any heat. Alternatively, he places a dumpling in the pan and listens for the sizzle.

Step 3

Add the rest of the dumplings to the pan and let them cook until they start developing a crisp, browned bottom. Then, add about a cup of water and put the lid on immediately. “You do this step fast because it stops the splattering when the water hits the oil,” he says. The heat is turned up slightly to get the water simmering and to steam the dumplings. “You don’t want a rapid boil or else the dumplings can burst.” For smaller dumplings like the ones Yau makes, you can leave the lid on for about five minutes.

Step 4

After, lift the lid in one swift motion to let the steam escape. Let the water cook off completely. “At this point I’d turn the heat down to a medium-low to bring those crispy bottoms back. I put the dumplings on a paper towel and then serve them upside down to prevent the bottoms from getting soggy.”

Step 5

While not necessary, some diners like their dumplings to have an extra crisp. To do this, Yau whisks a tablespoon of cornstarch to the water before adding it to the pan. As the water evaporates, the starch will turn into a thin crispy crepe at the bottom of the pan.


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