Have you ever eaten homemade dumplings? When I was growing up, dumplings (called mandoo in Korean or gyoza in Japanese) were one of our favorite things to make and eat. In college and during my single years friends and relatives would often gather to make and eat fresh hot dumplings. There's nothing quite like the taste of homemade dumplings, especially when you make the wrappers yourself too.
I made dumplings with my two boys a few times when we had no toddlers underfoot, and after seeing a post on Babette Feasts, decided it was time to make them again now that our youngest has grown up a bit. Check out Babette's recipe. If you want more details on making your own homemade skins, here's a great link at La Fuji Mama (although in our house, the wrappers definitely do not turn out this uniform! Part of the fun of making these with children is letting them have fun with the dough and experiment). This makes for a great Saturday night at-home family party. The only tip I'd have is to make sure there's another adult around if you have a young child to help. My husband was out of commission with jet lag, and I got a little flustered between all the supervising and frying up, especially after I noticed that my daughter had stopped filling the wrappers and was just making little mounds of dough and piling the filling on top. We also ran out of dough halfway through, so I'd make sure to make plenty in advance – any leftovers can just be fried as is or mixed with scallions to make scallion pancakes.
I love making homemade dumplings because you can throw just about any ingredient in the filling that you want to. This time I used nira, which is a Japanese green similar to chives, shiitake mushrooms, (dried deliver more potent flavor than fresh, but I had no dried ones on hand), grated carrots, and of course, plenty of garlic and ginger. I also added in a generous amount of chopped Chinese cabbage – you need to salt it first and squeeze it out or else it will leach water out into your dumplings when you're cooking (ugh, soggy dumplings). For flavoring I just added dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, white pepper, and then mixed it together with the vegetables, ground meat, and corn starch.
Mix up a batch of dough (basically just flour, water and salt – knead and keep adding flour until it feels supple enough to roll out without being too sticky), set out placemats sprinkled with flour and a bunch of rolling pins, and let your children loose!
Fry in a fry pan with some oil till browned, then add a splash of water, cover quickly so they steam-cook, and then take the cover off after a minute or two so the water can evaporate. Part of the charm of children's gyoza parties is the variety of shapes and sizes you get. Serve with salad or pickles on the side (these are simple cucumber pickles made the same way as my radish salad, with salt, rice vinegar, and sugar).
It's always fun to liven up a family meal by turning it into a party like this where the children participate in making their own creations – other things that we've done are burritos, homemade pizza, fondue, Korean barbecue, sukiyaki, yakisoba (Japanese stir-fried noodles), and ice cream sundaes. Do you and your children have any favorite dishes that you make together at the table?