Mei Wei Executive Chef Song Yao Su is no stranger to making moreish dumplings. Here, he explains what takes them from good to great, and shares his favourite dumpling recipe.
Anytime someone asks what another person’s favourite food is, it’s a trick question. The answer is always dumplings.
Countries around the world, from Nepal to Russia to Japan, have their own versions of these little balls of joy. Really, they can be anything you want them to be, but are usually some combination of silky dough with a spiced, herby, protein-y filling.
Chef Song Yao Su, the Executive Chef of Mei Wei Dumplings restaurant at The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane, is particularly well-versed in the art of dumpling-making. Having had his first hands-on experience making them as a child growing up in the south of China, throughout his life he has come to be intimate with almost every variety there is. A good person to talk to, then, when you are trying to figure out what goes into making a perfect dumpling.
Here, we talk to Chef Song about his simple rules for DIY dumplings, and get him to share his own personal favourite recipe: a simple but elegant take on the classic pork dumpling.
The menu at Mei Wei is serious about dumplings, and covers a spectrum of regional varieties. Can you tell us a bit about your personal history with dumplings?
I was born in Guangzhou, China, a region in southern China where dumplings of all shapes and sizes – gold ingots, crescent, half moon, etc. – are commonly consumed, particularly during festive seasons. In the area I came from, they’re made mostly with pork, prawn, fish and fresh vegetable fillings. My first experiences of making dumplings were from my childhood days with my mother.
There are so many elements that go into making a great dumpling: the dough, the filling, the type of cooking, the condiments. To you, what makes a perfect dumpling?
For the dough, they need to be silky soft but elastic as well. The filling needs to be fresh, tasty and stand-out. In the end, it’s about the loving care, balancing and attention to detail.
What are the secrets to a good dumpling dough? Do you have different types of casing at Mei Wei, or is there the one perfected recipe?
We have two simple rules for making our dumpling dough: we use the freshest possible ingredients, and be as professional as we can be. We try to provide a good variety of dumplings by blending dough to achieve different textures. Then, we fill it with the tastiest and perhaps most colourful combinations of fillings.
If you could eat one type of dumpling for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Possibly a classic pork dumpling. It resembles fullness, roundness and balance for the family. It also represents prosperity.
The ultimate question is whether to pan-fry or to steam. What is your personal preference, or does it depend on the type of dumpling?
There are so many possibilities, and no one right answer. My preference varies from time to time and from occasion to occasion.
Do you have any tips for amateur cooks making dumplings at home?
As above, the dough should be silky soft but elastic at the same time, so that it has a pleasant texture but is also capable of holding the filling. All of the filling ingredients should be as fresh as possible. For savoury fillings, a touch of sesame oil works well. Usually, mixing the filling until the proteins are well worked out provides some extra crunch to the mouth fill once they’re cooked.
Chef Song’s Savoury Pork Dumpling Recipe
For the dough
- 100g water
- 500g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
Mix the water with the flour and salt. Try not overmix – the dough should be as soft as possible. Roll the dough out into your desired shape, until it is thin but still elastic.
For the filling
- 200g pork mince
- 400g wombok, diced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp chicken stock powder
- 3 tsp potato starch
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp sesame oil
- Neutral oil, for cooking
Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan, add pork mince and cook until browned. Add the wombok, sugar, chicken stock powder and potato starch and cook until the greens are soft. In a bowl, combine pork and wombok mixture with the remainder of the ingredients and stir until combined. Add an appropriate amount to the centre of each piece of dumpling dough, fold as desired, and cook as desired.