Community, Connection, and Cooking: Dumplings at MeiMei
Food has always been an integral thread in the Ladies of Comicazi fabric. We've created a wide variety of offerings around food; theme parties, events, and even ComicCon panels. In part, it's because food is historically such a big part of the genre fiction we love - from the feasts in series like Redwall and Lord of the Rings, to the wonders of replicators and the horrors of Soylent Green. But it's also because the Ladies of Comicazi is, and has always been, about creating a community, a chosen family of people who share the same interests and passions. So when the opportunity to take a dumpling making class came up, of course we jumped at the opportunity. After all, as we learned from our instructor, Irene Li, dumpling making is very much a family affair.
The class was offered at Mei Mei, one of my personal favorite restaurants. It got its start as a food truck owned and operated by a trio of siblings ("Mei mei" means "little sister" in Mandarin) serving what they refer to as "Chinese food with cheese." Their most famous creation is the Double Awesome - a sandwich where the bread is scallion pancakes, surrounding poached eggs with local greens pesto and cheddar cheese. It absolutely lives up to its name and if you visit Boston, you should go try it. But Mei Mei ALSO makes amazing dumplings and offers classes on how the heck to do it yourself at home. The best way to make dumplings, we learned, is with a large group of family and friends. It makes the work go by faster and provides the pleasure of a communal experience beyond merely eating the dumplings.
We were provided wrappers rather than making the dough. Twin Marquis are the preferred brand at Mei Mei, though they started out making their own. This class was a celebration of their cookbook release, so we all went home with the recipe if we want to step it up a level!
To start, we learned 4 basic dumpling folds - crescent moons, "belly button" (also called flower bud or nurse cap), pleated crescent moons, and triangle (or hamantaschen). I struggled a bit with the pleats. The picture here is of Elise's dumplings, so you can see how they should look! The first round filling was a classic pork, savory with ginger, garlic, and cabbage. It was a great beginner filling, easy to shape and fairly forgiving. We had the opportunity to mix the filling ourselves, smooshing everything together into a uniform paste.
After the pork dumplings were done, off they went to the kitchen. Half were cooked for our enjoyment now, the other half were packaged up for us to take home. But the dumpling fun wasn't done yet! We still had the vegetarian dumplings to make. These were filled with Mei Mei's Three Sisters filling - corn, squash and beans cooked together with a bit of sage and thyme. It was basically autumn in dumpling form.
We were also taught some fancier dumpling shapes on this go-round - a rose and an elephant. You probably wouldn't want all of your dumplings made this way, but they'd make a delightful centerpiece for a dumpling feast!
By the end of the class, we were happy, full, and feeling far more confident about our dumpling skills. Best of all, we had two hours of learning and connecting together. Now we just have to schedule the next dumpling feast!