Fun fact: my grandfather is Cuban-Chinese.
This fact always shocks people probably because I don’t look Cuban or Chinese. But what shocks people more is when they see my mom, because she too doesn’t look Cuban-Chinese, but she did grow up with the last name Fong. Heck, most of the time people don’t expect my grandfather to be Cuban-Chinese; he looks Filipino.
But regardless of what we look like, we’ve always connected to each other and to our culture with food. What that means is mostly Cuban food, since that’s where my grandfather spent the most time growing up. But he also went to high school in Hong Kong and my Chinese great-grandfather was a great cook, I am told. So we often cook Cantonese dishes, one of those being dumplings.
In This Is My Brain in Love, food and the culture surrounding food play a large role. It makes sense, seeing as how Jocelyn and Will are trying to save her family’s restaurant. And anyone who’s read the book knows how incredible the dumplings are. Read it and try not to drool, I dare you. So of course my family and I took inspiration from This Is My Brain In Love and made dumplings.
Now, fair warning: our dumplings were not the same as in the book, and probably not nearly as tasty. We tried a few different techniques, one being the kind my mom used to make with her dad, and a recipe in which I made my own dough and failed pretty miserably. My point being, if you’re looking for the recipe from the book, this is unfortunately not the blog post for you because we were largely unsuccessful in keeping our recipe canon. But, we did spend the night as a family forging memory via food, and really that’s the heart of it.
So I hope you try to make these dumplings with your family and friends. Because no matter how good your dumplings taste in the end, you’ll always have the memory of coming around a table and working to create a meal. Plus, if they’re really bad, you can order out and support a local business!
For the filling:
1 lb of ground chicken or pork (we did a batch of both because my parents and I prefer pork, but my sister doesn’t eat it)
3 cups chopped cilantro
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tbsp grated ginger
1 egg white
2 chopped green onions
salt to taste
For the wrappers:
Just get store-bought my friend. I tried. I really tried to make my own wrappers. I failed. Miserably. Honestly, we used wonton wrappers which is definitely not what they do in This is My Brain in Love, but those ones turned out a lot better. You can also find regular dumpling wrappers.
In a bowl, add ground meat, soy sauce, ginger, egg white, green onion, pepper, five-spice, salt, and mix together well. Then add the chopped cilantro, incorporating well.
Once the filling is ready, place a dumpling wrapper on the top portion of your palm, laying it across your fingers for easier handling. Lay about a tablespoon of filling inside your dumpling wrapper. However, this amount depends upon how large your dumpling wrappers are and how much filling you like inside your dumplings so feel free to adjust. Dip your finger in water and run it along one edge of your wrapper to help the dough adhere. Then pleat your dumpling. (Honestly, there are tons of videos online that can teach you how to wrap dumplings better than I could, and we experimented a lot. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it! I tried a rose pleat that I saw online and it turned out really well!)
There are plenty of ways to cook dumplings! In This is My Brain in Love, there are dumplings that are pre-boiled and then pan-fried at the dumpling cart. We did two methods, steaming and pan-fried. The pan-fried turned out MUCH better, so I’ll explain that one.
In a skillet, heat some oil. Once the pan is hot, add your dumplings allowing them to fry until the bottom is golden brown. Then add about a quarter inch’s worth of water to the pan. The amount will depend upon the size of your pan and how many dumplings you are frying. Cover pan with a lid until the water is evaporated, approximately five minutes.
Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce!
Our creative dumpling wrappings. Traditional? No. Tasty? Yes.