Dumpling Digest: Tasting the Rainbow, Part 3
Get your Instagram ready, it's time to meet the 🌈 🥟 dump-fluencers. (I'll keep workshopping that name, promise.)
Welcome to Above the Fold, a free newsletter all about dumplings and the people who make them. Like what you see? Subscribe and it’ll come straight to your inbox twice a month (and sometimes more)!
Before diving into the task at hand this week—more rainbow dumplings, naturally—I’m excited to share that Above the Fold was featured in a recent installment of Substack’s What to Read series! To learn a little bit more about yours truly and the mission behind this newsletter, check it out below. (And if that interview brought you here, welcome to the land of the dumpling nerds. We’re so happy to have you.)
So far this month, we’ve explored the high-profile restaurants that have mastered multi-colored soup dumplings, har gow, and pot stickers, as well as small businesses specializing in everything from rainbow empanadas to king mandu.
Today, it’s time to check out a third population of rainbow dumpling pros: The bloggers and Instagrammers working technicolor magic with powders and veggie purees, a.k.a. the rainbow dump-fluencers. Has a nice ring to it, right? No? Oh well, let’s get into it.
🌈 Linda Miller Nicholson, Salty Seattle
As early as 2016, Nicholson was using vegetable purees and condiments like harissa to transform pasta dough into stuffed works of art—the earliest evidence of which appears to be this groovy rainbow ravioli, created for AllRecipes after Nicholson “developed this technique as a way to sneak healthy veggies into her son's diet.”
Since then, Nicholson has published a book—Pasta, Pretty Please—and continued to hone her mastery of rainbow pasta dough. Here are a couple of favorite creations:
Inception ravioli (click through for a video on how it’s made):
Cute striped bottoni filled with braised greens and cheese:
There are many, many more where these came from on Nicholson’s Instagram (including, even, rainbow raviolis designed to resemble condoms). And if you want to try your hand at rainbow pasta-making without having to measure and knead the dough yourself, she sells it! Visit Salty Seattle’s site to order rainbow pasta dough ($60 for 12 servings’ worth, plus shipping).
🌈 Brendan Pang, Bumplings
In 2018, Brendan Pang posted one of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen: This 32-part gradient grid of hand-dyed dumplings, shaped so precisely they appear to have been molded from clay.
Brendan is an Australian chef and MasterChef Australia alum who draws on his Chinese and Mauritian heritage to make all manner of dumplings (among other delicious dishes). He has since channeled his dumpling prowess into a mobile dumpling kitchen, called Bumplings1, which operates out of an Airstream trailer in Perth, as well as a cookbook, called This Is a Book About Dumplings.
The book devotes an entire chapter to colorful dumplings in flavors like chile crab (with blue wrappers), miso roasted eggplant (with purple wrappers), and curried beef (yellow wrappers): “I truly believe you eat with your eyes, and for me the enjoyment starts when something that looks delicious catches your eye—before it’s even hit your palate,” he writes in the chapter’s intro.
Bonus pic: This ombre dumpling Christmas tree 🤯
🌈 Erin Boukall, Culinary Calgary
Around the time that I first spotted Brendan Pang's work, I also noticed that of Erin Boukall, a culinary instructor and blogger based in—you guessed it—Calgary, who started tinkering early on with vegetable juice as well as natural dyes and powders from Suncore Foods (more on them below) and Rawnice.
Check out this neatly labeled lineup of doughs and what was used to color them…
…as well as this rainbow dumpling circle…
…and these funky folds!
🌈 Mei Yee, nm_meiyee
Everything Mei Yee makes (typically elaborate baked goods) is an edible work of art, and these dumplings are no different. Yee is a brand ambassador for Suncore Foods, a company launched in 2016 that specializes in “Supercolor” plant-based powders made from ingredients like taro yam, blue spirulina, and ebony carrots, some of which were used for the below dumplings. (Click through for a video; the recipe for these dumplings can be found in the caption).
What makes these dumplings all the more impressive is that they use a crystal dumpling dough (the style used in har gow), which is incredibly delicate to work with. It’s also very satisfying to watch the pastel, uncooked dumplings deepen in hue once they’ve steamed (jump to 2:04 for the big reveal).
If you’re not ready to commit to an upwards-of-$20 bag of powder, Suncore offers sampler packs—mine just arrived in the mail last week, and I’m planning to use it to make multi-colored pierogi.
🌈 Christine Wong, Conscious Cooking (COOKING CLASS ALERT!)
Sunday, September 26th is National Dumpling Day! While I tend not to put too much stock into national food holidays as they’re typically just marketing ploys, it was TMI Foods, a.k.a. the holding company behind Twin Marquis, that petitioned this holiday into being in 2015. Twin Marquis makes the best store-bought dumpling wrappers out there—they’re the ones of choice for Mei Mei and countless others—so basically, what I’m saying is I am fully on board with National Dumpling Day.
Which brings us to Christine Wong, a blogger and extremely advanced dumpling-maker (see: above) who frequently teaches dumpling workshops—I took an awesome crystal dumpling one from her last spring. She’s teaching one such workshop in honor of National Dumpling Day this coming Saturday, September 25, where participants will learn how to make dumpling wrappers from scratch as well as how to color them with natural dyes. Bonus: 20% of proceeds (tickets are $30) will be donated to support to this fund set up by Local Roots NYC.
In addition to those tied-dyed stunners above, Christine also created these autumnal dumplings, so she very much knows what she’s talking about.
Did I debate including Brendan in the first newsletter about trend-setting restaurants? Yes! But his rainbow dumplings are more tied to his online presence and less to his restaurant, which came later. Potato-potahto, honestly, but in case anyone else overthinks anything as much as I do, now you know.