Making dumplings requires some dedication -- taking care to make a homemade filling, mastering the art of pleating, and steaming to tender perfection. When you (and your guests) put in such an effort, you want a high-quality dumpling wrapper.
The Times tasting panel met last week to taste dumpling skins from area supermarkets as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean grocery stores. All are available in the refrigerator section -- although, interestingly, not always in the same locations (check the dairy, cheese and prepared-food fridges). And finding the round dumpling, or gyoza, wrappers, as opposed to their square cousins (wonton wrappers), can be a challenge as well.
Joining me on the panel were assistant Food editor Betty Hallock, staff writers Charles Perry and Amy Scattergood, test kitchen director Donna Deane and test kitchen assistant Noelle Carter. We filled each with a mild pork filling and served them steamed, without a dipping sauce, to best experience the nuances of each wrapper.
The best wrappers were so delicate they were almost transparent. They were also the easiest to pleat around the filling. And, surprisingly, they didn't tear easily. One bite and the tender skin burst to reveal the juicy filling.
Of the nine wrappers we tasted, all were on the thick side -- except two. The thin, almost diaphanous, skins were the hands-down favorites, the Japanese Gyoza No Kawa brand and Dynasty, a Chinese-style brand widely available at Albertsons and Ralphs that was a surprisingly close second. The remaining seven were too thick for most tasters, although praised by those who liked dumplings with a bit more chew.
The dumpling skins are listed in order of the panel's preference:
1. Gyoza No Kawa (in Japanese). The hands-down winner had a great texture, was "nicely translucent" and "tender" but strong enough to hold the filling. At Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 398-2113; and other Mitsuwa locations. Package of 24, about $2.
2. Dynasty Gyoza/PotstickerWrappers. A close second with its delicate and tender skin, although it was more likely than the winner to tear beneath the weight of the filling. At Ralphs, Albertsons and select Bristol Farms. Package of 54, about $2.
3. Wing Hing Pot Sticker Wrapper. A thicker wrapper -- but with a delicate texture and a pleasant, "almost sweet" flavor. At Hong Kong Supermarket, 127 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 280-8888. Package of 36, about 90 cents.
4. Twin Dragon Gyoza Wrapper. A thick wrapper that was surprisingly delicate but with a slightly floury aftertaste. At 99 Ranch Market, 771 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 458-3399; and other 99 Ranch Market locations. Package of 44, about $1.20.
5. Hong Kong Gyoza/Dumpling Wrappers. A good, light flavor, but these had an overly chewy texture. At 99 Ranch Market, Hong Kong Supermarket and Galleria Market, 3250 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles ( Koreatown), (323) 733-3800. Package of 34, about $1.30.
6. Wyzen Pot Sticker Wrapper. The only wrapper with a distinctly sweet taste. It was deemed pleasant by several tasters, but others found the sweetness too dominant for the savory filling. At 99 Ranch Market and Hong Kong Supermarket. Package of 39, about $1.40.
7. Quon Yick Dumpling Skins. A thick, floury wrapper with "too much chew" and a rubbery aftertaste. At 99 Ranch Market and Hong Kong Supermarket. Package of 42, about $1.
8. Chinese Style Gyoza Potstickers (in Korean). So "unpleasantly thick" that it was difficult to chew, with a texture that overwhelmed the filling. At Galleria Market. Package of 44, about $1.20.
9. Sweet Rice Dumpling Skins (in Korean). A "rubbery texture" and aftertaste made this thick skin the least favorite among the tasters. At Galleria Market. Package of 18, about $1.50.
-- Jenn Garbee