Aside from perseverance and practice, there is one other weapon to use your dumpling game to the next level: a small dumpling rolling pin. Sometimes called a Chinese rolling pin, it’s like a regular rolling pin, but shorter and thinner. When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago, I went into a restaurant supply store and came across an exhibition of mini rollers in width, length and shape, from thin dowels to those with tapered ends. I picked a few to bring home and try.
I then learned what I wish I had learned years ago. A shorter and thinner rolling pin makes a big difference. The main improvement was in the handling –It gave me so much more control over the roll than an unwieldy large rolling pin and made maneuvering easier with one handand free the other hand to turn the dough. I was able to make dumpling wrappers that were the round, thin shape I wanted, as well as thinner around the edges than the center.
The dowel in action!
Dumpling rolling pins are usually about 9 to 12 inches long and of varying widths. The thinnest I own is only ½ inch in diameter, but my favorite is 1 inch thick and 9 inches long. The width you choose may depend on the size of your hands and what feels most comfortable for you. To start with, I recommend a 1 inch diameter roller that is about 10 inches long.
These small rolling pins can be bought in Asian kitchen stores and online. However, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, a simple dowel from the hardware store is also suitable. Look for a round dowel that is about ¾ – 1 “thick and ask it to cut it to 10” in length. Make sure you sand and oil it before using it for the first time.
Once you have your little rolling pin, it can be used for other projects that involve working with small pieces of dough. I also use mine to roll dough for Char Siu Bao, Mochi, Tortillas, Empanadas, and Hand cake. Outside of the batter, small rolling pins can be used as muddlers twice as often as they are the perfect size and shape for chopping up fruits and herbs for cocktails. I also use mine to smash things in the kitchen, like pie crust graham crackers or ice cream.
A smaller rolling pin is arguably the most important tool in your dumpling arsenal and will make a huge difference in improving your wrapper rolling skills – it did for me.
Partial excerpt from TO ASIA, WITH LOVE by Hetty McKinnon. Copyright 2020 by Hetty McKinnon. Published by Prestel, an impression from Penguin Random House. Reprinted with permission.