How to make dumplings like a product designer.

When someone asks me “If you can eat one menu for the rest of your life, what would that be?” One the of my first answers would be “dumplings”.

My love for dumplings was shared amongst my colleagues in the office last year, when I brought dumplings to the office on my birthday. Our Berlin office is the best place to share my dumplings because it’s a multinational office with more than 10 nationalities. So the feedback for my dumpling project would be unbiased and distributed.

Figure 1 Freshly made raw dumplings with pork and leeks stuffing.

Prototype zero: Not knowing my audiences’ preference, I decided to create the first set of dumplings with the conventional “Japanese Gyoza” method with the Chinese “pork and leeks” stuffing.

Ingredients:

Dumpling skin: flour and water (2:1)

Stuffing: Pork + leek/green onions + soy sauce

Method:

  1. Fry in flat not stick pan with a small amount of plant-based oil for 2–3 mins.
  2. Pour ~2 cups of water into the pan and cover the pan with a lid until the water is reduced to dry.
Step 1: Place your dumplings in the pan with plant-based oil.
Step 2: Pour water into the pan and close the lid for all dumplings to be fully cooked.

The output are as below. Dumplings looked almost brown and crisp on the bottom but soft on the outside. My favorite dumpling dipping sauce is the simple soy sauce + vinegar (2:1) with thin slices of ginger.

Figure 2 After pan fried all dumplings

Test 0 Results:

Likes

  • Received 90% positive reviews.
  • The stuffing taste great!
  • Nice texture and tastes really well with the dip.
  • Dumpling skin is very thin but strong enough to whole the stuffing without breaking.

Wishes

  • A few people wish it was less soggy and more crispy

Problem

  • Temperature needs to be monitored for the dumplings because you want the stuffing to be cooked without burning the dumpling skin.
  • When pouring water into the pan, you need to swirl the pan to make sure dumplings don’t stick to the pan.

After gathering feedback from my birthday I brought my 1st prototype of dumplings on my colleague’s up and coming birthday 3 weeks later.

Prototype 1: what is different ?

  1. How might we make our dumplings less soggy and more crispy without burning them?
  • Solutions : 1. Increase frying time with oil and reduce water. 2. Dip folded dumplings in the flour before frying.

Results for Prototype 1:

  • Dumplings are less soggy
  • Positive feedback on the taste as usual.

Problem:

  • The current method still sticks to the pan and needs to be monitored closely.
  • When packing dumplings the night before, they stick to each other if it is placed too closely. Hence, some dumplings were broken in shape and the stuffing is revealed when I brought them to the office.

At this point, we know that these dumplings taste great and the texture is acceptable by multicultural standards. No problem with our dip sauce. However, we need to find a way to pack our dumplings nicely without breaking its shape before it arrives to the office.

Prototype 2:

How might we make our dumplings unstick to the pan, but soft enough on the outside?

Solution:

  1. Add flour to the water before pouring them into the pan. (voted for this)
  2. Add broth instead plain water. (This would not make too much of a difference)
  3. Loose the water and only fry them in oil.( The end result will be too crispy.)

How much flour needs to be added to the water?

Flour and water mixture to add to the frying pan.

I started testing prototype 2.1 with 3 teaspoons of flour and 1 cup water.

Result: It adds a huge flour layer on the bottom of the dumplings and took twice as long to fry.

So I decided to adjust the portion to 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon water for prototype 2.2

As a result, our dumplings are not stuck to the bottom anymore and it adds a thin and crispy layer in the bottom just enough to feel the right texture for gyoza.

After the flour is bottom is cooked, it doesn’t stick to the pan and you can remove all dumplings at once.

Voila!

We finally had a solution for non-stick bottom dumplings!

Dumplings prototype 2

Summary:

Dumplings are referred to as a symbol of team work. You need to create a thin enough skin that it cooks through the meat in a short time but strong enough to hold your stuffing together, which is the reason I like to bring dumplings on my colleagues birthdays. It symbolizes our strong team work.

However, as a product designer, the crucial part is the ability to receive feedback and understand your audiences preference. You always need to know which audience you are designing your products for. For this reason, different cultures have different forms of dumplings. They come with different user experience, but they are all made of similar components.

What’s you ultimate favorite menu?