Food & Drinkrecipes

Szechuan Wontons in Chili Oil + Lotus Root Chips from Hey There, Dumpling!

by Grace Bonney

This summer when Julia, Sasha, Kelli and I were in Los Angeles for book photo shoots, we got to say a quick hello to Kenny Lao of NYC’s beloved (and sadly now closed) Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. For about four years straight, I was a bonafide Rickshaw Dumpling devotee. A super-fan. A little bit of a dumpling obsessor, if I’m being honest. The Rickshaw Dumpling food truck used to park right outside of my old apartment in Park Slope and every weekend I would line up not once, but twice, to get lunch and then second lunch. I loved them that much.

Now that Kenny has moved on to new food projects and moved to the west coast, I’ve been waiting for his next project. And thankfully, that project is a brand new cookbook devoted to delicious dumplings. Hey There, Dumpling (Abrams 2015) is basically a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about dumplings. It’s also one of the most adorable book layouts I’ve seen in a long time (well done, Sebit Min). The book contains 100 recipes for dumplings, detailed instructions on how to fold six types of dumplings and lots of great ideas for dipping sauces and sides to go with your dumpling feast. Last week, when I was in the city for a few more photo shoots, Julia and our good friend Larry spent an entire day in the kitchen cooking dumplings from this book. The result was an incredible dumpling feast that night and a freezer full of dumplings for meals this winter. If you love dumplings as much as I do, but have been intimidated to make them, give this book a shot. Kenny and co-writer Genevieve Ko did an excellent job of making the process approachable and fun.

Today, I’m excited to share the recipe for Szechuan Wontons in Chili Oil + Lotus Root Chips! These remind me of my favorite Szechuan spots in NYC and are guaranteed to warm you up on a cold fall or winter day. Click here to check out the book and pick up a copy online and read on for the recipes after the jump! xo, grace

Photographs by Lucy Schaeffer

Excerpted from Hey There, Dumpling (Abrams 2015) by Kenny Lao and Genevieve Ko.

Szechuan Wontons in Chili Oil

Makes about 45 dumplings

These slippery little suckers are lip smacking! This is one of those dishes that you crave from Szechuan restaurants, and now you can make it at home. Wear a bib or take your shirt off for these. I can never manage to keep the garlicky and numbingly spicy sauce from dripping onto my clothes while I’m shoveling these into my mouth.

1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
¾ cup (180 ml) peanut oil
¼ cup (60 ml) coconut oil
¼ cup (10 g) finely chopped dried Chinese red chiles
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt

1 pound (455 g) fatty (80/20) ground pork
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup (60 ml) Chicken Consommé (page 51) or canned lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (1-pound/455-g) package round dumpling wrappers

1. Make the chunky chili oil: Coarsely grind the peppercorns and fennel seeds using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Heat the peanut and coconut oils in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chiles, garlic, and peppercorn mixture. As soon as the chiles turn a darker shade of red, remove the pan from the heat. Let the oil cool completely, then season with salt to taste. The oil can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

2. Make the dumplings: In a large bowl, combine the pork, egg, wine, sesame oil, salt, and ginger. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It’s best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small. Add the consommé and fold it in with your hands until just incorporated.

3. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. The filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it’s chilled.

4. When you’re ready to cook, follow the wrapping instructions on pages 22 to 29, using the tortellini fold (see below). Boil the dumplings in salted water until the skins wrinkle and the filling cooks through, about 6 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to a large bowl and add the chili oil. Gently toss until the dumplings are well-coated. Divide among serving dishes and pour the chili oil from the bowl on top.

If you’re serving these to guests with different levels of heat tolerance, pass the chili oil at the table instead. That way, everyone can get the dose they want.

Tortellini Fold

Hot, hot sauce clings to the fold. The Italians got pasta from the Chinese and now I’m borrowing back their stuffed-noodle fold. I love this for Szechuan Wontons in Chile Oil!

Start with the Half-Moon (below). Dab a little water on the two corners, then fold one side to the center Fold the other side to the center. Press the ends together to seal. The filled center will plump up like a belly with the edges framing it like a bonnet.

Half Moon

Let’s start with the simplest fold, which is best for boiling dumplings, when you don’t need them to sit up in a pan.

Fold at dotted line.

Keep sealing the edges of the wrapper, moving out from the center, until they’re sealed to the ends.

Make sure the edges are really stuck together.

Lotus Root Chips

Makes 8 to 12 snack servings

What’s fantastic about these “chips” is that they bake in the oven. No messy deep-frying! Woohoo! The other thing about them is how pretty they look. Lotus roots are starchy vegetables run through with little tunnels. When you slice them paper-thin (with a mandoline, if you have one), you see these beautiful patterns. Just try not to down them all before you get them to the table!

1 lotus root (12 ounces/340 g), peeled and sliced crosswise as thinly as possible
Cold water, as needed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon chili powder (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cover the lotus root slices with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain well and pat dry between paper towels. Dry the bowl and return the lotus root slices. Add the olive and sesame oils and toss until the lotus is evenly coated. Toss in the salt, pepper, and chili powder, if using.

3. Divide the slices between the prepared baking sheets and arrange in single layers.

4. Bake until golden brown and crispy, 15 to 18 minutes. When you check them, they may be a bit soft in the center, but they will crisp up as they cool down. Transfer the lotus root slices to a wire rack to cool completely. The chips can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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  • Those look delicious! I only wish I could buy lotus root nearby in the Hudson Valley, I love it so.
    Grace–any Ulster County sources you’ve heard of?

    • Malia

      We tend to drive up to Albany for ingredients like this (some great Asian markets up there). I’ve actually seen it at the High Falls co-op though!


  • This looks amazing! And so easy to veganize, something that’s super important to me as a vegan POC. It can be hard to find resources that are authentic but don’t require immense substitution to replicate.

    Grace, I also want to give you and your team a huge shout out for featuring so many makers, artists and entrepreneurs of color lately. You’ve elevated Design Sponge from a site I’d check once or twice a week to one that I check daily, usually multiple times so I don’t miss any of your amazing content. Thank you for acknowledging the depth and diversity of this community; I hope other design sites and the world start to take your lead!

  • I love dumplings. I was born and bought up in Hong Kong which is where I think I developed my passion for dumplings. I can’t wait to get hold of this book and add some more dumpling recipes to my