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The Comfort Zone

After months of turmoil and stress, it’s time for a little comfort, and what could be more comforting than warm, delicious dumplings? Dumplings could very easily be considered the ultimate comfort food with their delicate pockets of meat and/ or vegetables. There’s a reason the word “dumpling” is a term of endearment. Be it pierogies, samosas, empanadas, potstickers, or even stuffed ravioli, it’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t have childhood memories of dumplings in some form.

“Dumplings are an amazing comfort food and they’re a really great cultural touchpoint,” said Clay Brunton, Executive Chef at Beets Hospitality Group. 

Brunton brought dumplings to the masses during the Catersource Conference & Tradeshow with his session “What’s in the Dumpling?” on the Culinary Experience Stage.

Always inspired by fresh ingredients, Brunton has taken on the challenge of creating boldly flavored, deeply satisfying, award-winning dishes in a wide range of culinary styles geared toward a banquet setting—with dumplings as part of that aesthetic.

During his session, Brunton demonstrated the preparation and cooking methods of three different dumpling styles. Below are his recipes: crab rangoons, pork and shrimp sui mai and chicken empanadas Visit for the third, chicken empanadas. Bon Appetit! 

Crab Rangoon

Yield: 200


6 lbs cream cheese, softened
2 ½ lbs red crabmeat or chopped imitation crab, drained and squeezed dry
1½ cups Worcestershire sauce
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup lemon juice
4 packs of 50 wonton wraps


  1. Place the crab meat, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice in a bowl.
  2. Stir to combine.

Ingredients for Paste

1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup water


  1. Mix to form paste

To Build Rangoon

  1. Place a wonton wrapper on a fl at surface. Brush the wonton with the paste and drop 2 teaspoons of the crab mixture into the center.
  2. Bring 2 opposite corners together in the middle of the wonton and pinch. Repeat with the other 2 corners and pinch to form a crown.
  3. At this point you can freeze them on sheet pans for up to two weeks.

To Cook Rangoon

  1. If the rangoon are frozen, fry the rangoon at 350º until the wontons are brown and crisp then transfer to the oven to heat through. If fresh, fry rangoon at 350º for 30 or 40 seconds. It doesn’t take long.
  2. Optional: Garnish with sweet chili sauce and green onion or chives.


Yield: 100

Ingredients for Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
6 oz  unsalted Butter
1 egg
¼ cup to ½ cup of cold water, adjust as needed to obtain a soft and smooth dough

Note: You have to do this dough in batches because the food processor wont cut the butter right if you put to much in.


  1. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.

  2. Add the butter and pulse to crumble

  3. Add the egg and the water (in small increments) and continue pulsing until dry, clumpy dough forms.

  4. Wrap and rest in refrigerator for an hour.

  5. Split the dough into 2 large balls and flatten slightly. Roll out dough to a thickness of about ¼ inch.  Cut dough in to disks.  I use size 65 of a matfer brand ring cutter.  If you don’t use them right away, stack disks, wrap them and store up to two days in the fridge or up to a week in the freezer.

Ingredients for Filling

4 lb  boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced
2 bay leaves
5 T olive oil
2 white onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded, chopped
6 T tomato paste
4 T smoked paprika
2 T dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and sear in hot pan.  Stir in all the other ingredients except the cheese.  Bring to a simmer and cook until chicken is tender and the liquid is thick and saucy.

  2. Remove bay leaves

  3. Cool filling on sheet pan.

  4. When filling is cool incorporate the cheese.

To Build Empanadas

  1. Roll the disk of dough a little thinner and place a spoonful of the filling on the middle of each disk of dough.
  2. To seal the empanadas, fold the dough over and press the edges then pick up the empanada, curl and pinch along the edge to seal.

  3. For best results, I recommend refrigerating for at least 30 minutes before baking – this also helps them seal better and prevents the filling from leaking out.

To Cook Empanadas

  1. Pierce with a fork and brush them with egg wash.

  2. Bake the empanadas at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Pork and Shrimp Sui Mai

Yield: 100

Ingredients for Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup hot water
1 tsp salt


  1. Mix flour and salt into a bowl. Slowly add in water while mixing. Bring everything together into a rough ball with your hands.
  2. Transfer the dough on a working surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Form into a ball and place in a lightly floured bowl. Cover tightly with a cling film and rest for 1 hour.
  3. Cut dough in half and roll out very thin.
  4. Using a ring mold cut the dough into 2½-inch wide circles.

Note: You can also use 2 packages of wonton wrappers as an alternative.

Ingredients for Filling

3 T canola oil
5 lbs ground pork
2½ lbs chopped shrimp
25 shiitake mushrooms
7 green onions, chopped
7 tsp ginger, minced
¾ cup oyster sauce
7 tsp sesame oil
3 T granulated sugar


  1. Remove stems from shiitakes and discard.
  2. Pulse in food processor until minced.
  3. Saute in canola oil until cooked.
  4. Add all ingredients to a bowl. Mix well.

Ingredients for Paste

1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup water


  1. Mix to form paste

Ingredients for Dipping Sauce

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
¾ cup water
3 T lime juice
2 T Sriracha
3 T cornstarch


  1. Mix sauce ingredients.
  2. Bring to a simmer until it thickens slightly.

To Build Sui Mai

  1. To wrap the sui mai, place 1 wonton wrapper in the palm of your hand. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper.
  2. Bring two opposite corners toward each other and press gently to adhere them to filling.
  3. Repeat with remaining 2 corners to form a little cup around the filling, gently squeezing to hold wrapper in place. 

To Cook Sui Mai

  1. Place sui mai in steamer and cook for 7 minutes or until done.
  2. Garnish with minced carrot and green onion.

Amber Kispert

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of...