Homemade Pork Dumplings Inspired by Turning Red

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homemade turning red dumplings

What’s Up, Hungry People

Today, we’re taking a culinary leap straight into the heart of “Turning Red” to recreate those drool-worthy dumplings that are as iconic as Mei’s transformation. If you’re ready to get your hands floured up and delve into some serious dumpling making, then you’re in the right place.

Remember the moment Mei turned into a giant red panda? That’s the level of hunger we’re talking about satisfying here. So, let’s get the kitchen steaming with a recipe that’s all about fun, flavor, and a touch of movie magic.

Coming of Age with Turning Red

Turning Red is a spirited and colorful animated film that dives into the life of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old girl with the quintessential task of balancing her budding adolescence with her dutiful obedience to her family.

Set against the backdrop of early-2000s Toronto, Mei’s story takes an unexpected turn when she discovers she inherits an ancient family quirk: transforming into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited or stressed. This magical mishap adds an extra layer of complexity to her already chaotic teenage life, filled with school pressures, friend groups, boy band crushes, and her family’s expectations.

The movie is a heartfelt exploration of heritage, personal identity, and the universal journey of growing up and finding one’s unique path, all while maintaining the bond with family and tradition.

Let’s Talk About the FOOD in Turning Red

In Turning Red, food plays a whimsical and comforting role, reflecting the rich cultural heritage and family-centric themes at the heart of the film. The streets of Toronto come alive with the sights and smells of various delectables that carry a sense of home and tradition. Among these, dumplings stand out as a culinary symbol of the shared family experience, representing the warmth of Mei’s heritage and the bond she shares with her mother while they cook together.

The film showcases an array of foods that stir up cravings and nostalgia, with dumplings being the standout star. They are meticulously pleated and cooked to perfection, a task Mei and her mother undertake with love and care. This delicious endeavor is not just about creating a meal; it’s about weaving family history and personal identity into each bite. The dumplings are more than just food; they are a labor of love, encapsulating the movie’s essence of family ties and self-discovery.


After the movie’s release, these scrumptious treats captured the imagination of fans worldwide, leading to a culinary trend where viewers sought to recreate the magic in their own kitchens. The overwhelming number of requests over on TikTok has made it clear: it’s time to put on an apron, grab some flour, and cook those dumplings, turning a movie snack into a global cooking moment.

making the dumplings from turning red

Here’s What You Need

  • Flour: The foundation of our dumplings, much like Mei’s love for her family is her grounding force.
  • Water: Binds our dough, as friendship binds the “Red Panda” crew together.
  • Ground Pork: The star of the show, as enticing as 4*Town’s latest hit.
  • Green Onions: Adds a burst of flavor, just like Mei bursts into her panda form.
  • Ginger: For that kick of excitement, reminiscent of Mei’s energetic group of friends.
  • Salted Cabbage: Brings a crunchy texture to the mix, like the dynamic streets of Toronto.
  • Shrimp Paste: It’s the secret ingredient that brings out the boldness, much like Mei’s hidden talents.
  • Sweet Dark Soy Sauce: Adds depth and sweetness, for those bittersweet coming-of-age moments.
  • Oyster Sauce: Ties the ingredients together, as the red thread of fate ties Mei to her ancestors.
  • Korean Chili Flakes: Spices things up, like a teenager’s life in the throes of change.
  • Quail Eggs: Small but mighty, these are the little details that make life (and dumplings) interesting.
  • Shaoxing Wine: An ode to tradition, much like the Lee family’s cherished customs.
  • Black Vinegar: For dipping and sharing, because life’s better with friends (and good sauce).
  • Napa Cabbage: Like Mei’s many layers, it’s a versatile player in our dumpling game.
  • Salt: Just a pinch, to bring out the full flavor of our culinary cast.
easy homemade dumplings

Let’s Cook

First, let’s get the salted cabbage going—think of it as laying down the base beat for your dumpling mixtape. Now for the dough: we want it as smooth as a 4*Town harmony. And for our filling, we’re looking for a mix so flavorful, it’s sure to be as memorable as Mei’s adventures through Toronto. Once you’ve got your filling marinated and your dough rolled out, it’s time to wrap these dumplings up like the tight-knit secrets of the Red Panda Club.

Cue the boiling water, it’s time for these dumplings to take the plunge—just like Mei diving into her family heritage. And don’t forget to cook them just right; after all, nobody likes a dumpling that’s lost its cool under pressure, right?

How the Wrap a Perfect Dumpling

  1. Roll Out the Dough: Begin with your homemade dumpling dough, rolled out into small circles. Think of it as your canvas for the savory artwork to come. The dough should be thin but not so thin that it tears when you’re working with it. If you’re feeling cheeky, pretend you’re spinning records at a DJ booth—except here, your beats are as round and flat as possible.
  2. Spoon the Filling: Place a small spoonful of filling in the center of each wrapper. Remember, it’s like packing for a weekend getaway—enough to sustain you but not so much that you can’t close the suitcase.
  3. Moisten the Edges: Dip your finger in water and run it along the edge of the dough. This step is crucial—it’s like the glue that keeps your secrets (a.k.a. the filling) from spilling out during cooking.
  4. Fold and Pinch: Now, bring the edges together above the filling, pinching them to seal and create a pleated pattern along the edge. It should look like the dumpling has a tight crimped hairstyle running along its spine. The key is to ensure there are no air pockets with the filling so that your dumpling doesn’t give you a soggy handshake when you bite into it.
  5. Cook with Confidence: Once your dumplings are wrapped and ready, they hit the boiling water until they’re cooked through and floating to the top like they’ve got all the answers.

Tips for Homemade Chinese Dumplings

  • Rolling Dumpling Dough: Aim for even thickness to ensure uniform cooking; too thin, and they may tear.
  • Squeezing Cabbage: Removing excess moisture from the cabbage is crucial; too much liquid can ruin the filling’s texture.
  • Marinating Filling: Let it sit; this melds flavors and makes for a tastier dumpling.
  • Filling Dumplings: Overstuffing is a common mistake—keep it moderate to prevent breakage.
  • Sealing Dumplings: A good seal keeps the filling in; practice makes perfect with the pinching technique.
  • Boiling Dumplings: Cook in batches to prevent crowding and sticking; they’re ready when they float.
  • Texture and Taste: Undercooking leaves them doughy; overcooking makes them mushy. Watch the pot and adjust as needed.
  • Serving Suggestion: Balance the richness of the dumplings with acidic black vinegar for a well-rounded flavor experience.
meilins dumplings turning red recipe

Wrapping things up, making dumplings from scratch is like giving a bear hug to your taste buds—comforting, fulfilling, and guaranteed to bring a smile. As we’ve seen, the magic is in the mix of simple ingredients coming together to create something that’s way more than the sum of its parts.

Just like Meilin Lee’s adventures through Toronto, it’s the journey through the recipe that makes the destination so rewarding. Gather ’round, Hungry People, and get those hands doughy. After all, every pleat in a dumpling is a new story to tell, and who knows, the next bite might just unleash your inner panda.

Making the Dumplings from Turning Red

The Starving Chef
Savor the classic taste of homemade pork dumplings with a flavorful twist of spices and textures.
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Appetizer, Fictional Feasts, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese, Movies
Servings 24 dumplings


For Dumplings

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ¼ cup water

For Pork Filling

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 green onions chopped to whites
  • 2 tablespoons ginger minced
  • 3 tablespoons salted cabbage instructions below
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 3 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • ½ tablespoon Korean chili flakes
  • 3 quail eggs or sub 1 regular egg
  • 3 tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons water for filling
  • 3 tablespoons black vinegar for serving

Salted Cabbage

  • 1 cup Napa cabbage finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt


  • Make the salted cabbage by finely mincing the cabbage and sprinkling the salt over the top. Mix lightly and let it rest while preparing the dumpling dough. Use a paper towel to squeeze out the moisture until almost no liquid comes out when squeezed. Set aside.
  • Prepare the dumpling dough by mixing the flour and warm water until a crumbly dough comes together. Then use your hands to further knead for about 10 minutes into a smooth ball of dough. Rest the dough under a damp towel while preparing the filling (the dough should soften, but will not rise), or at least one hour.
  • Mix together the ingredients for the pork filling until well combined. Allow to marinate flavors for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the pork mixture rests, roll out the dumpling dough ball into a tube shape then cut it into 12-16 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a dumpling wrapper about 5 inches round.
  • As you roll out the wrappers, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
  • Fill the wrappers with about 1-2 tablespoons of the pork mixture. Gently pull and stretch the dumpling dough so that it fully encases the filling. Use a finger dipped in water to wet the inside edges of the dough and then pinch the edges together to form a dumpling.
  • Boil the dumplings in batches for 3-5 minutes or until the pork filling is cooked through and the dumpling wrapper is lightly puffed up. Drain the dumplings.
  • Serve with a side of pork belly cabbage, unagi fried rice and a small bowl of black vinegar for dipping. Enjoy!
Keyword dumplings, pork
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