Good Things Come in Small Packages

Universally adored, dumplings are as diversified as Canada’s population and can fit into any restaurant's all-star lineup. With dumplings on the menu, your customers are one bite away from a series of world flavours providing a big win for your team.

With the rise of ethnic-influenced street eats, dumplings are breaking out as the new versatile dish that crosses many cultures, from the traditional Asian-influenced dumpling and soup dumplings to more adventurous takes with innovative, spicy fillings.

James Keppy, National Culinary Manager Foodservice at Maple Leaf, grew up eating two types of dumplings. “The first would be the flour, baking powder and milk variety dropped and cooked in a chicken or beef stew. The other would be the pierogi.” Other dumplings were not on his radar, he adds.

Dumplings, a typically humble offering, can take so many forms. Keppy suggests trying out-of-the-box fillings: cheeseburger, lemon chicken or Korean pork. “The traditional flavours will always be favourites, but customers will be intrigued by chef-inspired offerings.” 

A switch hitter

Easily mix and match doughs and fillings to create signature dumplings to reflect the style and personality
of your operation. Remember to switch between cuisines – think an Asian dumpling wrapper with pulled pork, roasted jalapeño and corn filling or a chickpea and paneer tikka masala with dropped cilantro yogurt flour dumpling.

“Restaurants that have trained cooks creating signature dishes can add ‘from scratch’ dumplings to the menu,” says Keppy. “Often customers order products that they don’t make at home and dumplings fall into that category. But, it’s important to tell the story on the menu so customers appreciate the value of your ‘house-made’ offerings.”

He reminds operators that fillings for dumplings are most likely part of your existing mise en place like Maple Leaf’s industry leading RWA (Raised Without Antibiotics) pork and poultry products and plant-based proteins. The flavour combinations are limitless without an increase in pantry items.

The bases are loaded

Changing positions on the menu from an appetizer to a small plate, small plate to side or even to dessert attracts attention and interest. Don’t forget your delivery and takeout menus.

“Operators should consider providing small plate dishes as they tend to have a higher average price compared to appetizers. These flexible dishes are being used to cater to snacking and social occasions,” says Technomic’s report on starters, small plates and sides.

Spicy flavours are still leading flavour trends, however independents are cashing in on Asian-specific flavour trends by offering an eclectic variety of ethnic flavours, according to Technomic’s latest Canadian Ethnic Food and Beverage Consumer Trend Report. The key is balancing authenticity and accessibility.

The go-ahead run

“For the past year, operators have been struggling to determine how they can balance increased costs from food and labour against having to raise menu prices.  Premade dumplings are quick for service and create a consistent product,” says Maple Leaf’s Chef Keppy.

This global team provides the flavour profiles your customers crave, while being light on your food cost budget. Rarely is a menu item such a well-rounded player. With dumplings on the menu, you’re sure to be in a league of your own.

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