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Making dumplings is a committee affair. It's a task best executed by many hands, surrounded by the staccato of competing voices, techniques being criticized, children underfoot.

Assembly lines make quick work of the dough, which is stretched and pulled, tucked over fillings and stockpiled for a roiling pot of water. Then, finally, the end result is devoured by eager mouths, one after another, seeing who could consume the most, signifying an abundant new year.

Like tamales in Latino households or lefse to Norwegians, dumplings are a food that signifies a family celebration. These foods are usually made by grandmas and aunties, the best ones often from a closely held recipe passed down only to select descendants. Dumplings, which represent fortune and prosperity, are especially significant in Chinese New Year celebrations, which this year, the year of the Dragon, begins on Feb. 10.

For Peter Bian and Linda Cao, both children of Chinese immigrants, the dumpling experience was far different when the holiday landed during the pandemic.

Cao's parents had flown home to Beijing to celebrate Chinese New Year in February 2020. The monthlong celebration filled with traditions of food and family visits collided with what would become a global pandemic. They ended up staying, and remain there to this day.

Bian and Cao were in their condo kitchen, far from the clatter of mahjong tiles and the promise of red envelopes stuffed with cash — a tradition that symbolizes good wishes and luck for the year ahead. There they stuffed, folded and tucked dumplings to freeze and hand out to friends who were also craving connection.

They used Bian's family recipe, and worked together.

"Growing up I was always the one to roll out all the dumpling skins. I was never good enough to get promoted to wrapping," Cao said. She got the hang of it as the two became a team, celebrating the Chinese New Year in isolation. That evening led to the creation of an Instagram-famous business that would serve as an example of the good that came out of those dark, lonely days: Saturday Dumpling Co.

Now, just in time for Chinese New Year, the popular pop-up business is finally taking the party public: Three varieties of their dumplings are coming to the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops ($10.99 for an eight-pack of dumplings).

Peter Bian and Linda Cao, co-founders of Saturday Dumpling Co., are launching their dumplings for the first time in the Wedge Co-ops.
Peter Bian and Linda Cao, co-founders of Saturday Dumpling Co., are launching their dumplings for the first time in the Wedge Co-ops.

Alex Kormann

From shared roots to a new future

Saturday Dumpling Co. began as an opportunity to connect with the family-packed holiday they both experienced in China, before moving to the States with their families as children. The couple led strikingly parallel lives before being introduced by a mutual friend years later.

Both were born in China, to parents who lived through the cultural revolution and moved to the countryside to work.

"During that time, they lived mostly on rice and porridge and cornmeal," said Bian. "Chinese New Year was the one time they would have protein. Two boiled eggs and a little bit of meat inside a dumpling — that stretches the meat."

Life would change for both families as their fathers each came to the United States, working in academia before being able to bring their families to their new home country. Both Bian and Cao also have younger siblings who were born here, expanding the families beyond China's one-child rule.

Bian lived in Dinkytown, where his father worked at the University of Minnesota. Cao grew up in family housing near the U's St. Paul campus. Their Chinese New Year celebrations changed with the new family geography, but Bian and Cao both hold all the family memories and traditions closely. Instead of traveling to family homes for a month of traditional celebrations, they would cram as much as possible into the weekend with friends and found family.

The couple craved those boisterous gatherings during the stay-at-home orders of the pandemic, and channeled their energy into the dumpling care packages that were delivered to a small group of friends.

"It was during that time when everyone was just absolutely sick of cooking at home," said Cao. Their friends marveled at the tender dumpling skin and flavor-packed pork and Napa cabbage stuffing.

"Everyone kept saying that we should consider selling them," said Bian. He'd already been toying with the idea of some kind of food business. In 2019, he'd taken a break from his day job and got a bonus year off thanks to the pandemic. Cao was working for Target in branding and marketing.

Saturday Dumpling Co. was born, and the business was built through Instagram. During those early days, local chefs found their work and offered support. "Doug Flicker [of Bull's Horn] was an early customer," Bian recalled. Soon Sameh Wadi (World Street Kitchen) gave them advice on upgrading from a cottage business to a full-time business. Ann Kim evolved from a fan to a friend. Collaborations came naturally, including a birria dumpling they made with Nixta's Kate and Gustavo Romero.

Now, every Saturday there are lines out the door of their north Minneapolis commissary kitchen, Dots Gray. Fans swap food stories while waiting to pick up their orders, which are placed online every Wednesday. Sometimes the menu expands to include hot-food specials, like a scallion pancake-wrapped breakfast burrito, congee, golden broth, sausage sliders and more.

Those busy days mean even more during the Chinese New Year. Instead of gathering only with family, "we'll get together either with Chinese friends around here or just introducing our close network of friends to Chinese food," said Bian.

The table will be filled with traditional foods: longevity noodles, soft eggs mixed with tomatoes, another filled with verdant chives, and always so many dumplings — simply boiled or pan-fried.

And even though they've grown beyond the red envelope days of childhood, there is still a giddiness of digging into the abundant gifts of the food and the small business they've built.

Longevity noodles signify a long life.
Longevity noodles signify a long life.

Taste more

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, and Asian cultures celebrate the new year with their own traditional foods. Here are some restaurants to visit to taste more.

Hai Hai: Chef/co-owner Christina Nguyen's family celebrates Tet, Vietnam's new year. At her Northeast restaurant, guests can order a Box of Joy, filled with traditional dishes eaten during Tet and receive a little prize. 2121 University Av. NE., Mpls.,

Rainbow Chinese Restaurant: Chef/owner Tammy Wong is known for her incredible turnip cakes — another traditional food. Order them for takeout or dine-in at her Eat Street restaurant. 2739 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.,

Asia Mall in Eden Prairie is filled with Asian-owned businesses. Join the festivities every Sunday in February with music, a lion dance, red envelope giveaways and more. Check their Facebook page for more information. 12160 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie,

Saturday Dumpling Co. celebrates the Chinese New Year with piles of dumplings and more traditional dishes at a feast of their own making.
Saturday Dumpling Co. celebrates the Chinese New Year with piles of dumplings and more traditional dishes at a feast of their own making.

Joy Summers

Pork and Napa Cabbage Dumplings

Makes 50 to 75 dumpling.

This is the classic dumpling recipe from Saturday Dumpling Company's Peter Bian and Linda Cao. Note: Find dumpling wrappers, also called gyoza or pot sticker wrappers, refrigerated in the produce section of most supermarkets. If you can't find Napa Cabbage, feel free to substitute an equal amount of chopped green cabbage, salad mix or your favorite vegetable roughly chopped into fine pieces.

For the dumplings:

• 1 lb. ground pork

• 5 tbsp. water

• 5 tbsp. soy sauce

• 1 tbsp. neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

• 1 tbsp. sesame oil

• 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

• 1/4 tsp. sugar

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. white pepper

• 1 to 2 c. Napa cabbage, roughly chopped (see Note)

• 1/4 c. scallion, chopped

• 1 pkg. dumpling gyoza wrappers

For the sauce:

• 3 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar

• 1 tbsp. light soy sauce

• 1 tsp. garlic

• 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

• 1 tsp. chopped scallions

• Your favorite chili oil, to taste


To prepare the filling: Add water, soy sauce, oils, white pepper and ginger to the ground pork. Mix in a clockwise fashion to emulsify the fat in the pork with the liquid. The result should look like a sticky meatloaf consistency.

Add in the sugar and salt, and mix again in a clockwise fashion. The filling will tighten up, this is natural and will help with wrapping and the final mouthfeel of the dumpling filling.

Add in the roughly chopped Napa cabbage and scallions. (At this point the dumpling filling is ready for wrapping. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to a day.)

To wrap dumplings: There are many ways to wrap dumplings; we prefer using the one-pleat method, made by squeezing the wrapping around 1 to 3 teaspoons of filling from both sides and meeting in the middle to create one crease.

Alternatively, you can also simply fold the dumpling wrapper over the filling to create a flat dumpling with no creases. If you're a pro, you can try a multi-pleated dumpling. Start by folding the bottom edge of the dumpling wrapper over the filling and meeting the top edge of the wrapper. Next, from the right side, start making pleats from the far edge into the middle. Repeat this process from the left until the dumpling is completely sealed.

To prepare the sauce: Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and scallions. (If you're looking for a chunkier sauce, reduce the amount of liquid and add in more of the aromatics.) Add in the appropriate amount of heat to your liking with your favorite chili oil.

To cook the dumplings: We love boiled dumplings, the most traditional way to eat dumplings, especially during Chinese New Year.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in 10 to 15 dumplings, keep the heat on high. When the water returns to a boil, add in one cup of cold water. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil, add in another cup of cold water. When the pot returns to a boil for a third time, and the dumplings are floating, they're ready to serve and eat.