The pan sizzles as Emily Lippe cooks the stuffing for breakfast burrito dumplings.
A group of people, a mix of both friends and strangers, are at Lippe’s house on a recent Friday evening to enjoy one of her dumpling parties, a tradition Lippe started when she was in high school to bring together her friends and make new ones. “I get to test new recipes and have new friends,” Lippe says.
Lippe typically makes two dumpling flavors at any given dumpling party, but on this particular Friday she is going big and doing four flavors instead: jackfruit BBQ; chicken-pesto; pastrami and kimchi; and, last but not least, the breakfast burrito.
The party is held in the small backyard of her Pacific Grove home, at a long table under twinkling lights and a big pink sign that reads: Miss Lippe’s Dumpling Party.
During the day, Lippe works for a software company, but at night she’s in her kitchen making dozens of dumplings. Among her recipes are pizza, mushroom and Oreo-strawberry dumplings – not your typical dumpling stuffings, for sure. Lippe doesn’t know how many recipes she has but they all start with asking herself: “What are the foods that I love?” For example, Lippe says she loves pastrami sandwiches so she deconstructed the ingredients and then played with the ratios until she got the right flavor and consistency. Most of the time, she says, garlic – a lot of garlic – is the secret ingredient. (Lippe’s favorite dumpling is currently Thai basil.)
This particular dumpling party is for fun, but people can also schedule a custom dumpling party at their own home or business, and get a private dumpling-making lesson, followed by a dumpling feast. These events start at $360 for six people.
It’s a concept that participants love, and also won Lippe first place (which comes with $5,000) in the Main Street category of the 2022 Startup Monterey Bay business competition, hosted by the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay.
Lippe’s love for dumplings started at an early age. She remembers going to Lucky Chinese Food and getting Ling Ling dumpling samples at Costco. “It was an easy and fun food to have around the house,” she explains.
At the party, Lippe demonstrates different ways to fold the dumplings. Some look like mini turnovers, small burritos or star shapes. Then the crowd – armed with homemade and commercial dumpling wrappers, water (to seal the dumplings) and stuffing – starts making their own. It is a trial-and-error process from guesstimating how much stuffing to add to making sure the dumpling is sealed.
Skills aside, the party has a laid-back and festive vibe. Newbies learn from more skilled dumpling makers, and people joke about “ugly” dumpling shapes. Overall it is a judgment-free environment where people from different backgrounds and interests get together to fold – and then eat – dumplings.
Kat Hardisty-Cranstone met Lippe when she was working as a barista in a coffee shop and soon scored an invite to a dumpling party. Hardisty-Cranstone says she’s met a lot of people through Lippe’s parties.
“Coming to her dumpling parties is one the biggest community builders in the Monterey area,” she says.
(Her favorites are Lippe’s Nutella-strawberry dumplings, which are deep-fried and have sugar on top.)
After about an hour of folding dozens of dumplings, the first cooked batches come out: deep-fried, crispy jackfruit BBQ dumplings that crunch with every bite, and pan-seared chicken-pesto with a soft top and golden brown bottoms that are somehow soft and crunchy at the same time. A spicy coleslaw side dish and three sauces complement the dumplings: pesto, Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard and Maple Chili (a mix of her chili paste and maple syrup).
The Friday night crowd seems pleased with the results of their folding labors. “It was really easy to make the dumplings,” says Marisa Christensen, a first-timer. And doing it as a group is part of the fun: “It’s not like I’m making my own dumplings. You’re making them for the whole party.”