Dumplings are a mainstay of Asian cuisine, available in a truly remarkable array of shapes and fillings. Our vote for “Prettiest Dumpling” has to go to the Thai specialty known as Chor Muang. Crafted in the shape of a flower and naturally dyed a delicate shade of purple with butterfly pea flower blossoms, the Chor Muang dumpling looks as good as it tastes.
“‘Chor’ means ‘bunch of flowers’ and ‘muang’ means ‘purple,’” explains Thai Chef Instructor Pirun Pumicome of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, who teaches guests how to make the dumplings at the Chef’s Table cooking classes. “In the old days, Chor Muang was part of royal Thai cuisine and was even mentioned in a poem by King Rama II.”
The process begins with mixing butterfly pea flower extract with hot water and a bit of lime juice that is then added to the tender dough. A traditional filling of pork, shrimp or chicken is tucked into the dough, which is then formed into a dumpling. Now comes the tricky part: creating the flower shape, using a special brass chor muang tong to form the dimpled petals. “Home cooks could try a using a teaspoon or a pair of coins,” suggests Chef Pirun. Finally, the dumplings are steamed for about 10 minutes and then topped with a small piece of red chili, coriander and a pinch of fried garlic.
For Chef Pirun, including Chor Muang dumplings—not easily found at many Thai restaurants—in the Chef’s Table menu is a way of celebrating Thai cuisine and honouring his mother and grandmother’s legacies. “My mother and grandmother taught me lots of home-style cooking secrets that I like to share with cooking class guests. The shape, the taste, the colour, the preparation—it’s all unique and charming,” he says.