Food plays a major role in Debbie Lee's family history. Her great-grandfather, who came to the United States in the 1800s to work on the railroads, started one of the first Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles. Lee, who lives in Sacramento, revives family traditions with a party where she shows guests how to make won ton and dumplings.
"Making won ton is sort of like origami with food," Lee says. "The party brings back memories of my childhood where we cooked together in the kitchen and just hung out." She learned to make won ton from her mom; she has updated the recipe by substituting ground turkey for pork.
The dumplings are a new addition, which Lee learned to make on a recent trip to China. We took Lee's ideas to hold our own cooking party with friends. The result was an easy, delicious success.
This casual cooking party suits a small group of six to eight, which can include kids ― they love the activity. Lee makes the fillings in advance, then demonstrates how to fill the wrappers. After a few attempts, it's easy for a group to produce more won ton than they can eat at a time.
Freeze extras, or send guests home with leftovers as party favors. Start by making the dumplings together, then take a break for an appetizer course of salad and dumplings. (If time is short, serve purchased frozen potstickers or gyoza instead.)
After the first course, move on to wrapping the won ton. Or wrap all the dumplings and won ton at once, clean up, and eat both together in one big feast that perfectly reflects this party's spirit of community and cooperation.
Serve with tea, orange wedges, and Chinese almond cookies.