Your Pan-fried Dumplings Need a Crispy Skirt

Your Pan-fried Dumplings Need a Crispy Skirt

The dumpling skirt, or dumpling lace, is one of my favorite dumpling embellishments, and you can stitch it on to any pan-fried dumpling. It’s easy to make, and adds an extra layer of crunch to your tender dumplings. Here’s how you can make it.

What is a dumpling skirt?

A dumpling skirt is a crackly, crispy, lacy fringe made from flour, cornstarch, or a combination of the two. It cooks directly in the pan while you fry the dumplings. (I wish I could wear a dumpling skirt, but we just don’t have the technology.)

This starchy layer bubbles to form holes, then browns and attaches itself to the dumplings. When it’s finished, you can flip out the contents of the pan onto a plate and the dumplings will stay attached, held together by this wide, lacy network of starch. The fun part is shattering the skirt to pull out a single dumpling with its own special crispy bottom—It’s the meat and dough equivalent of crème brûlée.

You can use fresh or frozen dumplings, and I mean it when I say any dumpling you can pan-fry works with this application. Pork gyoza, beef pelmeni, cheese tortellini, and vegetable khinkali all benefit from a delicate and crispy lace skirt. (I always have two or three bags of Trader Joe’s pork or chicken gyoza in my freezer at all times, in case the apocalypse hits again.)

How to make a dumpling skirt

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Arrange the dumplings

Add a small amount of oil, about a teaspoon, to an eight- to 10-inch frying pan. Use a spatula to spread it around the bottom of the pan. (I usually grab a dumpling and use that to smear the oil around.) Arrange eight to 10 dumplings in the pan in a decorative pattern. I chose a simple starburst, but you could stagger them or add a bit of chaos and let the chips fall as they may. Just make sure you’re happy with how they’re arranged; you won’t be able to adjust them once you add the starch. Turn the heat on medium-low and cook the dumplings for about three minutes.

Make the starch slurry

Meanwhile, whisk the starch and water together in a small measuring cup. I use a combination of the two, in equal proportions, with a 1/4 cup of water. This mixture will be thin and cloudy. Once it hits the heat of the pan the water will begin to evaporate, causing the starch to bubble up into a lacy pattern.

Pour the slurry and cover the pan

Depending on the size of your pan and how crowded it is, you may not use all of the slurry. Pour half of the slurry into the pan and tilt the pan to see if the liquid coats the bottom. If it doesn’t, add more slurry. The holes may not develop as well if you make the layer too deep; the starch will crisp and brown on the bottom but the inside will stay soft. Cover the pan with a lid to cook the dumplings all the way through, about five to seven minutes.

Uncover and crisp

Take the lid off of the pan. The skirt should be set, with lots of little holes, and should be beginning to brown. Let the dumplings and skirt continue to cook until the entire lace bottom has browned evenly, two or three minutes.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Flip and serve

Turn the heat off and take the skillet off of the burner. Flip a dish upside down onto the pan, put your palm on the bottom of the dish, and flip the pan and plate over together, so the dumplings turn over, and the flat bottom of the skirt is facing up for decoration. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

Fried Dumplings with a Skirt


  • 8 to 10 dumplings (I used frozen gyoza)
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon oil for the pan

Add the oil to an eight or 10-inch frying pan and spread it around so it coats the bottom. Add the dumplings to the pan. Cook the dumplings for about three minutes over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile make the slurry. Whisk the flour and cornstarch together in a small measuring cup. Add the water to the starch and whisk thoroughly. Pour half of this mixture into the dumpling pan and tilt the pan to cover the bottom with the slurry. Assess if you need more slurry in the pan.

Cover the pan with a lid and let the dumplings cook for about five more minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking until the dumpling skirt has browned completely and evenly. Turn off the heat, put a serving dish on top of the pan, upside down, and flip the pan and plate over together so the dumplings are on the plate with the skirt facing up. Serve immediately.

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