Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dumpling Dipping Sauce for Year of the Dragon from Cleo Coyle

Okay, let's get this out of the way right now. I do not make my own dumplings. I mean, are you kidding? I live in New York City, land of Chinese take-out. Despite cooking a handful of Chinese-inspired dishes at home, when it comes to dumplings, I leave it to the professionals. 

With New York's Chinatown only a subway ride away, Marc and I have enjoyed Chinese food, culture, and New Years' celebrations for years. I'll tell you a secret, too. Our favorite little hole-in-the-wall dumpling paradise can be found on Mosco Street. Blink and you'll miss it. Mosco is really more of an alley in Chinatown, but it's home to this little joint...

To find this dumpling shop yourself, simply locate Mosco Street in Chinatown and stroll down it. The street is so small, you can't miss this shop, which serves delicious street food. (See Mosco Street on Google Maps by clicking here. See our snack of fried dumplings and pork buns below...)

Dumplings really are a budget-friendly comfort food. So if you're looking for a change-up from pizza or fries, give dumplings a try this week because eating dumplings is a long-standing tradition for the Chinese New Year, and we've just entered the Year of the Dragon!

Yesterday marked the first day of the Lunar New Year and according to the Chinese zodiac, we said goodbye to the Year of the Rabbit and hello to the mighty and powerful Dragon. 

Have you ever wondered why the Dragon leads the street parades during Chinese New Year celebrations? It's for a very good reason: The Chinese say the Dragon leaves wealth and prosperity in his path--a much better prospect than following the NYPD's horses, wouldn't you say? :)


To see a short montage of the Lunar New Year
opening ceremonies in New York's Chinatown,
click the arrow in the window below...

There are 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac. The year you were born dictates your sign, and the Year of the Dragon is considered the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac.

Which animal sign you were born under? The signs are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat/Ram/Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig/Boar. 

A very detailed zodiac chart, showing which years fall under which signs, can be found at this link: http://www.holymtn.com/astrology/year.htm When you jump to the site, click on each animal to read its characteristics. The charts include compatibility predictions and warnings. (...and if you have a spouse, do take those with a grain of salt!)

Because eating dumplings is a tradition for the Lunar New Year, I decided to share a few simple tips with you today for getting the best out of your take-out or (frozen grocery store) dumpling snacking.

Tip #1 - For making frozen at home or reheating take-out dumplings, you don't need a bamboo steamer. I use an inexpensive ($9) stainless steel collapsible basket that can be placed in any pot. This is a great little kitchen gadget that I often use to steam veggies. I'm sure most of you have seen one of these baskets; but for anyone who hasn't, click here to learn more or purchase.

Tip #2 - Line your steamer with leaves of cabbage, spinach, or another leafy green. (The leaves you see in my photos are from baby bok choy.) They impart a lovely, subtle flavor as the dumpling steams. They also keep the dumpling bottoms from sticking and provide an attractive serving base. As you see in my photos, I transferred the leaves from the steamer to the plate for a prettier presentation.

Tip #3 - If you’re using straight soy sauce to dip your dumplings, let me assure you that there is a much tastier option. Many Chinese and Japanese dipping sauces blend soy sauce (or tamari*) with other ingredients to create a flavorful eating experience. The ingredients in this one are easily found in American grocery stores, so the next time you pick up a package of frozen dumplings or call for take-out, try my recipe and…

Eat with Dragon joy!  
~ Cleo 

*Tamari [tuh-MAH-ree] is similar to soy sauce but thicker and darker. It is more mellow than soy sauce and tends to have a smoother, more complex flavor.

Cleo Coyle, who married
a Dragon, is the author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Cleo Coyle’s
Dipping Sauce

Also delicious with egg rolls, 
fried shrimp, chicken nuggets, 
tempura, sushi, and sashimi 

To download this recipe in a PDF form that you can print, save, or share, click here!


¼ cup water

¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari* - scroll up for more info)

2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice (fresh is best!)

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 green onion (scallion)

Directions: Stir together first four ingredients. Be sure the sugar dissolves. Slice the green onion into the mixture. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Optional extras for added flavor:  
A splash of sesame oil; a bit of ginger (freshly grated); a splash of your favorite drinking wine or Japanese sake (or, if you can find it, Chinese Shaoxing rice wine).

Basic ratio for smaller or larger batches:  1 part water + 1-½ part soy sauce + ½ part lime or lemon juice + ½ part sugar + 1 green onion (scallion) 

May this 
Year of the Dragon
bring you the four
blessings of the East:
wealth, virtue, harmony,
and long life!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. I enjoy a good dumpling.. but it has to have a good dipping sauce as well. It is very hard to find one that my family enjoys (other then those you get from take out).

    I am saving this and will buy what I need today when I food shop. I have some frozen potstickers int he freezer and just may defrost them. :)

    1. Reply to...

      Shawn (BusyMom) - Lovely to see you in the Kitchen today, and I hope you enjoy my dipping sauce recipe. It's a great deal tastier than soy sauce alone, which can be way too salty and harsh.

      I'm also glad you used the term potstickers. Reminds me to mention that I don't always steam my dumplings. I sometimes use that classic "potsticker" method of starting them in a pan with oil and then adding water or stock and allowing the liquid to boil down for a crispy exterior. Both methods are delicious. Thanks again for dropping in and may you...

      Have a Healthy, Wealthy, and
      Happy Year of the Dragon!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. Cleo, this sauce will be a nice alternative to the one I make myself. I have used a combination of soy sauce, hoisen sauce and sesame oil. This is a nice yet heavy/rich sauce. You need to taste as you go to get the taste you want. I tend to use more hoisen then anything else. I often steam my potstickers as well.

    3. Shawn - Nice combo on your sauce, too. Love hoisen!

  2. Oh Cleo, I'm CRAZY for dumplings. Next time I'm in New York, definitely going to try this place!

    1. Reply to...

      Lucy - Dumplings *are* a happy food, aren't they? Even the word sounds comforting, lol. Chinatown almost always makes for an energizing and entertaining outing. I hope you enjoy it, and Happy Lunar New Year!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never tried any dim sum, even though I was working in San Francisco, until a Boston friend came to visit and dragged me to a dim sum place. It was amazing! Multi-story, hundreds of people, and lots of servers with all those lovely little plates of goodies. I've never looked back.

    Good to have this recipe, since most take-out dipping sauce is little more than soy sauce.

    1. Reply to...

      Sheila - Marc and I do most of our noshing on the street these days, but I'm very glad you mentioned dim sum. A dim sum brunch is a wonderful tradition her in NYC, usually Sundays, and so many people enjoy it.

      Happy to share a great link that gives a rundown of the popular dim sum places in Chinatown. Definitely worth the experience! To learn more about dim sum in New York's Chinatown, Click Here, and (of course)...

      Eat with joy!

      (Happy New Year, Sheila!)

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. The benefits of living in the city. Fortune Restaurant just outside of Washington, DC (in Virginia) offers fabulous dim sum. Wonderful! The dumplings in your photo are gorgeous. Hmm, I may have to pick up some frozen dumplings today . . .

    ~ Krista

    1. Reply to...

      Krista - Ah, yes, there are benefits and *drawbacks* to living in the city (as you well know, having lived in this one yourself)! Thanks for your own great suggestion on dim sum outside of DC. I think you nailed the basic premise, too. Dumplings aren't that complicated, and there are frozen dumpling brands on the market that are tasty as well as convenient. (Not to mention healthier than a lot of other snack foods.) Thanks for dropping by today...

      May your Lunar New Year be Bright!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Cleo, love the dipping sauce, the photos, the Chinese calendar. All of it. What a wealth of information and lovely flavors. I can smell the soy sauce from here! Yum.

    And thank you for touting my contest. I hope people will sign up.



    1. Thank you, Avery, and congrats on your upcoming release. I'm looking forward to it!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Holy smokin' dragons!!! I LOVE potstickers/dumplings! I have never thought to look for them in our frozen food section, I just put it on my grocery list. I spent a great deal of time in Toronto during my college days (back before dirt was born) and my favorite spot was Chinatown! Thanks for also mentioning tamari, I've used instead of soy due to the salt content for several years and we love it. Now instead of ordering take-out on Friday I may just make my own!!

    Happy year of the Dragon!


    1. Reply to...

      Nanc - Oh, yes, the dumplings (aka potstickers) are a great little snack that Marc and I often enjoy. Keeping a bag in the freezer gives us a nice 24/7 option. I’m glad to know that you're a tamari fan, too. A nice alternative to soy sauce; richer, darker, smoother—good stuff.

      Thanks for dropping in; I'm always so happy to see you in our Kitchen. May your dragon always be smokin'!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

      P.S. "Before dirt was born,” eh? You know, I’m not sure, but that may even pre-date the Chinese calendar. :)