A short tale of simple cooking delights and recipes
It was early Saturday morning, and the sun was peeking through the clouds. Twelve-year-old Trevor stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing his sleepy eyes. His mother, Sheila, was already busy in the kitchen, frying onions and peppers, scrambling eggs, and preparing a second batch of fried dumplings. The aroma of sautéed vegetables and fried dough filled the air, an irresistible scent that made his stomach grumble in anticipation.
“Good morning, son.”
Sheila greeted Trevor with a kiss on the cheek.
“Are you ready to learn how to make fried dumplings?”
Trevor’s eyes lit up with excitement.
“First, we must knead the dough, then form little balls from the dough.”
He watched as his mother kneaded the dough, her movements fluid and graceful. To him, it was like watching a dance, each step deliberate and precise. He longed to move like that, to create something so delicious and beautiful. She rolled the dough into small balls and he couldn’t help but marvel at how her fingers moved, deftly shaping each dumpling into a perfect little sphere. It was like watching an artist paint a masterpiece with every touch.
His mother smiled, tore off a piece of dough, and gave it to him to work.
“Here. You try. See… do what I do.”
Trevor couldn’t help but notice how soft and smooth the dough felt between his fingers. His mother showed him how to knead the dough and roll it into small balls before flattening them into discs.
They heated the oil in the frying pan and Trevor felt his excitement growing. He couldn’t wait to taste the crispy golden dumplings they were about to make. But first, they had to place the flattened dough discs into the hot oil.
“How do you know when they’re done?”
He eyed the pan.
“You’ll know. The dough will be crispy and golden.”
The dough sizzled and bubbled in the hot oil. He watched them transform before his eyes, turning from plain dough discs into golden, crispy delights. The oil popping and sizzling was music to his ears, a foretelling of the symphony of flavor and texture.
“Cooking is an art, son. It’s all about patience and attention to detail.”
Trevor wanted to create something beautiful from simple ingredients. He thought: I could become an excellent cook like my mom.
Sheila transferred the dumplings from the pan onto a plate.
“Now, the most important part. Taste it and tell me what you think.”
As Trevor took his first bite of the fried dumplings, he closed his eyes and savored the flavors, the crispy exterior, and the fluffy interior. He couldn’t believe how delicious simple fried dough was.
He grinned from ear to ear.
Sheila smiled, happy at her son’s enthusiasm, as she gave him a serving of scrambled eggs with onions and peppers.
“Cooking is all about experimenting. You never can tell what you’ll create.”
As Trevor finished his breakfast of fried dumplings and scrambled eggs, he couldn’t help but dream of all the possibilities ahead. One day, he would own a restaurant serving delicious food. Until then, he would cook with his mom on weekends to master new techniques and flavor combinations.
Recipe for Jamaican Fried Dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
Vegetable oil for frying
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Slowly add the water to the dry ingredients, stirring until a dough forms.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Divide the dough into 8-10 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
Flatten each ball into a disc about 1/4 inch thick.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
Carefully place the flattened dough discs into the hot oil, ensuring not to overcrowd the pan.
Fry the dumplings for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they become golden brown and crispy.
Remove the dumplings from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess fat.
Serve the dumplings hot, and enjoy!
Recipe for Jamaican Fried Dumplings (made with butter)
This recipe from Sherry on TikTok uses butter, more baking powder than the recipe above, and shows the amount of oil needed to fry the dumplings. If the video below doesn’t load, try: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZT8R62T8p/
West Africa, India, and Asia have influenced Jamaican cuisine. The fried dumpling, for example, can trace its origins to West African and Asian cooking styles, but has evolved into a unique Jamaican dish. Fried dumplings are a typical breakfast or lunch item in Jamaica. Often paired with callaloo (amaranth), ackee and saltfish, steamed cabbage, or scrambled eggs, they make a convenient morning meal.
To make fried dumplings, you need three primary components—flour, baking powder, and salt. Often, recipes include sugar and butter and, more recently, plant-based milk instead of water. Each additional ingredient (sugar, butter, plant-based milk) contributes to the overall flavor and texture of the dish. if adding these optional ingredients, you can experiment with the proportions. The shape of the fried dumplings can vary—they can be round, long, flat, or any other desired shape.
The recipe calls for plain flour, which does not need sifting. Self-rising flour can also be used.
For the dumplings to achieve a soft texture, you must use baking powder, as the dumplings will be hard without it.
Salt provides a savory taste to the dumplings, while butter and sugar, if added, provide texture and sweetness.
Caribbean nations like Trinidad, Saint Lucia, and Guyana know fried dumplings as Bakes. Each Caribbean country prepares fried dough differently. Although the ingredients are consistent, the shape and texture vary.
Mom made fried dumplings (called fritters in the Cayman Islands), but she also made another version she called a “tortilla.” Instead of dividing the dough into pieces and rolling them into balls, she would take the dough after kneading it, flatten it into a large disc about a 1/4-inch thick, and wide enough to fit the frying pan, fry it on each side until golden brown and crispy, then cut it into wedges to serve. In the Cayman Islands, other Caribbean islands, and the Northeast United States some call my Mom’s version a johnnycake (albeit, one made without cornmeal).
I made a small “tortilla” or johnnycake in our smallest (6-inch diameter) cast-iron skillet, using half the recipe above for the fried dumplings. (I should have kneaded it longer, but I was impatient to eat it. 😉) Once flipped, I lowered the flame, covered the skillet, and cooked for another 12 minutes.
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