Last month, my dad and I spent a full day in the "test kitchen" (also known as my kitchen) making dumplings and developing Filipino-inspired food recipes. We had so much fun cooking, trying out different ideas, and, of course, eating. And what made this day even more special is that my dad would not have been here if not for an organ donor. He was diagnosed with liver cancer last year, and after many difficult months filled with hospital visits and chemotherapy, he received a donor organ this spring. He's doing so well with his recovery, and to me he looks better than ever.

We got the idea to "modernize" traditional Filipino recipes during the month following his transplant surgery while he was recovering in Nashville. He wasn't allowed to go out or do much at all at that time, so we streamed a bunch of food documentaries on Netflix and were motivated to learn more about Asian cooking. We ended up making a list of traditional Asian foods that we wanted to cook together and "elevate" (our favorite cooking show buzzword). But it was a pretty long list, so on this particular test kitchen day (the first of many), we decided to focus on cooking food in wrappers, like Filipino lumpia and Chinese siu mai.

The lumpia was pretty straightforward. We stayed close to the traditional recipe and made a veggie version and a beef version. We've made the pork (lumpia shanghai) version before, so we skipped it this time around. But this was our first time to make siu mai (the steamed dumplings). Surprisingly, it was incredibly simple and quick to make. Because we had ground beef, we decided to make a beef and veggie mixture for the dumpling. I topped it with chives, sriracha, and soy sauce, and it turned out great.

We're still perfecting our recipe, and the ingredients in the dumplings have evolved since this first test kitchen. My dad has tried it out using different ground meats, Asian spices, ginger, jalapenos, and various grated/minced veggies. A couple of weeks ago, I think he figured out the perfect recipe. (I'm lucky I get to be the official taste tester.)

I'm looking forward to more test kitchen days. We also have pork belly pan de sal sliders on our list, as well as some noodle dishes like pancit and palabok. Yum! And maybe even one day, after we perfect our twist on these dishes, we can share these delicious, Filipino-inspired foods with the community. 

Here are scenes from the "dumpling round" of day one in the test kitchen:

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