Growing up in his native Australia, Disston Ng didn’t need an alarm clock to get up in the morning.
“We’d wake up at 5 a.m. to shrimp paste. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled shrimp paste, but it is pun-gent,” the Whistlerite recalled. “You’d wake up and my dad would just be stir-frying away. That was big in how we connected.”
With a father who was away a fair bit for work, those crack-of-dawn kitchen sessions proved to be more than just cooking lessons for the now-30-year-old Ng—they were also how the family bonded. And more often than not, that meant making dumplings, with everyone pitching in.
“Dumplings were always a family thing in terms of bringing us together,” he said. “Dad would make the filling and then we’d be all hands on deck rolling the wrappers. It wasn’t something that just one person would do. We would all chip in.”
Ng has carried on this family tradition through Disston’s Dumplings, makers of handmade, frozen Chinese dumplings and chili oil available for pickup and delivery right to your door. Officially launched last month, the concept actually emerged from dinner parties Ng would attend, where his dumplings proved to be a crowd favourite.
“Friends would ask if they could buy some and I laughed it off initially. It wasn’t a business idea to start off, just something I wanted to do for my friends,” Ng explained.
Between Ng’s job (he works full-time for Whistler Blackcomb) and efforts to obtain his PR status, Disston’s Dumplings took a bit of a backseat for a time. That is, until he kept bringing his vacuum-packed dumplings on backcountry trips as a surprise for friends, who kept bugging him to buy some.
“That re-piqued my interest: people would still ask about my dumplings even after they kind of fell by the wayside,” Ng said. “I thought if I could do something that brought me a lot of joy and others a lot of joy, then Whistler really could be my place. Assessing the food landscape, there was definitely a gap. You’ve got fine dining, fast food, quick service restaurants, but nothing really authentic in this space. You’ve got some Thai, like Barn Nork, but for Chinese, there’s just this gap. And dumplings are such a beloved food. Who doesn’t love dumplings?”
As it turns out, Ng was primed for the food world. Armed with the culinary skills he acquired from countless mornings in the kitchen with his dad, he could also lean on his experience in Australia working for Mars, Inc. Working in the food division, Ng held various roles at the multinational food manufacturer, from research and development and sales to transport.
“Given all my experience to date, I figured I had all the skills to have a really good go for it,” Ng said.
A one-man show, Ng designed the sleek logo, branding and packaging himself, and developed his own recipes inspired by his family’s dumplings. At the moment, Disston’s Dumplings come in three flavours: pork ginger, pork green onion and vegan shiitake.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave the vegans or vegetarians out, and then down the track, in terms of inclusivity and just realizing we never want to leave anyone out of the foodscape, we want to try and develop a gluten-free dumpling,” he noted, adding that a soy-free product is also in the works.
One thing that sets Ng’s product apart from other frozen dumplings is the homemade chili oil included in every package, a rich and layered infused oil that packs a spicy, garlicky umami punch in every spoonful.
“We infused two different chili oils and then the base of the sauce is actually my mom’s secret recipe that we used to have on chicken rice, which is a really famous Chinese dish. Then we add a bit of black vinegar to cut through the oil and spice,” Ng said. “It’s a balance of flavours, and unless you’re in the food world, you might not know what’s going on. You just know it’s good.”
The dumplings are best served pan-fried, giving the delectable hand-made wrappers that nice crispy bottom northern Chinese dumplings—or guotie—are known for. For a chewier texture, they can be boiled or even microwaved, and what’s more is Ng’s resealable packs are perfect to take the dumplings out into the backcountry; just throw in an icepack and away you go.
Since launching last month, business has been booming. Produced one day a week out of Chirp Co-Kitchen in Function Junction, Ng maxes out at about 500 dumplings a week. He sold about two weeks’ worth of product in just two days after launch.
You may soon find Ng’s dumplings—and maybe even a couple dim sum items—on the menu at Purple Panda, the incoming Chinese restaurant slated for the Upper Village, Whistler’s first Chinese restaurant in years.
Through it all, Ng hopes to keep expanding diners’ horizons through one of the most beloved forms of food on the planet.
“For me, a part of this stuff is expanding people’s palates. And some of the best feedback I’ve had with my dumplings is from people who didn’t like dumplings or they’re not really a dumpling person and then they have mine and they’re like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know what dumplings could be.’
“It’s hard to put into words that feeling, but honestly, that’s what I do it for: the happiness people get when they try my food.”
Disston’s Dumplings delivers to anywhere in Whistler, and orders placed before 10 p.m. will be available the next day. Next-day pickup is also available from Nordic.
Learn more, or place your order, at disstonsdumplings.ca.