Dumplings, and how to eat them: Megan Vasko of Pinch dumplings, Amsterdam
Meet Megan Vasko: an American who made a switch from working in banking to making fusion dumplings in Amsterdam. Her business, Pinch, has been around since 2015.
Today, Pinch has a Great Taste Award, was nominated for the Food100 awards, had finalist slots in the National Restaurant Pitch and the Amsterdam Food Pitch. Megan has made dumplings for Michelin-star restaurants and is currently developing the wholesale side of her business.
I sat down with her to talk dumplings, inspirations, and flavors. Watch the video for dumpling-making tips and different ways to serve these versatile bites - or scroll down to read the abbreviated version of the interview.
"I’m not really sure what American food is. Things that people throw around, like hamburgers or hot dogs, all came from somewhere else. So, I think the most American thing you can do is pull from all the different cultures and hope that you create something tasty."
When did you know you are going to start a food business?
The answer is: I didn't really know. I studied nutrition, so I was always interested in food. I did a master's in public health research, and then I accidentally ended up working in banking. But while I was working in the bank, it just became apparent that I needed something else. The dumpling business started very slow. I started doing events on weekends, like markets and pop-up dinners. It grew from there!
What was it like starting a business in Amsterdam as an American?
From an administrative perspective, I think this is probably the best possible place to start a business. You walk down to the KVK (Chamber of Commerce), you're there for 10 minutes, and you have a business. There's not a lot of red tapes. When it comes to customers, my business was more expat-oriented in the beginning, just because what I was doing was not really seen in the Dutch market. Dumplings were one thing, but then taking dumplings and filling them with strange or atypical fillings was taking it one step further.
Give me an example of an atypical dumpling.
I have an arsenal of probably a hundred recipes. Some of them were custom-made for Michelin-star restaurants, and others were just things of my own design. I would think - hey, a brunchling sounds good! So: sausage, egg, and cheese dumpling, thank you very much!
Our signature flavors are four dumplings that we have all year round. They are Mexican Veggie (a vegan option), Buffalo Chicken (that I sell in Marqt as "Garlic and Herb Chicken"), Thai Red Curry (another vegan dumpling), and Drunk Chicken, which is our newest addition. The latter is the closest we get to what people think of when they think of dumplings, but we put a little extra rice wine in there to give it a little Pinch spin.
You're from the States, and across the Atlantic, dumplings have been a thing for a much longer time than here. Are you drawing inspiration from the dumplings you had back home?
When I was in university, I would go to what would be the Albert Heijn of my area and just get dumplings out of the freezer section. I had them for dinner most nights of the week, with stir-fried veggies or a salad.
Growing up, my first introduction to dumplings ever was the Polish pierogi. I'm from Ohio, which is part of the pierogi belt, as we call it. A lot of Polish immigrants moved there years and years ago, so we have a lot of the food traditions that everybody's adopted. The way that people here eat Italian, we eat dumplings and kielbasa.
As much as I resist my Americanness a lot of the time, I think what I'm doing with dumplings is kind of the most American thing ever. And that's just taking a little bit of inspiration from everywhere.
I'm not really sure what American food is. Things that people throw out there, like hamburgers or hot dogs, all came from somewhere else. So, I think the most American thing you can do is pull from all the different cultures and hope that you create something tasty.
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