Many cultures have their own style of dumpling. There is the Jewish Kreplach, the Italian Ravioli, the Polish Pierogi, the Korean Mandu and the Japanese Gyoza…just to name a few. These bite-sized delicacies are perfectly proportioned mixes of meat, vegetables and dough — boiled, fried or steamed. Some of the earliest writing about dumplings dates back 1400 years to northern China.
This popular dish was later introduced in Korea and Japan virtually unchanged. In fact, the names mandoo and gyoza are both phonic translations from the Chinese language. Cultures in southern Asia also picked up on this traditional dish, adding rice flour to create more translucent dumplings.
Northern Asian dumplings differ from their Western cousins both in their fillings and their dough. The filling is prepared using a technique called Shang-Jian where the protein-rich ingredients are beaten with herbal juices. This helps to infuse the filling with moisture and fragrance, and provides a pleasant texture. The dough is made of water and flour, with no eggs or butter. Without the aid of eggs, several stages of kneading are required to create a full-bodied dough. A more complicated process of dough preparation, called Tang-Mian, involves adding boiling water. This results in a subtle sweetness and a softer texture — ideal for searing or steaming. You might wonder why we don’t call the seared dumplings “fried.” Searing takes significantly less fat and relies mostly on the cooking power of steam.
Dumplings of the World
Below are a flavour of other types of dumplings from around the globe:
European Dumplings: Georgia – Khinkali
Khinkali is a very popular Georgian dumpling – a national dish – made of twisted knobs of dough, stuffed with meat and spices. The original recipe consisted of only minced meat (lamb or beef and pork mixed), onions, chilli pepper, salt and cumin. However the modern recipe of Georgian urban areas add herbs such as parsley and/or coriander.
European Dumplings: Italy – Ravioli
The Italian Ravioli has become a favourite of the British. It can be packed with anything from meat to cheese to vegetables, or a combination of any or all. If you want to taste the true ravioli, don’t buy the canned or bagged varieties that you can find across many of the supermarkets. Find a good Italian restaurant or take a weekend trip to Italy!
European Dumplings: Poland – Pierogi
Originating in Central and Eastern Europe, pierogi are most commonly thought of as Polish.
These dumplings can be filled with anything but are traditionally stuffed with potato, minced meat, cheese, fruit or cabbage. They’re usually boiled but can then be pan-fried in butter with onions. This finishing flourish is the selling point of the dish, adding another layer of flavour in the pan.
European Dumplings: Slovakia – Bryndzové Halušky
A national dish in Slovakia, bryndzové halušky is a dish of potato dumplings served with bryndza, a Slovakian sheep cheese, and sprinkled with bacon or pork fat. The combination of cheese and bacon makes this a national dish almost everyone can agree on.
European Dumplings: Germany – Kartoffelknoedel
Found across Germany, kartoffelknoedel, or potato dumplings, usually accompany meat dishes. The Bavarian variant combines both raw and cooked potato, stuffed with a crouton or bread filling. Not the star player on the dinner plate, they nevertheless play a crucial supporting role.
Asia Dumplings: India – Samosa
Usually triangular in shape, samosa are a deep-fried snack popular in South Asia and Southeast Asia. They may be filled with a variety of stuffing, including potato, onions, peas, lentils and ground lamb. With the rise in popularity of Indian cuisine on the UK high street, the samosa has become a feature and favourite of the British palate.
Asia Dumplings: Japan – Gyoza
Gyoza are dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables and wrapped in a thin dough. Also known as pot stickers, gyoza originated from the Chinese Jiaozi, but have become a very popular dish in Japan. The typical gyoza filling consists of ground pork, nira chives, green onion, cabbage, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil. With the rise of dumplings as a snack, starter or main meal, some creative gyoza shops have also come up with a range of other fillings.
Asia Dumplings: Korean – Mandu
Mandu, the Korean take on dumplings, are traditionally made with a beef or pork filling, but chicken and vegetarian dumplings are also popular. Versatile and delicious, Mandu can be boiled, steamed, deep fried, pan-fried or added to soup. They are substantial enough for a main dish, but are also good as snack dishes or a mess-free lunch.
Asia Dumplings: Nepal – Momo
Momo’s are one of the most popular dishes in Nepal. They are bite-size dumplings made with a spoonful of stuffing wrapped in dough. The filling of meat or vegetables becomes succulent as it produces an intensively flavoured broth sealed inside the wrappers. Momo’s can be cooked in a variety of ways – steamed (the most popular), fried, and cooked in soup.