Nom nom nom nom nom!
Most cultures enjoy dumplings, the little flour pockets stuffed with a dizzying array of tasty fillings which come in various shapes and sizes. A synonym for comfort food around the world, they’re simple and composed of humble ingredients. But dumplings can be casual snacks, street food, or transcendent fine-dining restaurant experiences. Here’s a sampling of dumplings and where to eat them across the globe.
This filled flour-and-egg dumpling native to Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy claims divine origin. Legend says a voyeuristic inn owner was so entranced by a glimpse of the goddess Venus’ belly-button through his keyhole, he created a pasta inspired by its shape. An annual festival celebrates the blessed event with locals in Renaissance costume in Castelfranco Emilia. The official recipe, registered with the Bologna chamber of commerce, has a pork, ham, mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, nutmeg and egg filling. Local tortellini in brodo features the dumplings in a rich beef broth. But you’ll find the distinctive dimpled, twisted shape with many other meat, vegetable, and cheese fillings throughout Italy.
Where to Try It: Trattoria Caminetto d’Oro in Bologna
Wonton soup, ubiquitous in Chinese restaurants worldwide, features boiled dumplings with a ground pork, garlic, and minced cabbage filling in chicken broth. But wonton noodle soup, a specialty of Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China, is rice flour dumplings stuffed with ground pork, chopped shrimp, and egg in a broth of shrimp, dried fish, and pork bone with lots of egg noodles called yuntun mian. Some eateries make “five treasures” wontons from crab, shrimp, abalone, dried scallops, and a crab/shrimp mixture. Wontons boiled with spicy chile oil, sesame seeds, and scallions are a Sichuan specialty called chao shou. Wontons are also available deep-fried.
Where to Try It: Guangzhou Restaurant in Guangzhou
These small square flour-and-egg dumplings with crimped edges and bulging centers have fillings limited only by the imagination. They can be stuffed with vegetables from mushrooms, asparagus, pumpkin, squash, and spinach; meats from beef, prosciutto, and turkey; or cheeses from ricotta to Gorgonzola to Pecorino Romano (or a combination thereof), and are usually served with a sauce or in broth. Ideally, the dough is rolled by hand by women called sfoglinas. Large square ravioli in Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, are called tortelli.
Where to Try It: Da Cesari in Bologna
Xiao Long Bao
Called Shanghai-style soup dumplings, these steamed dumplings are filled with not only ground pork, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic but also meat-based soup and gelatin that explode with flavor when you bite one. Some diners eat the dumplings, served in bamboo baskets, in one fell swoop. Others like to slurp the soup from the fat dome-shaped flour morsels, pinched at the top, first. If you don’t get to China, many eateries in San Francisco and New York specialize in xiao long bao.
Where to Try It: Fu Chun in Shanghai
WHERE: Czech Republic
Dumplings made from mashed potatoes, flour, and eggs are a beloved Czech home specialty, often served with meat like roast pork, duck, or goose. Potato dumplings stuffed with smoked bacon and topped with sauerkraut are called plnene bramborove knedliky se zelim.
Where to Try It: Lokal Nad Stromovkou in Prague
Open at the top, these steamed dumplings with pinched pleated sides reveal the filling of ground pork and/or shrimp, minced bean sprouts, shredded carrots, scallions, rice wine, and soy sauce beneath. A staple in dim sum, a breakfast of many dumpling and bun varieties which have origins in southern China, these dumplings, also spelled shu mai, are often topped with fish roe.
Where to Try It: Above & Beyond in Hong Kong
Fat and juicy steamed dumplings have transparent wrappers that clearly show the shrimp chunks, bamboo shoots, scallions, and grated ginger inside. A favorite for dim sum, the ultra-thin pinched pleated wrappers are made of tapioca and wheat flour. The name, “cat’s paw,” is based on their shape.
Where to Try It: Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong
These flat rice flour dumplings filled with minced pork and mushrooms, seasoned with pepper, garlic, and spices, are steamed inside rectangular packages of banana leaves. They’re a specialty of Hue, Vietnam’s former royal capital, near Da Nang. Banh simply means bread, or cake, and can refer to anything from sandwiches (banh mi)to buns to dumplings to pastries.
Where to Try It: Banh Beo Cung An Dinh in Hue
Banh Bot Loc
These transparent half-moon-shaped dumplings stuffed with shrimp and pork have tapioca (starch from cassava root) wrappers, and are served with fish dipping sauce (nuoc cham). Also a specialty of Hue on central Vietnam’s coast, they can be wrapped in banana leaves.
Where to Try It: Banh Beo Cung An Dinh in Hue
This beloved staple of the Polish diet can have a savory or sweet filling. The savory version can be ground meat or fish; vegetables like potato, mushrooms, sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), or spinach; or farmer cheese and served with stewed onions or sour cream. The sweet filling can be cherry, strawberry, or plum (flavored with lemon juice and cloves) or cinnamon and quark, a creamy cottage cheese-like dairy product, and the pierogi is sugared and served with melted butter or cream. The wrapper can be made with flour and eggs; or potato and flour; or sour cream, egg, and flour; or dairy- and egg-free.
Where to Try It: Przystanek Pierogarnia in Krakow
These cornmeal cone-shaped dumplings are made in different ways in various regions of Mexico for stews or soups and called by different names. On the Yucatan peninsula, home to Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Merida, joroches are commonly served with a filling of picadillo, sausage, or dogfish; or in creamy black beans; or with pork and beans. A hash found in many Latin American countries, picadillo in the Yucatan is often made of ground meat, tomato, raisins, apple, cinnamon, and onions. Adding olives is optional.
Where to Try It: La Chaya Maya in Merida
These folded, boiled dumplings with ground lamb fillings are topped with a yogurt garlicky sauce flecked with sumac, a dark-red citrusy spice common in the Middle East and Italy, and eaten in Turkey, where most restaurants serve them. But manti are also found in other Central Asian countries like Armenia, which uses a tomato sauce topping, and Uzbekistan.
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These half-moon-shaped dumplings stuffed with minced pork, cabbage, scallions, garlic, and dashes of sugar and ginger are pan-fried, so they have crispy bottoms. Many eateries serving gyoza are casual, small places.
Where to Try It: Gyouzabouchohakkai in Tokyo
Korea’s many different dumpling types range from jjin mandu, steamed dumplings stuffed with kimchi, the spicy pickled vegetables with chile found in almost every Korean meal, to mul mandu, boiled dumplings filled with pork and scallions. A half-moon shape is usual. Mandu-guk, a rich beef soup with beaten eggs and dumplings (stuffed with pork, vegetables, and tofu, among others), is a New Year’s Day tradition.
Where to Try It: Jaha Son Mandu in Seoul
These fat steamed dumplings filled with ground chicken, beef, or even yak plus chopped cabbage, garlic, and spices are a very popular snack also found in Tibet and Bhutan. The filling can include a garam masala spice mix thanks to the nearness to India, or soy sauce, given China’s proximity. The dome-shaped dumplings with pleated sides are often served with a chile-based paste that includes tomato, onion, and cilantro.
Where to Try It: Bhojan Griha in Kathmandu
These big round potato dumplings are traditionally stuffed with an allspice-flavored mix of bacon and onions, served with lingonberry sauce (from Sweden’s favorite fruit) and butter. A vegetarian version is stuffed with mushrooms, cabbage, and onions. It’s a specialty of southern Sweden.
Where to Try It: Nalle & Kroppkakan in Stockholm
Similar to pierogies, these dumplings can have fillings of ground fish (like carp or even salmon) or meat with chopped onions, dill, and pepper; farmer cheese with dill and pepper; or fruit. Cherry and plum are favorites, filled with the pitted fruit, cloves, lemon juice, and sugar.
Where to Try It: Varenichnaya Katyusha in Kiev
They may look like Chinese xiao long bao or Nepalese momo with pleated sides and pinched tops, but these wheat flour dumplings stuffed with ground beef, lamb, or pork with crushed caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, and pureed onions hail from the former Soviet republic in the Caucasus. The ingredients reflect Silk Road trade routes that crossed Georgia, called Sakartvelo in its native language.
Where to Try It: Pirosmani in Tbilisi
Shrimp dumplings (breaded half-moon-shaped, stuffed with shrimp in Bechamel sauce and nutmeg) called rissois de camarao are traditional snacks, appetizers, or even main dishes served in cafes throughout Portugal. Variations that have minced beef, chorizo, tuna, chicken, and ham/cheese fillings are also available.
Where to Try It: Cafe A Brasileira in Coimbra
These small, round wheat dumplings in twisted, tortellini-like shapes always have a savory filling, usually minced pork, beef, or mutton with onions and pepper. Of Siberian origin, they’re found throughout Russia.
Where to Try It: Pelmenya in St. Petersburg
Big round potato balls are found all over Germany, called kloesse in the north, knoedel in the south, usually served with roast pork, marinated beef (sauerbraten), beef roulade, and red cabbage. They’re made with grated raw potatoes and cooked mashed potatoes, stuffed with croutons. In Thuringia in east Germany, the state is so crazy for Thueringen kartoffelkloesse there’s a dumpling tourist attraction (featuring a walk-in dumpling, exhibits on dumpling history and, of course, a snack bar) in Heichelheim, near Weimar.
Where to Try It: Gasthaus Feuerkugel in Erfurt
Also called potstickers (the name literally means “pot stick”), these juicy pan-fried and steamed dumplings stuffed with ground pork, ginger, garlic, rice wine, and sesame oil have flat crispy bottoms and a two-horned shape since each side is turned up. A Shanghai specialty but found all over China, they’re a staple for breakfast in China’s biggest city.
Where to Try It: Yang’s Fry Dumpling in Shanghai
Lebanon’s answer to ravioli, these small round dumplings have a totally different preparation. Stuffed with ground lamb, pine nuts, chopped cilantro, and spices, they’re cooked in a goat yogurt stew flavored with mint and garlic. Traditionally home-cooked and not often served in restaurants, shish barak are also found in Jordan, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq, and are similar to Afghanistan’s mantu.
Where to Try It: Mayrig in Beirut
These Jewish Eastern European flour-and-egg dumplings are usually filled with meat (like ground beef or chopped chicken livers) or potatoes and served in chicken soup, but they can also be deep-fried. Generally triangle-shaped, they’re eaten on religious holidays like the night before Yom Kippur and on Purim.
Where to Try It: Shmulik Cohen in Tel Aviv