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Dumplings: A Glorious Feast For Tummy, Eyes And Soul…

I can give you my definition of the ultimate ‘comfort food’ in one word: ‘Dumplings’. They’re a universal culinary form, and lend themselves to a range of prep styles. You could go at least a month trying a new type every day!

Gyoza - © 2021 - cardamommagazine comBeautiful, golden-fried Japanese Gyoza: A star among dumplings for
its visual elegance, culinary simplicity and unparalleled flavour…

Underappreciated

I’ve come to the conclusion that dumplings are grossly underappreciated in the West. That’s a shame, because they’re a staple in the east and other parts of the world.

I don’t want to downplay truly iconic dumplings like Ravioli, Pierogi, Spaetzle and all their European and Russian-sphere cousins. Nor do I want to relegate the Classic Chinese dim Sum delights to ‘second-tier’ status, just because they’re already so well known to the majority of dumpling lovers. I DO want to introduce you to some of my favourite dumplings that you won’t see at your local Asian Buffet resto.

All shapes and sizes

Herewith, a quick rundown of more exotic dumpling forms and flavours you really should try – if you haven’t already!

Ban Bot Loc

A Vietnamese take on the classic Chinese Har Gow. This colourful example of ‘Asian at its best’ features the same translucent tapioca starch wrapper as Haw Gow, but adds pork to the shrimp filling. It’s traditionally topped with fried onions, a splash of Fish Sauce and a sprinkling of diced green onions.

Bao

These delectable, puffy mouthfuls are basically stuffed Chinese Steam Buns. The traditional filling is a saucy Chinese BBQ, based on minced meat, soy sauce and Five Spice blend. This dumpling also appears in Korean cuisine as a folded slab of steam bun flatbread, stuffed with classic Korean BBQ.

Momo

A native of Nepal and Tibet, this elegant, half-moon shaped dumpling is shirred and crimped like some Chinese dumplings you’ve probably seen. But inside it may be stuffed with with meat, vegetables, or cheese. And it’s usually accompanied by a thin, spicy tomato-based dipping sauce.

Wonton

Not the twisty, deep-fried, crispy snacks you’re probably thinking of. But classic Chinese dumpling wrappers stuffed with a wide variety of fillings. What sets them apart is, they’re supposed to be served in a bowl of broth, with a generous veggie garnish. I’m sure you’ve heard of Wonton Soup… But have you tried it?

Manti

A Turkish delight (pun intended). The legend claims that the Turks brought Mani back from the Orient after one of their far-ranging eastward explorations. That could well be true. They’re unique 4-sided flat-bottomed dumpies stuffed with lamb, and pinched closed at the top. To be authentic, you should serve them with garlicy yogurt, caramelized tomato, and/or brown butter sauce – and a sprinkle of ground red pepper.

Mandu

A Korean favourite, this little dumpling will remind you of an Italian Tortellini. They’re usually filled with spicy kimchi and served with a spicy, oil-based dipping sauce.

Khinkali

The national dish of the Georgian Republic, just north of Turkey on the east cost of the Black Sea. These purse-shaped dumplings (see photo, top of page) are stuffed with spiced meat, fish or vegetables, with cheese and herbs. Serve with a fresh ground black pepper, top your taste.

Siomay

The iconic Indonesian street food. This large steamed fish or pork dumpling is usually cut into two or more portions and served with spicy peanut sauce. It’s considered a perfect light lunch.

Gyoza

Japanese ‘half-moon’ dumplings resembling Chinese ‘pot stickers’. But they feature thinner wrappers and are always filled with minced pork. They say these guys can be boiled, steamed or fried. But in my experience, their full, meaty flavour can only be realized via frying.

Kroppkaka

A unique, larger dumpling from Sweden. A thick potato-based dough is stuffed with a mixture of bacon, onions and allspice. A beloved regional variant, the Pitepalt, is stuffed with minced meat. Serve with lingonberry sauce (of course!) and butter. Two constitute a meal.

Svestkove Knedlíky

For dessert, try this fruit-filled Czech sweetie. It’s a whole fruit (any small fruit of your choice), wrapped in a cake-like shell. They’re boiled, drizzled with butter, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. And there’s always quark – a fermented fresh milk dish resembling cottage cheese.

Imposters often palmed off

Many different imposters are palmed off as dumplings by ill-educated or careless food writers. You see this egregious error in many online posts.

The problem is, somebody once made the ridiculous error of placing hand pies and ‘packet’ pastries within the dumpling domain. Fo9r me – and most of my well-informed readers, I’m sure – that just inexcusable. So when you come across a ‘dumpling’ post that includes Cornish Pasties, Irish Pork Pies, Samosas, Spanikopitas, Pastizzi, Empanadas, Papas Rellenas or Coxinhas – take it with a pinch of salt.

It strikes me that one intrepid journalistic tyro made the monster faux pas in the first place, and others just copied their ‘list’. It’s an unfortunate but common practice among folks who wouldn’t be doing ‘published’ journalism if the Internet wasn’t there, sucking up all the content the world is willing to churn out. Regardless of its accuracy, quality or veracity.

My take

There’s literally a world of dumplings out there, waiting for you to try them! Whether you mount an expedition to Chinatown, or to your local Asian grocery, you’re making a good start on your voyage of dumpling discovery. But if you can’t find them, make them yourself! You can access multiple recipes for all the dumplings listed above as easily as Googling their names…

~ Maggie J.

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