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Published on Oct 8, 2013 in Asia, China, Featured Articles, News

The Dumpling

When someone mentions a dumpling everyone, myself included, thinks Chinese. Steamed or fried dumplings seem synonymous with Chinese food just as hamburgers and fries are widely associated with America. But, in fact, dumplings are global and almost every society has invented and made the dumpling a part of their cuisine.

Dumplings are basically cooked balls of dough that can be stuffed with meat, fish, vegetables, or anything else you want to put inside. You can boil, steam, fry, or bake them and they can be eaten separately or placed in soups or stews.

The Chinese dumpling dates back about 2500 years to the Yellow River Valley, the wheat-belt at that time in western China. Dumplings during that era were made from wheat flour that was formed into dough. The dough was made into a crescent shape, stuffing was added, and the dumpling was then steamed in a bronze pot

In an excavation in China in the 1970s a dumpling was found in a tomb that dates back to the Tang Dynasty, 1300 years ago. Historians tell us this dumpling had almost the same appearance as our modern dumpling, being semicircular, made of flour, and stuffed with vegetables.

Photo from www.steamykitchen.com

Photo from www.steamykitchen.com

However, China may not have been the first culture that made dumplings. Other cultures also have dumplings as a part of their culinary history. In Norway, for example, there are many types of dumplings which go by a variety of names such as potetball, klubb, klobb, raspeball, komle, ruta, krumme, kams, kumperdose, kodla, and so on. These are all made from potatoes and various types of flour, contain a pork stuffing, and the dumpling is then boiled. Some Norwegians will pour syrup over their dumplings before they’re served.

In northern Sweden dumplings are referred to as either Palt or Pitepalt. Dough is usually filled with salted pork, cooked, and then served with melted butter and lingonberry jam. Southern Sweden, in contrast, favors potato dumplings called kroppkaka, which is dough filled with smoked pork, raw onions, and coarsely ground pepper. Once cooked, the dumpling is usually served with cream and lingonberry jam.

In Italy ravioli and tortellini satisfy the definition of a dumpling as they’re more or less pockets of dough (pasta) which encompass a filling. Ravioli dates back to the 14th century while tortellini was first mentioned in medieval Italy.

In Hungary, dumplings are referred to as galuska or nokedli. The dough is made from a combination of thick flour and egg batter, the filling is then added, and the dumpling is cooked in boiling water. The dumpling’s sweet filling traditionally consists of whole plumbs or apricots which are boiled and then rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs. Shlishkes are potato dumplings that are rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs.

Poland’s version of the dumpling is the Pierogi, a ravioli-like, crescent-shaped dumpling that has a savory or sweet filling. It can be either boiled or fried. Actually, Pierogi is plural and refers to two or more Pierog’s, which is the singular version of Pierogi.

Russia has their version of the dumpling in the ushki, while the Ukraine has the vushka, and Belarus has the vushki. All three are folded ring-shaped dumplings which resemble the Italian tortellini. They’re usually stuffed with meat or mushrooms and served in Borshch or clear soup. Russia also has the Pelmeni, a dumpling that’s filed with either pork, beef, or mutton.

In Argentina and Portugal, gnocchi fits the definition of a dumpling. Gnocchi consists of dough made from eggs with either potato, semolina flour, or ricotta cheese added. The gnocchi is then boiled in water and may be served with grated cheese, melted butter, or a pasta sauce.

The Armenian dumpling, boraki, is filled with minced meat. The dumpling is then pre-fried, lightly boiled in broth, and finally fried.

There are hundreds of varieties of dumplings in various cultures throughout the world. Therefore, when someone says “dumpling”, we can think outside the box and envision hundreds of cultures that devour these savory morsels every day.

Alan Refkin

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