We’ve done a lot of specialized research – i.e. snacking – in random places from downtown Los Angeles to the outer boroughs of New York, and come to an important conclusion: Dumplings are the food that unites the world.
Every culture does dumplings differently. Sometimes they’re fried, sometimes steamed, sometimes baked. Sometimes they’re delicate, and sometimes they’re as sturdy as a hockey puck. As long as the dough is wrapped pillowcase-like around a filling, it’s a dumpling.
This list takes us around the world for dumplings—and we can’t think of a better way to go.
Bao (aka: Baozi, Bau, Humbow, Pao)
Like little tacos of love! Photo: @bestfoodlasvegas / Instagram
These steamed, often pillowy but occasionally bread-roll type buns are often wrapped around barbecued or roast meat for a savory treat, or around red bean paste for something sweeter.
Bao is the granddaddy of all Chinese dumplings and makes a delicious light breakfast or on-the-run treat at any Chinese/Asian restaurant (or Hawaiian bakery).
Empanada (aka: Pastel)
Usually chewy, but occasionally crispy, these appear like a deep fried potsticker or a little turnover, and they’re Latin America’s favorite appetizer. As is the case around the globe you can find these chalk full of different meats and veggies, or full of fruits like apples or bananas.
Brazilians came up with these batter-fried chicken croquettes, and they say the cone shape resembles a chicken leg. (It doesn’t.) The word coxinha has made its way into Portuguese slang, and used to be an endearment, but lately Brazilians use it like we use “bougie.”
__Pierogi __(aka: Pirogi)
Find this freezer-aisle classic right next to the 50-cent burritos and the mini beef pies. Actually, a pierogi IS a mini meat pie, but without quite as much shaping.
Polish babcia’s wrap unleavened dough around potato, cheese, mushrooms, meat if you’re lucky and sauerkraut if you’ve been naughty. Then, boil and serve with butter on top.
Pretty much like a pierogi, only from Siberia, so the Russians swear it’s a zillion times better. The pasta shell tends to be very thin, and Russians don’t mess around with potato or mushroom. They stuff these little nuggets with spicy ground meat and onion—and traditionally, boil them in water from melted snow.
Kreplach (aka: Jewish ravioli)
The perfect winter food, unless you’re low-carbing (which makes us wonder why you’re reading this to begin with). Jewish grandmas have been serving these boiled, ground meat or mashed potato stuffed little bites in clear broth, though occasionally fried, on special holidays for hundreds of years.
__Mandu __(aka: Mandoo)
Korea flavors tend to be tough, and in your face, so the traditional Korean dumpling is no delicate morsel. The classic filling is minced pork with tofu, cabbage, and onions. While you can, hypothetically, cook mandu any way you please, most people swear by pan-frying.
Mandu is sometimes served in a clear beef broth. Kimchi is a traditional side dish, and vegetarians will sometimes just stuff their mandu with kimchi and tofu.
Borek (aka: Burek)
Someday, out at a Turkish restaurant, you might order a borek that shows up looking like a kugel. Or an egg roll. Or a quesadilla. Don’t come back here and shout about it.
Borek date back to the Ottoman empire – Arabs, Turks, Armenians and Bulgarians each has their versions. Some are triangular dumplings, and some are … not. If it’s pastry dough with meat and cheese and spices, though, it’s all good with us.
Zhao Ji (aka: Gyoza)
Gyoza is the name you probably know. It’s the Japanese pronunciation of the original Chinese dish. Served in nearly every U.S. Japanese restaurant, this dumpling is like a gateway snack that lead even the scariest eaters down the path to adventure dining.
These suckers are usually stuffed with minced pork or shrimp though sometimes they can include cabbage or egg, and are then steamed or pan-fried.
Siomay (aka: Somay)
This popular Indonesian street food consists of fish meat or sometimes prawn stuffed into little thin-shelled dumplings and served with peanut sauce and chili. Fancy versions have the pastry wrapping pinched into pleats and facing upward like a tulip. A lovely little tulip, filled with fish.