As a mandatory part of her childhood, recipe editor Jennifer En grew up on a healthy diet of Chinese dumplings in all their forms. She didn’t know then that many cultures around the world also have their own versions of this delectable food. Imagine the joyful surprise! Below she fills you in on some of the dumplings you don’t want to miss.
The fact is, I have spent large portions of my life devoted to eating dumplings or yearning for them in their absence. As an adult, I have come to realize that this glorious food category (dough wrapped around a delicious filling) doesn’t end with Chinese pot stickers at all. On the contrary, various cultures have dumplings, too—ones made with different kinds of dough and fillings. They even go by other names!
I’ve long recovered from the shock of discovering so many other types of dumplings and have since eaten many of them (sometimes in undignified quantities). Here, I present a brief guide to help you navigate the vibrant and happy landscape of stuffed dough.
CHAR SIU BAO
Although commonly associated with Chinese cuisine, char siu bao are pork buns that can be found all over Asia. From China and Korea to Vietnam and Thailand, these delectable savory treats—despite their regional differences—have in common soft, thick dough on the outside and variations of barbecue-flavored pork inside. They are most often steamed, and sometimes baked, although much less frequently.
You’ll like them if: You’re a human who enjoys bread, pork, and the glorious flavors of barbecue.
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Halušky are Slovak dumplings similar to the dough knobs that make up the American dish of chicken and dumplings. Like Italian gnocchi, they are made with flour and often times, potatoes. They are boiled and tossed with meat or vegetables and a sauce.
You’ll like them if: You’re a comfort food enthusiast who loves foods that feel like big hugs.
Jiaozi, commonly referred to as pot stickers in the West, are Chinese dumplings traditionally filled with pork, shredded cabbage, and chives. The simple wrappers are made with flour and hot water. The name refers to the cooking method of frying them without moving until the bottoms are charred and stick to the pan. They are then steamed with water until the filling is fully cooked.
You’ll like them if: You appreciate just-greasy-enough foods that happen to taste magical at 1 AM.
Gyoza are the Japanese version of pot stickers, or jiaozi. While they originated in China, they are now found on most Japanese menus as an appetizer.
You’ll like them if: You’re a classic dumpling lover who wants to order sushi rolls, too.
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Mandu are Korean dumplings with a thin dough wrapped around meat, tofu, vegetables, or any combination thereof. They are often served with kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and spiced soy sauce alongside for dipping.
You’ll like them if: You enjoy diverse flavors enclosed in delicate (relatively light) packages.
Momos are Tibetan dumplings made with dough similar to Chinese jiaozi. Filled with meat or vegetables, they are served in hot sauce or in a meat broth. In Tibet, the filling is made with yak meat, while ground beef is more commonly used elsewhere.
You’ll like them if: You’re a foodie in search of new dumpling flavors and surprising textures.
With origins in Spain and Portugal, empanadas are widely eaten in Colombia and other South American countries as well as the Philippines. In the Colombian capital city of Bogotá, they’re made with a cornmeal crust wrapped around beef, chicken, potatoes, or cheese. While empanadas vary from country to country in South America, Bogotanos tend to prefer theirs fried.
You’ll like them if: You love a little accompaniment—empanadas are good any day, but they come into their full glory with the right sauce.
Russian pelmeni are dumplings similar to Korean mandu. A savory filling of minced meats and/or mushrooms is wrapped inside thin unleavened dough made with flour, water, and sometimes egg.
You’ll like them if: You love Korean mandu but wonder what they would taste like with a whole different flavor profile.
Pierogi are starch-forward dumplings made with unleavened dough wrapped around a savory or sweet filling. The most typical ones are filled with meat, sauerkraut, potato, or cheese. While they’re considered a national food in Poland and the Ukraine, pierogi variations exist in many other Eastern European countries.
You’ll like them if: You’re an intense type who isn’t intimidated by loads of starch and protein.
Italian ravioli are delectable dough pockets traditionally filled with cheese, meat, or any combination thereof. Made with pasta dough rolled thin and pinched to seal, they are often boiled and served with a cream or tomato sauce on top, or in broth.
You’ll like them if: You’re a pasta lover (aka any human being on earth).
Pitepalt are dumplings named after the city of Piteå in Sweden where they originated. They are commonly made with a dough of barley, wheat, and potatoes. Usually filled with meat and boiled, they are traditionally served with butter and jam.
You’ll like them if: You’re an adventurous eater who’s tried it all and is now ready to sample savory dumplings served with jam.
Shumai are classic Chinese dumplings filled with pork, mushroom, shrimp, scallion, and ginger. They are made with a thin dough and are cooked in steamer baskets. These savory pockets are often served at dim sum, a traditional Chinese tea time.
You’ll like them if: You’re a professional bruncher.
XIAO LONG BAO
Made with a hot water dough similar to that of jiaozi, xiao long bao are Chinese dumplings filled with meat and broth. Colloquially referred to as soup dumplings, these delicacies originated in Shanghai, a city we owe heaps of gratitude to.
You’ll like them if: You wouldn’t mind sharing a meal together. Please invite me to eat soup dumplings with you.
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