Almost every cuisine boasts a version of the dumpling. Most feature a sweet or savory filling enclosed in a wrapper, while others are soft pillows of dough that float in soup or are napped with a sauce. Dumplings are one of those foods that lay claim to many corners of the world—China, Turkey, Italy, Poland, the American South and more. This roundup highlights 10 global and regional variations that may be a little less familiar than Chinese pot stickers and Italian ravioli.
1. Chinese xiao long bao
More commonly known as soup dumplings, these round bun-shaped dumplings with pinched tops are typically filled with minced pork and a gelatinous cube of savory broth. As they are heated in a bamboo steamer or xiao long, the gelatin melts and diners get a mouthful of soup when they bite into the dumpling skin. Soup dumplings have long been a specialty of mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants and dim sum concepts, but their popularity has recently moved them onto more mainstream Asian menus. Wow Bao, Lettuce Entertain You’s multiunit chain based in Chicago, introduced soup dumplings filled with chicken as a limited-time offer in early 2017.
2. Turkish manti
Sometimes referred to as Turkish ravioli, manti are tiny squares of dough filled with spiced ground meat and onions—a labor-intensive preparation traditionally made by hand in Turkish kitchens. Manti are usually topped with melted butter or a yogurt-garlic sauce and a drizzle of sumac-infused olive oil to add color. Armenian-style dumplings called mante are a close relative. Mante House in Los Angeles serves them with assorted toppings, leading some customers to call them “dumpling nachos.”
3. Korean mandu
According to culinary historians, manti were probably adapted by Turks traveling across Central Asia during the Mongol Empire. Similar small filled dumplings are eaten in Northwest China and East Asia. The Korean version, called mandu, are also an adaptation from Central Asia. Mandu are shaped into little circles and in the classic version are filled with seasoned beef, pork, mushrooms and chives and cooked by steaming. More recently, kimchi is showing up as a mandu stuffing, riding its rise in popularity as a Korean condiment—and a sustainable way to recycle leftover kimchi.
4. Japanese gyoza
In appearance and ingredients, gyoza are similar to Chinese pot stickers, but the dough wrapper is slightly smaller and thinner, and the flavor is more delicate. Gyoza are usually filled with pork, cabbage and scallions, steamed and then fried crisp. A combo of soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar is served as a dipping sauce. While pot stickers may be eaten as an appetizer course in a Chinese meal, gyoza are most often served as a side dish or snack.
5. Polish pierogi
Although pierogi originated in Europe, the dumplings have followed Polish and Eastern European immigrants to the U.S. and are prevalent in cities where they have settled, including Pittsburgh, Chicago and Buffalo, N.Y. The crescent-shaped dumplings can be filled with potato, sauerkraut, cheese or meat and are typically boiled, then fried in butter with onions. But next-gen Polish-American cooks have invented new iterations and mashups, with fillings such as sweet potato, feta and spinach, and mozzarella, basil and tomato appearing on menus and in supermarket freezer cases.
6. Jewish kreplach
Pierogies aren’t the only dumpling to come out of Eastern Europe. Ashkenazi Jewish families living in Russia, Poland and Germany—some of whom traveled north from Italy—are said to be the creators of triangular kreplach. These dumplings, which resemble downsized ravioli, are filled with ground beef and onions and most often served in chicken soup. Through the years, kosher cooks have created vegetarian and cheese renditions to eat with dairy meals on designated Jewish holidays.
7. Georgian khinkali
In nearby Georgia, formerly part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and situated at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, dumpling styles merge in khinkali. These pleated dumplings are formed by twisting pieces of dough around a spiced meat stuffing. The filling ingredients may change according to what’s available; a pork-beef mix is the most common, but minced lamb, cottage cheese or mashed potatoes are regional variations.
8. Tibetan momo
Northern India, Tibet and Nepal boast a dumpling that reflects the flavors of some of its Asian neighbors with a few Western accents thrown in. Momo are rounded with little topknots, similar in looks to Chinese soup dumplings, and filled with meat, vegetables or cheese. Instead of a soy sauce dip, they are usually accompanied by a tomato-based sauce. Street vendors are a go-to source for momo in these locales.
9. Swedish pitepalt
Potatoes not only serve as the filling for many ethnic dumplings, but they can also form the dough. For pitepalt or palt, a dish that was born in the Swedish town of Pitea, raw potatoes are blended with wheat flour and/or barley flour and formed into little balls. The cook makes a hole in the ball and fills it with chopped bacon, then boils the dumplings in water. Pitepalt are typically served with a spoonful of lingonberry preserves—a Swedish staple.
10. Appalachian blackberry dumplings
The U.S. has a rich history of regional dumplings, prepared in both savory applications (Southern chicken and dumplings) and sweets (Pennsylvania Dutch apple dumplings). As culinary niches begin to emerge from these broader cuisines, other dumpling styles are popping up. Appalachian food is a recent niche growing out of Southern cooking, and blackberry dumplings are one of its signatures. These unfilled dessert dumplings start with a loose biscuit dough, similar to that used for chicken and dumplings. Spoonfuls of the dough are dropped into a pot of simmering blackberry sauce to cook up into light, fluffy dumplings. These are then scooped out of the pot, plopped in a bowl and topped with a generous helping of the blackberry sauce.