Travel just about anywhere on Earth, and you’re likely to encounter a dumpling. For just about as long as humans have been eating, they’ve been dropping balls of dough into boiling water or stock, and they’ve been filling them with meat or vegetable mixtures for nearly as long as that.
Over the years, creating a filled dumpling has become an art form. Just take a look at the soup dumpling, a dim sum favorite: a mixture of meat and gelatin-rich broth is chilled until it becomes a solid, then it’s wrapped up in thin dough and steamed until the mixture inside melts. When you bite into the dumpling, the rich soup spills out; a great soup dumpling is unlike just about any other bite of food you’ll ever have.
For much of the world, though, filled dumplings are somewhat more rudimentary, even though they still require a great deal of technique and time to properly prepare. Some, like tortellini or the Russian pelmeni, are twisted into shapes, and all filled dumplings need to be perfectly sealed, lest they break open during the cooking process. The dough needs to be the right thickness and the filling the right consistency, and they need to be boiled until perfectly cooked. Thankfully, cultures have had hundreds of years to perfect the process.
While Asia and Italy might have the best-known — and most varied — selection of indigenous dumplings, nearly everywhere else on Earth has theirs as well. In Norway alone, dumplings have dozens of different names, including potetball, klubb, kløbb, raspeball, komle, kumle, kompe, kumpe, kodla, kudle, klot, kams, ball, baill, komperdøse, kumperdøse, kompadøs, ruter, ruta, raskekako, risk, klotremat, krumme, and kromme!
Some places, like the United States, northern Europe, and South America, don’t have their own indigenous filled dumpling (the U.S. has boiled dough — think chicken and dumplings — and in South America fried or baked pockets like empanadas have cornered the market), but just about everywhere else you travel, you’re bound to encounter savory little pockets of filled dough, either eaten with soup, in tomato sauce, or drowned in sour cream and butter.
So travel with us as we journey around the world in 13 dumplings.