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Around the world in 30 dumplings
When is a dumpling not just a dumpling? When it's Chinese xiaolongbao or Italian ravioli or Swedish pitepalt
A dumpling may "only" be a pocket of dough filled with some form of savory or sweet stuffing. That, at least, is how we're defining them for the purposes of this article.
But they're more than the sum of their parts, a marvel of world cuisine, both simple and complex, local and global, adaptable yet fixed in their home regions as cheap, tasty staples to snack on.
We're pretty sure that, among their various incarnations, there are few travelers who will not have found at least one dumpling to their taste.
But if you happen to be among that minority, here are 30 dumplings -- or their near relatives -- to change your mind.
Served steamed in bamboo baskets, xiaolongbao look different from other types of Chinese dumplings, as the skin is gathered and pinched at the top instead of folded in half.
Xiaolongbao are also unique in that aside from the traditional pork filling, a small piece of aspic is folded into the dumpling, which melts when steamed.
Thanks to the broth injection, the filling stays moist and flavorful.
Try it at: Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant南翔饅頭店, Yuyuan Bazaar, 378 Fuyou Road, Shanghai, China
Also on CNNGo: 40 Shanghai foods we can't live without
Ravioli can be packed with anything from meat to cheese to vegetables, or any combination thereof.
If the processed canned or bagged varieties familiar to lazy college students makes up your only impression of ravioli, rectify that as soon as possible. Preferably with a trip to Rome.
Try it at: Trattoria Dell’OMO, Via Vicenza 18, al Centro Storico di Roma, Rome, Italy; +39 6 490 411; www.trattoriadellomoroma.com
3. Sichuan spicy wonton
The spicy Sichuan wonton, or chao shou, comes to the table drenched in a spicy chili oil flavored with the Sichuan peppercorn and a black vinegar sauce.
The chao shou is boiled and the very best specimens are so slippery they're nearly impossible to pick up with chopsticks.
The combination of savory meat, smooth wonton skin and tongue-numbing yet surprisingly savory and vinegary sauce makes for the most pleasant runny nose you've ever had.
Try it at: Long Chao Shou龙抄手总店, 61 Chengshou St., Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Manti hail from Central Asia -- they're eaten in places such as Turkey, northwestern China, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan -- and are very closely related to East Asian variants of dumplings.
Adopted by Turks who traveled across Central Asia during the Mongol Empire, these dumplings can be filled with lamb, beef, quail, chicken or left unfilled.
Turkish manti are served with yogurt and spiced with red pepper and melted butter.
Try it at: Bodrum Manti 1. Cadde 111, Arnavutköy, Turkey; +90 212 263 29 18; www.bodrummantı.com
5. Bryndzové halušky
A national dish in Slovakia, bryndzové halušky is a dish of potato dumplings served with bryndza, a Slovakian sheep cheese, and sprinkled with bacon or pork fat.
The combination of cheese and bacon makes this a national dish almost everyone can agree on.
Try it at: Prašná Bašta, Zámočnícka 11, 811 03 Bratislava, Slovakia; +421 2 5443 4957; www.prasnabasta.sk
A steamed fish dumpling served with vegetables and peanut sauce, siomay might be called the Indonesian street food take on siumai, traditionally found in Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
Adopted from Chinese Indonesian cuisine, the most popular variant of siomay is found in Bandung. The best way to sample these dumplings is from a street vendor carting a steamer on his bicycle.
Try it at: Siomay Pak Lili, Jl. Geger Kalong Girang, Bandung, Indonesia
More on CNNGo: 40 of Indonesia's best dishes
7. Shrimp wonton
The Hong Kong-style shrimp wonton is a thick dumpling holding shrimp and minced pork. It's commonly served with thin egg noodles or on its own in a seafood broth.
Many a heated debate over the best shrimp wonton has been heard locally, but there's never any arguing over its prime place in the Hong Kong diet.
Try it at: Wing Wah Noodle Shop, 89 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong; +852 2527 7476
More on CNNGo: 40 Hong Kong foods to devour
Originating in Central and Eastern Europe, pierogi are most commonly thought of as Polish.
These dumplings can be stuffed with potato, minced meat, cheese, fruit or sauerkraut. They're usually boiled, then pan-fried in butter with onions.
This finishing flourish is the selling point of the dish, adding another layer of flavor in the pan.
Try it at: Pierogarnia, 28/30 Ul Bednarska, Warsaw, Poland; +48 22 828 03 92; www.pierogarnianabednarskiej.pl
Modak is a sweet from Maharashtra offered to Lord Ganesh during the Ganesh festival every August. The teardrop-shaped dumpling is kneaded from rice flour and stuffed with coconut and jaggery, an unrefined whole cane sugar.
The best modak are found in homes celebrating the Ganesh festival in Maharastra -- those sold in sweet shops are nothing like the real thing.
Try it at: Butter up an acquaintance from Maharastra and ask to sample modak the next time August rolls around.
More on CNNGo: 40 Mumbai foods we can't live without
Found across Germany, kartoffelknoedel, or potato dumplings, usually accompany meat dishes.
The Bavarian variant combines both raw and cooked potato, stuffed with a crouton or bread filling.
Not the star player on the dinner plate, they nevertheless play a crucial supporting role.
Try it at: Café am Beethovenplatz, Goethestrasse 51, Munich, Germany; +49 89 552 9100; www.mariandl.com
Pitepalt is a meat-filled potato dumpling that hails from the Swedish city of Piteå. There are countless variants in the city alone -- the best place to sample some depends on whom you ask.
The dumpling is usually made from raw potatoes mixed with barley or wheat flour, then stuffed with minced meat. Pitepalt is served with that Scandinavian staple made popular around the world by Ikea: lingonberry jam.
Try it at: Paltzerian, Restaurang Motell Öjebyhus, Gammelstadsv. 1, 94331 Öjebyn, Sweden; +46 911 607 80; minx.se
Pelmeni are Russian dumplings from Siberia, likely introduced to Russian cuisine by the Mongols.
Similar to Chinese jiaozi, Turkish manti and eastern European pierogi, pelmeni are distinguished by the thickness of the dumpling skin.
Pelmeni may be stuffed with anything from meat to mushrooms to cheese, but never with anything sweet.
Try it at: Pushkin Café, 26A Tverskoy Blvd., Moscow 103009, Russia; +7 495 739 0033; cafe-pushkin.ru
13. Dim sim
Some dumpling purists say that the Australian dim sim is merely a bastardized version of Chinese dumplings.
But we say if a dumpling has fans standing in line, it’s a worthy dumpling.
Dim sim is a combination of meat or fish mixed with cabbage and enclosed in a wrapper. It may be steamed, deep-fried or barbecued, and is usually much larger than Chinese dumplings.
Dim sims usually taste gingery, a feature of Westernized Chinese cuisine found in Australia, North America and Europe.
Try it at: South Melbourne Market Dim Sims, Cecil Street, Melbourne, VIC 3205, Australia; +61 (0)3 9209 6295
Also on CNNGo: 40 foods Australians like to call their own
14. Banh bot loc
Banh bot loc are Vietnamese pork and shrimp dumplings, with wrappers made from tapioca flour.
When cooked, tapioca flour becomes clear, giving the dumpling its appearance and the wrapper its chewy texture.
There are two major variants: wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, or boiled.
Try it at: Nam Giao Restaurant, 116 Suong Nguyet Ahn, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; +84 83 925 9996; namgiao.com
More on CNNGo: 40 delicious Vietnamese dishes
Tangyuan is a Chinese dessert -- sticky balls made from glutinous rice flour containing a sweet filling, such as ground peanuts or black sesame paste, and served in a bowl of sweet soup or rolled in ground peanuts.
Some tangyuan are served as smaller, unfilled rice balls in a soup made from cane sugar.
In dessert shop chains all over Hong Kong, tangyuan are served with ice cream, topped with a drizzle of syrup.
Try it at: Yuk Yip Dessert Shop, 2 Elgin St., Central, Hong Kong; +852 2544 3795
16. Chicken and dumplings
Chicken and dumplings is probably the ultimate in Southern comfort food in the United States.
Chicken soup is a dish found all over the world, but the addition of dumplings gives chicken soup an extra oomph.
American dumplings are usually a mix of flour, vegetable shortening and milk ... in this case dropped directly into the chicken broth. The broth may be a clear chicken soup, or thickened with flour or cream.
Try it at: Paris Coffee Shop, 704 West Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, Texas, United States; +1 817 335 2041; www.pariscoffeeshop.net
Also on CNNGo: America's 50 greatest foods
17. Kimchi mandu
Mandu, the Korean take on dumplings, are more closely related to manti found in Central Asian cuisine than Chinese or Japanese dumplings.
Mandu are often folded into circular shapes, a technique rarely found in Chinese cuisine.
As ubiquitous as kimchi is in Korea, it was probably inevitable that somewhere along the way someone would chop up kimchi and stick it in a dumpling.
Try it at: Sadongmyeonok, Insadong 5-gil Insadong, Seoul, Korea; +82 (0)2 735 7393
More on CNNGo: 40 amazing Korean foods
Bawan is a Taiwanese street snack commonly found in night markets around the island.
A translucent wrapper made from rice flour, corn starch and sweet potato starch holds a stuffing of pork, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Bawan is served with a sweet and savory sauce.
The dumplings are steamed, then deep-fried to keep the wrapper from drying out.
Try it at: Changhua Ba-wan彰化肉圓, Nanjichang Night Market 南機場夜市, Zhonghua Road Section 2, 307-315 Alley, Taipei, Taiwan
More on CNNGo: Street food foray into Taiwan's night markets
Momo are dumplings found in northern Indian, Nepali and Tibetan cuisine. They may be filled with meat, vegetables or cheese, and are usually served with a tomato-based dipping sauce.
Enterprising Nepali vendors in Kathmandu have also taken to filling momos with Snickers and Mars bars, especially in areas frequented by tourists.
Try it at: Bhojan Griha, Dilli Bajar, Kathmandu, Nepal; +977 1 441 6423; www.bhojangriha.com
Uszka are similar to Polish pierogi -- the word “uszka” means “little ears” in Polish.
Uszka are usually filled with minced meat and mushrooms and put in borscht soup.
Uszka stuffed with bolete mushrooms and chopped onions without meat are served in clear borscht for Christmas Eve meals in Poland.
Try it at: Piwnica pod Kominkiem, ul.Bracka 13, 31-000 Kraków, Poland; +48 12 430 2130
Related to Chinese pot stickers, Japanese gyoza tend to be made with thinner wrappers, and filled with minced pork.
Frozen gyoza are found in most grocery stores all over the world, but the best restaurants for gyoza always turn out to be holes-in-the-wall outside of subway stations.
Try it at: Harajuku Gyoza Lou, 6-2-4 Jingumae, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan; +81 (0)3 3406 4743
More on CNNGo: 40 Tokyo foods we can't live without
22. Crab rangoon
Found on Chinese takeout menus in the United States, crab rangoon are deep-fried dumplings served as a side dish.
They're stuffed with cream cheese and imitation crab meat made from a fish-based paste.
It may not be an authentic Chinese dish, but love of fried cheese crosses cultures.
Try it at: Ping Pong, 3322 N Broadway St., Chicago, Ill., United States; +1 773 281 7576; www.pingpongrestaurant.com
23. Teochew fun gor
Not your typical pork-filled dumpling, the Teochew fun gor is usually packed with peanuts, chives, dried shrimp, pork, radish, mushrooms and cilantro.
The wrapper is made of a combination of wheat flour, tapioca flour, corn starch and potato starch, giving the fun gor its translucent appearance.
Teochew fun gor is most popular in Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
Try it at: Tim Ho Wan 添好運點心專門店, Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa St., Mong Kok, Hong Kong; +852 2332 2896
Usually triangular in shape, samosa are a deep-fried snack popular in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
They may be filled with a variety of stuffing, including potato, onions, peas, lentils and ground lamb.
Samosas are widely available in Indian restaurants all over the world, given the popularity of Indian cuisine.
Try it at: Guru Kripa, Road No. 24, Ahead of SIES College Plot No 40, Sion (W), Mumbai, India; +91 2407 1237
Located on the edges of Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia, it’s not surprising that Georgia has its own dumpling.
The khinkali resembles the xiaolongbao. It's formed by gathering the pleats of the wrapper at the top and stuffed with spiced beef and pork.
Khinkali are usually served with coarse ground black pepper.
Try it at: 50 Chavchavadze Ave., Tbilisi, Georgia; +995 322 36 53 65; www.gmcgroup.ge
Gnocchi are small, thick pasta shapes that can be made from semolina flour, potato, flour, eggs, cheese or some combination of a few of the aforementioned ingredients.
Recipes vary from region to region in Italy.
Gnocchi are prepared like other pasta dishes, and may be served in tomato-based sauces, pesto sauces or simply pan-fried in butter.
Gnocchi add a heartiness to dishes, though, in deference to your waistline, are often best consumed in small doses.
Try it at: Ristorante Santa Cristina al Quirinale, Via della Cordonata 21, 00187 Rome, Italy; +39 6 6992 5485; www.ristorantesantacristinaalquirinale.it
More on CNNGo: A huge mini-guide to Rome
Duty-free shops in Japanese airports are packed with what look like mountains of pre-wrapped boxes of Japanese treats. Many of these boxes actually contain daifuku.
They are a type of mochi (glutinous rice cakes), usually stuffed with sticky-sweet red azuki.
Daifuku are popular as gifts in Japan -- specialty stores that create a dazzling array of varieties move countless boxes over holiday periods.
Try it at: Kikuzuki, 6-1-3 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan; +81 (0)3 3821 4192
28. Amish apple dumpling
The apple dumpling is popular across the United States, and common among the Amish, especially in and around Pennsylvania.
A peeled and cored apple is stuffed with cinnamon and sugar, then wrapped in a piece of dough and baked until the apple becomes tender. The pairing of the apple dumpling, fresh from the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes for a divine dessert.
Try it at: Dutch Eating Place, 1200 Arch St., Philadelphia, Penn., United States; +1 215 922 0425
29. Svestkove knedily
These seemingly simple Czech fruit dumplings are surprisingly complex.
The dough is a mixture of egg, flour, butter and milk, which is wrapped around a small whole fruit, usually a plum. The dumplings are then dropped into a pot of boiling water.
After the dumplings are cooked, they're sprinkled with melted butter and sugar, then served immediately.
Try it at: Novomestsky Pivovar, Vodičkova ul. 20, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic; +420 222 232 448; www.npivovar.cz
30. Teochew fish dumpling
Teochew cuisine preparation methods are simple, aimed at highlighting the freshness of ingredients. The cornerstone of Teochew cuisine is the fish dumpling.
Though stuffed with a mixture of pork, fish and cabbage, the wrapper is made of fish.
To emphasize the quality of the fish, the dumplings are served in a bowl of clear soup without further adornments.
Try it at: Lao Er Fish Dumplings老二鱼饺, alley at 18 Xima Road, Chaozhou City, Guangzhou, China
More on CNNGo: Asia's 10 best street food cities