Fall is upon us, and while you won’t find us on the #PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) Instagram tag anytime soon, we’re craving something a little more substantive than the lighter fare—give or take a few expertly grilled steaks—we’ve been living off all summer. Enter the dumpling, the preferred hibernation fuel of nearly every culture on the planet.
Carbs, cheese, and/or meat (vegetables and fruit come into the picture every once in a while, but let’s be real here) are a winning combination, so it’s no surprise dumplings can be found everywhere from Poland to Nepal, to our very own backyard. What is a surprise is just how much room for variety there is in the seemingly simple combination of dough and filling; the dumpling, it turns out, can be anything from a simple street food to a holiday meal to a dim sum staple.
Here we round up ten essential dumplings, from delicate soup-filled vessels to robust hand-held snacks. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Place of origin: China
What it is: Soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao, are one of the tastiest and messiest varieties of bao, or steamed bun. Named for the bamboo basket (xiaolong) in which they’re prepared, soup dumplings’ namesake filling is created with aspic, which melts during preparation to create a slurpable filling, along with meat (usually pork). It is best consumed by slurping the soup out first, then eating the rest of the dumpling. (Photo: Flickr/Wally Gobetz)
What it is: Pierogi are quintessential Eastern European dumplings. Many New Yorkers know pierogi as the signature dish of longstanding Ukrainian diner Veselka, though they actually originated in Poland. Consisting of cheese, potatoes, sauerkraut, meat, or even fruit wrapped in a simple, flour-and-water dough, pierogi are served either boiled (good) or fried with onions (better). The result is truly hearty, like only the product of a frigid European winter can be. (Photo: Flickr/stu_spivack)
Place of origin: Peru
What it is: Instead of using a traditional dough, papas rellenas are encased in mashed potato, often fortified with potato flour, and then deep-fried, creating a dish that’s more robust than the average meat-stuffed, carb-wrapped confection. Beef, onions, hard-boiled eggs, and olives are typical fillings, often seasoned with cumin and served with aji-based sauce. (Photo: Flickr/Dennis Miyashiro)
Place of origin: India
What it is: Samosas may be the obvious choice, but Indian cuisine includes dozens of variations on the basic dumpling, including kachori. Originating in the country’s northwest, the kachori is a heavily spiced ball of mung bean-based dal coated in flour that is—what else?—deep-fried, creating an easily handheld snack. (Photo: Cooking with Sapana)
Place of origin: Germany
What it is: We’re still in the middle of Jewish High Holidays, so a roundup of dumplings from around the world would not be complete without this Ashkenazi (Eastern European, for the goyim) dish traditionally eaten to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and/or break the fast on Yom Kippur. Filled with meat, potatoes, or cheese, kreplach are frequently served in a soup, wonton-style. (Photo: Flickr/MMChicago)
Place of origin: Japan
What it is: Gyoza are probably what you think of when you hear the word “dumpling”: crescent-shaped, steamed or fried, and along with their Chinese equivalent jiaozi, a staple of takeout menus everywhere. Consequently, they don’t need much introduction, though it bears noting that gyoza’s pork-and-cabbage filling is heavier on the garlic and their wrapping tends to be thinner. (Photo: Flickr/Daniel Go)
Place of origin: Portugal
What it is: Now popular across nearly all of Latin America, the empanada began in Portugal (as one theory has it) before reaching the Americas via Brazil. Larger than the typical dumpling, a single empanada can serve as a handheld meal, consisting of pastry stuffed with meat or vegetables that vary by region—though in Portugal, chorizo and seafood mixed with a tomato-based sauce are popular choices too. (Photo: Flickr/Renzo Stanley)
Place of origin: Italy
What it is: They’re better known as a pasta than a dumpling, but as individually wrapped packages of dough and filling, ravioli make the cut, as do their close relatives tortelloni. Fun fact: the earliest known mention of ravioli dates them at nearly 700 years old! (Photo: Flickr/Jimsideas)
Place of origin: Nepal
What it is: Likely imported from Tibet, the momo is Nepal’s most popular lunch food, combining elements from Indian and Chinese cuisines that reflects Nepal’s geographic position between the two nations. A steamed bun with white-and-flour dough similar to gyoza or xiaolongbao, momo are frequently filled with paneer or chhurpi cheese as well as goat, buffalo, lamb, or yak meat. (Photo: Some Sojourns)
Chicken and dumplings
Place of origin: United States
What it is: Like gnocchi and most versions of “dumplings” served in the Caribbean, the wads of dough that give this dish half its name aren’t actually filled with anything. But this subgenre of dumpling deserved at least some representation on this list, and what better choice than the thicker, tastier cousin of chicken noodle soup? (Photo: The Cooking Guy)