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Dumplings: An Illustrated Guide

BY: Shannon Grilli | Dec 28, 2017

Few foods are as versatile and as universally beloved dumplings. Fried, boiled, baked, steamed, plain or stuffed, they're a comfort food celebrated by many different cultures. And in addition to tasting great, they're also kind of... cute? So cute, in fact, that we decided to make an illustrated guide to some of our favorite varieties of dumpling. We think it's equal parts adorable and delicious.


The official name for these Chinese dumplings is baozi, and they've been enjoyed in China, in some form or another, since the 3rd century. They can be filled with either veggies or meat, and popular fillings vary from province to province, but some of the most beloved bao come stuffed with barbecue pork, sweet lotus paste, pickles, or sweetened coconut jam.


A type of Chinese dumpling typically served at dim sum, shumai actually originated in Mongolia where they were served in tea houses. In China, there are many different shumai fillings ranging from lamb and pumpkin to garlic and chive. But in the US, you'll likely find them stuffed with a traditional filling of pork, shrimp, mushroom, and green onion.


Many think of pierogi as a strictly Polish food, but they are actually popular throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and are likely to show up on menus in Russia, Lithuania, Romania, and Ukraine, too. The origins of pierogi are highly debated, but some scholars think they actually originated in China and were brought to Europe by Marco Polo.

Pierogi come stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory fillings ranging from mashed potatoes, to sauerkraut, to sweet cheese, to blueberries. They are traditionally boiled, then fried in butter, and served with sour cream, bacon, and fried onions or mushrooms.


Like most of the entries on this list, these Korean dumplings come with a wide variety of fillings, but the most common consists of ground pork, beef, cabbage (or kimchi!), ginger, and garlic. The dumplings are first boiled, then sometimes pan fried, but they're also commonly served in a beef-broth based soup called manduguk (literally, "dumpling soup"). Once upon a time, both mandu and manduguk were dishes reserved for the Korean royal court, though they've become an everyday staple food in a modern-day Korea.


It's hard to say which is the most comforting food: dumplings or chicken soup. Luckily, with kreplach, you don't have to choose. These traditional Jewish dumplings are filled with mashed potatoes or meat and served in a steaming bowl of chicken soup.

Though this is the most common way kreplach are served, it's bar far the only way. On Hannukah, many Jewish families enjoy kreplach fried in oil (a reference to the biblical oil miracle), while vegetarian kreplach or kreplach filled with cheese might be eaten on Purim.


Cepelinai take their name (and their shape) from the Lithuanian word for "zeppelins". Unlike many of the other dumplings on this list, cepelinai aren't made with a flour-based dough, but are instead prepared using grated potatoes, which are then stuffed with meat, cheese, or mushrooms, boiled, and topped with sour cream and bacon.


These Japanese-style dumplings actually originated in China (where they're called jiaozi), and were brought to Japan by Japanese soldiers returning home from World War II. Similar to potstickers, gyoza feature a filling made with ground pork, cabbage, chives, garlic, and sesame oil, all wrapped up in a delicate thin skin, and are fried before being steam-cooked the rest of the way. Once cooked, they are often served with a sauce made from rice vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil.


These traditional Georgian dumplings have both a unique shape and a unique method of eating. A mixture of lamb, beef, onions, chili peppers, and cumin is stuffed into the dumpling uncooked, allowing the natural juices of the meat to be trapped inside while cooking. Diners begin by sucking out the juices before biting in, in order to prevent the dumpling from busting open. And the tough knot of dough at the top of the dumpling is left uneaten so that diners can keep track of how many khinkali they've enjoyed.


 These round German potato dumplings are a common accompaniment to meat dishes, and are made using both grated potatoes and toasted bread, rolled together into a ball, and simmered (not boiled) in a pan of water, so they don't fall apart. Upon serving, many German cooks top these delicate potato dumplings and a sprinkle of fresh-chopped parsley.