At some point in the Han Dynasty, a man called Zhang Zhongjian cured his village of frostbite by cooking up warm parcels of meat and medicinal herbs wrapped in dough to look like their afflicted ears, simultaneously healing them, inventing the dumpling, and owning them through the medium of food. Deciding to take the week off in honour of his good work, this service to mankind was not matched until two millennia later when Dolly Parton wrote “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” on the same day. Zhongjian could not have known then that these little, crimped meat pockets would go on to conquer the world, but conquer the world they did.
It’s possible to trace their movement linguistically: on their trip across the East China Sea they went from being Mandarin jiaozi to Japanese gyoza, and in the Jin dialect the word for steamed bun momo became the variation unique to Nepal and Tibet. Mantou, another word for steamed bun, quickly became mandu in Korea, and then spread like wildfire through the Silk Road: Uighur manta, Afghan mantu, manti going from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan through the Middle East and finally to Turkey. Meanwhile in the Middle East, the Persian sanbosag was a unique fried variant that became samsa across Central Asia, samosas in India, sambusas in Ethiopia and sambuus in Somalia. Across east and central Europe there are austere boiled dumplings of hard consonants and plosives: pelmeni, pierogi, khinkali, knodel, and the frillier ravioli and tortellini of Italy. And then the British dumpling, the most beautiful word of all, a little dumple, rich with suet and generally found greedily soaking up stews. This guide is an advocate of every type of dumpling, from fried to steamed, from spherical to crescent, from the homogenous ball to the wrapped with filling. They are the soul of every cuisine they touch, please respect them: please stop calling them dumpz.
Please note: A separate and complete guide to the best Chinese dumplings in London can be found here.Read More