History behind delicious dumplings

 Dumpling is a broad classification for a dish that consists of pieces of dough wrapped around a filling, or of dough with no filling. The dough can be based on bread, flour or potatoes, and may be filled with meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, fruits or sweets. Khinkali, Jiaozi, Pierogi, Manti – have you ever wondered what does those dishes have In common? Today I will tell you everything about this delicious dish and its unique roots.

There are different kinds of dumplings. In Georgia we call it Khinkali, in Italy – Raviolli, in Poland – Pierogi and in China – Jiaozi.  Dumplings are very famous in a lot of countries. Each country has own tradition of coocking them.

Poland

In Poland dumplings are called as ‘Pierogi’. Pierogi are filled dumplings made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savoury or sweet filling and cooking in boiling water. They are often then pan-fried before serving. Pierogi are most often associated with the cuisine of Central and Eastern European nations. 

To many Poles, pierogi are remindful of childhood flavors and of their family home. Everybody knows that kids usually love flour dishes. Poles adore pierogi not only out of nostalgia for the past; they are the archetypal comfort food, satiating and hearty. People also have fun with them because of the stuffing which is always a bit of a surprise: will it be delicious or totally inedible? The Polish pierogi “concept” allows for endless opportunities to experiment with stuffing. People love them because they can be eaten warm, cold, baked, fried or boiled.  They taste great on the second day, grilled on a frying pan with some butter. They also freeze very well, so you do not have to eat everything at once.

Poles also like sweet pierogi. In summer, some eat a sweet version of pierogi as a main course! This culinary habit of serving sweet food as a main meal may seem awkward and cloying to foreigners, yet kids usually love to tuck in sweet pierogi with quark cheese. Summer pierogi are filled with fruit like apricots, bilberries, apples, sweet or sour cherries. During Christmas, Poles eat pierogi with sweet poppy seed filling. Sweet pierogi can be topped with some powdered sugar and melted butter.  This simple food may turn into a delicious dessert when served with an orange sauce, a lemon curd, some crème anglaise, a basic chocolate ganache or even a raspberry or a strawberry coulis.

Turkey

Manti, also manty, mantu or manta, is a type of dumpling popular in most Turkic cuisines, as well as in the cuisines of the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Balkans, Bukharian Jews and Chinese Muslims. As usually, Manti’s are tiny lamb-stuffed dumplings topped with three sauces: caramelized tomato sauce, brown butter sauce, and garlicky yogurt sauce.

The word manti derives from mantu,  meaning dumplings. It is a shared culinary heritage that the nomadic Turkish tribes brought with them when they travelled from Central Asia towards Anatolia, today’s Turkey, during the 13th century.  According to Holly Chase, ‘Turkish and Mongol horsemen on the move were supposed to have carried frozen or dried manti, which could be quickly boiled over a camp’; what a brilliant idea. These delicious dumplings are popular in most Turkic cuisines, as well as in Armenian, Caucasian, Central Asian, Afgan and Chinese Islamic cuisines.

Georgia

Khinkali are Georgian dumplings. They’re one of the country’s most popular foods and a favorite item at long dinner parties known as supras. “No supra is complete without a platter of steaming khinkali being served toward the end of the meal,” 

The fillings of khinkali vary with the area. The original recipe, the so-called khevsuruli, consisted of only minced meat (lamb or beef and pork mixed), onions, chili pepper, salt and cumin. However, the modern recipe used mostly especially in Georgian urban areas, the so-called kalakuri, uses herbs like parsley and cilantro  (also called coriander). Mushrooms, potatoes, or cheese may be used in place of meat. 

China 

Jiaozi  are a kind of Chinese dumpling commonly eaten in China and other parts of East Asia. They are one of the major dishes eaten during the Chinese New Year and year-round in the northern provinces. Though considered part of Chinese cuisine, jiaozi are popular in other parts of East Asia and in the Western world, where they are sometimes called “pot stickers”. 

Jiaozi typically consist of aground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together. Finished jiaozi can be boiled, steamed or pan-fried  and are traditionally served with a black vinegar and sesame oil dip. They can also be served with soup. 

Italy 

Ravioli are a type of pasta comprising a filling enveloped in thin pasta dough. Usually served in broth or with a sauce, they originated as a traditional food in Italian cuisine. Ravioli are commonly square, though other forms are also used, including circular and semi-circular. Is tortellini a ravioli? Ravioli, the plural being “raviolo,” translates to “little turnip” whereas tortellini’s diminutive, “tortello,” translates to “stuffed cake.” Ravioli  is two layers of pasta that form a pillow-like shape whereas tortellini is folded into hat-like shapes akin to dumplings.

Who invented dumplings? 

So, as you may see, word Dumpling unifies lot of countries, it is associatied with different cultures and people. Actually, dumplings are older then it seems. Most experts believe that dumplings were invented by Zhang Zhongjing, a Chinese medicine practitioner who lived in the Eastern Han Dynasty, the second imperial dynasty of China that lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD. As legend tells it, it was a difficult winter and many were experiencing ill effects from the cold. To help people warm up, Zhongjing took mutton, herbs, and chilis and wrapped them in dough, then steamed them to bind everything together and keep them warm. These steaming, pillow-like treats helped people overcome the cold weather, while the herbs that Zhongjing put inside worked to improve blood circulation and prevent frostbite. 

What this history of the dumpling tells us about their meaning is that some foods span the length of space and time. Many different cultures invented their own dumplings, and many of those dumplings look quite different than what Zhongjing first created. And by understanding this unique history, we understand more about how food has functioned in general throughout the human experience—both as a practicality and as medicine for the mind, body, and soul.  There is simply no food that’s better than the dumpling for illuminating this important point and showing us that for all of our differences, food is one of the primary unifying factors that binds us together. 

Your faitfully, Ana 🙂

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