Forget around the world in 80 days, we’d rather go around the world eating 80 dumplings! From gyoza in Osaka to tortellini in Bologna, you’ll find a type of dumpling in almost every culture, so whether you like stuffed pasta or dim sum, there’s a dumpling for every taste! You’ll find dumplings from all over the world in almost every city, but for the real deal there’s nothing like making a food pilgrimage back to the country (or even city) where they originated. So here’s a guide to 6 of our favourite dumplings around the world, and where you should eat them.
Bologna - tortellini
Whether you know it as La Grassa (the fat one) or the foodie capital of Italy, there’s no doubt that the sfoglina in Bologna know how to make pasta! But do you know your tortellini from your tortelloni? These two variations of stuffed pasta sound inconveniently similar to anyone not familiar with the difference, but they contain different fillings, and are each eaten in a different way. Both are made from velvety smooth, fresh egg pasta, but tortellini are the smaller of the two, stuffed with minced pork, a sprinkling of parmesan and a hint of nutmeg, whilst tortelloni are larger, and stuffed with spinach, a soft cheese like ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano. But the tradition doesn't end there; for an authentic experience, make sure you order your tortelllini in brodo (broth), whilst tortelloni comes con burro e salvia (in brown butter and sage). These little dumplings are also known as Venus’s bellybutton, since legend has it that they were inspired when an innkeeper peeked through the keyhole and saw the navel of the Renaissance icon Lucrezia Borgia who was staying at his tavern one night. Buy them freshly made but uncooked to take home at Da Bruno e Franco, or head to Trattoria di Via Serra for authentic tortellini in brodo.
Taipei - xiao long bao
Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are probably Taiwan’s most famous culinary export. These are a delicate, impossibly thin skinned dumpling that’s traditionally stuffed with juicy pork and steamed. When steamed, the filling creates a rich yet light broth, so when you bite into the dumpling the hot soup comes pouring out! But there’s an art form to eating these delicious morsels; they should be dipped in vinegar and soy sauce which perfectly balances the fattiness of the pork, placed on a spoon and topped with wafer thin slices of fresh ginger, before you poke a hole into the side to release the soup onto your spoon, and then enjoy! No trip to Taipei would be complete without making the foodie’s pilgrimage to Din Tai Fung, the restaurant where Taiwanese soup dumplings were invented. You can find yourself waiting in the queue here for two or three hours if you make the mistake of going for lunch; so for an authentically local experience, ditch the midday waiting and enjoy soup dumplings for breakfast instead!
Hong Kong - dim sum
Dim sum is more than just eating dumplings, it’s a whole experience that’s an important part of Hong Kong’s heritage and culture. The ritual of sharing baskets of steamed, fried or grilled dumplings and buns began as something to nibble on while drinking tea, so you’ll also find the experience referred to as yum cha, which literally means ‘drink tea’. Dim sum is part of the lifestyle in Hong Kong, so while you’re in town make sure you experience it like a local! It’s never easy to choose which of these bite-sized dishes to order, but you can’t go wrong with the usual suspects that you’ll find at almost every teahouse and dim sum restaurant like siu mai (pork and prawn dumplings), fried turnip cake, old fashioned Chinese style sausage rolls, bbq steamed pork buns and prawn cheung fun (rice rolls). For a classic Cantonese experience, where harried servers race around the dining room pushing trolleys stacked with bamboo baskets, a loud and lively atmosphere and old-school dishes that you won't find anywhere else like siu mai topped with liver, head to Lin Heung Tea House. For vintage elegance, you can’t go wrong with the Luk Yu Tea House, a beautiful Chinese tea house where you’ll find traditional dishes and and local families enjoying dim sum together. City Hall Maxim’s Palace is another quintessentially Hong Kong dim sum joint, where trolleys are wheeled around in the traditional style and large family groups noisily order the dishes their favourite dishes.
Budapest - szilvás gombóc
Szilvás gombóc are a traditional Hungarian dumpling, the kind of dish that locals will think of nostalgically as something their grandma used to make. These potato dumplings are rolled and stuffed with plums and cinnamon, or plum jam, and then boiled, before being coated in fried breadcrumbs and dusted with icing sugar and more cinnamon. Usually eaten as a dessert, they were traditionally only made when plums were in season, which is around September through to early autumn. So in Budapest, if you’re in the city during this time you’ll find them on special in restaurants and cafes - if you spot them don’t hesitate to stop and try these simple yet deliciously satisfying sweet treats! Although Hungarian dumplings are usually thought of as a sweet dessert, the humble potato dumpling is wonderfully diverse, and of course there are savoury varieties like the savoury classic of cottage cheese dumplings. For a taste of traditional szilvás gombóc any time of year, or to taste contemporary twists, head to Gombro’c where as well as plum, you’ll find delicious flavours like goats cheese and spinach, bbq ribs and peanut butter and caramel!
Osaka - gyoza
Although gyoza are enjoyed nationwide in Japan, as the country’s food capital it’s only right that you try a plate (or two, or three…) of tasty dumplings while you’re in Osaka! Gyoza are a thin skinned dumpling whose classic filling is ground pork with nira (Japanese chive), garlic, ginger and cabbage, although of course there are hundreds of variations of the original and today you’ll find gyoza stuffed with a variety of fillings, from chicken to sea urchin. For an authentic experience, enjoy gyoza at a little izakaya with a few beers, or at a hole-in-the-wall eatery along with a steaming bowl of ramen. Some spots will stick to their own secret recipe for their dipping sauce, whilst at others you can mix up your own at the table from soy sauce, vinegar and chilli oil. The most common variety is yaki gyoza, where the expertly sealed dumplings are panfried on a hot skillet and then covered and steamed, creating an explosion of textures from the crispy base to the delicate yet slightly chewy skin. Sui gyoza are boiled and usually served in a light broth, whilst age gyoza are deep fried - so eat your way around Osaka and try as many varieties as you can!
Seoul - Mandu
Mandu are Korea’s version of the gyoza, a meat filled dumpling that can be pan-fried, steamed or boiled, with the flavours and cooking method varying between regions and households. Mandu can be eaten as a standalone dish, a snack or as an accompaniment to a meal like noodles, and you’ll find them stuffed with everything from kimchee to beef, tofu to chicken. As in many cultures, mandu are more than just a dish, they’re part of the culture, and getting together with family to make dumplings together on holidays like New Year’s Day is still a much loved tradition. Whether you pick some up from a street food vendor or try them in a local restaurant, you’ll not want to stop eating them once you’ve tried these delicacies! For classic flavours and local prices, head to Mapu Mandu and try the galbi and kimchee varieties, or just follow your nose and the queues of locals at a tiny street front restaurant and get creative with your order, trying the pan-fried, steamed and boiled varieties!