They’re so simple.

Dumplings.

Every cuisine seems to have them. A little dough, a bit of filling. That’s it!

And yet.

These stuffed little nuggets of dough that go by different handles — potstickers, pierogi, ravioli, gyoza, manti, kreplach, samosas, khinkali, pelmeni — are not just simple, but simply delicious.

Call them the ultimate comfort food. Easy to eat — all it takes are a few bites, and sometimes, no utensils at all. And easy to enjoy. Oh, the utter delight of discovering what’s hidden inside those enchanting envelopes of dough, of all shapes — circular, half-moon, pursed, cylindrical, conical, triangular, square — and sizes, and all manner of cooking, from boiled, steamed and baked to pan-fried and deep-fried. 

Photo of dumplings called" Khinkli, photographed at Shoti Bread House on Sept.30, 2021, in Fair Lawn.

Eager to experience dumplings from nearly every corner of the world? A plane ticket or boat ride is not required. What is? A good appetite, an adventurous palate and a willingness to try the freshest, juiciest, puffiest, most delicious dumplings made in the shops and restaurants in our region.  

China: Jiaozi and Soup Dumplings 

Dumpling Den, Fort Lee

Soup dumplings in the kitchen at Dumpling Den in Fort Lee on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.

China invented the dumpling. So is it any wonder that the country seemingly has countless varieties of them? There are jiaozi, soup, wonton, shumai, potstickers and more.  

After all, it was a Chinese medicine man who is believed to have invented the dumpling. Some 2,000 years ago during a particularly brutal winter, health practitioner Zhang Zhongjing wanted to help the men and women in his village combat frostbite. He wrapped scraps of dough around a mixture of mutton, herbs and chilis and steamed his concoction before handing them out. No one knows whether they helped alleviate frostbite, but Zhongjing’s fellow countrymen loved his creation so much that they went on to make it themselves, long after the weather turned warm.