Your Grandma Made Dumplings

My grandma made dumplings.

Everyone’s grandma made dumplings.

Based on my grandma’s dumplings (Chinese), I think I would have to speculate that the Chinese invented the concept, because there are dozens of Chinese dumplings—boiled, deep-fried, pan-fried, baked, and steamed, with sweet, savory, veggie, meat, and fish fillings, and each with its own delicious dipping sauce.


Dumplings, however, are possibly the most ubiquitous food group across cuisines. There are cuisines with no noodles, and cuisines with no salads, and cuisines with no fish, and even cuisines with no cookies.

But everyone makes dumplings.

As I noted, the Chinese make so many dumplings, that one word won’t cut it. There are dozens of words to describe different wrappers, shapes, stuffings, flour, cooking method, and size.

Chicagoan’s second favorite dumpling to Chinese siu mai (meat), ham bao (bready and barbecue), or har gao (rice flour and shrimp) is probably Polish pierogi. Twice-cooked wheat flour dumplings stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, meat, or fruit, made into crescents and pan fried flat.

The Russians have pelmeni, Jews have kreplach, Armenians have manti.

Indian samosa, gujia and modak. Japanese gyoza. American Chinese pot stickers (yes American Chinese is a distinct cuisine).

Then there are the “dumpling-like objects,” (empanadas, stuffed pastas), and the “I seem to be a dumpling but am actually a noodle” (matzo balls, spaetzle, and those things in chicken and dumpling soup).

We’re making har gao at the Community Cooking school on March 10. What kind of dumplings does your grandma make?