One Dumpling to Rule Them All

While we’re taking some holiday time off to eat and nap and frolic in the snow, we’re re-running some of our best posts of the year. We’ll be back with new stuff Monday, January 6.


Pierogi. Ravioli. Knödel. Gnocchi. Wonton. Kudle. Spätzle. Uszka. Knish.

No matter what you call it, the dumpling is a universal staple of nearly every cuisine in the world. At it’s heart, the dumpling is just a cooked ball of dough, but the infinite variations on this simple definition makes the dumpling an exciting way to sample world cuisine.

As this post publishes, I am on an epic European adventure. Over three and a half weeks, I’ll be traveling through Vienna, Munich, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava and Istanbul. While I’m completely psyched to be eating and drinking my way through Central Europe, the simple dumpling in each of these cities will be my yard stick for the different cuisines.

knodelIn Austria and Germany, the dumplings are flour-based, called knödel, nockerl or knöpfle, and served as an accompaniment to a heavier meat dish.

This large dumpling is very similar to the Jewish matzoh ball, which makes sense, since this is the heart of the European Jewish community. I am looking forward to also sampling this amazing Jewish cuisine, since matzoh ball soup is one of my ultimate comfort foods.

Czech cuisine takes dumplings and makes them both savory and sweet. The savory form is called knedlik and is typically bread or potato based with pork. The sweet version is the type I’m most excited for; the knedliček is a ball stuffed with fruit like plums or berries with butter and powdered sugar on top.

bryndzoveHaluskyThe Slovak national dish is the bryndzové halušky dumpling, which are potato dumplings without filling and a salty sheep’s milk cheese on top. Think of this like the Slovak version of gnocchi. There’s a less popular version that’s filled with meat, but these are usually part of a larger dish. Bryndzové halušky is a dish all on its own.

The Polish version of the dumpling is closer to Italian tortellini than its more geographically convenient neighboring cuisines. The uszka, which means “little ear,” has many cousins hailing from Romania to Italy to Russia. It is a folded ring-shaped dumpling usually stuffed with mushrooms or meat. Of course Poland is also famous for its pierogis, which are a pasta with potato stuffing, served with plenty of sour cream.

mantıAfter all this heavier European dumpling eating, I’ll be thrilled to finish my trip in Istanbul where I can sample the Turkish take on the dumpling. Manti is typically a dough wrapper filled with spicy meat, usually lamb and/or beef, and steamed. It’s relatives are the Chinese steamed wontons that were brought through Turkey by the spice traders from the east.

There are of course many ways to eat your way through Europe. There will be plenty of that as well (along with beer and coffee drinking aplenty). But the dumpling is that unique food that spans countries, continents and cuisines. Is there any food quite like it?


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