Dumplings are a special treat that you may have noticed in Asian restaurants, served with special sauces and condiments. They’re especially popular on special occasions, but you can also order them from fast food takeout places.
What do they taste like, and what is the experience of eating dumplings all about?
In this article, we’ll get out our chopsticks and look at what dumplings are and how they taste.
What Are Dumplings?
The word “dumplings” can refer to many things, from little balls of dough that are cooked in soup, to elaborately constructed steamed dumplings filled with dozens of ingredients.
When we talk about dumplings, we are normally talking about starchy dough that is wrapped around a savory filling.
Many different cultures have their own versions of dumplings. Chinese dumplings, also known as potstickers, are some of the most popular and well-known, made with rice flour and filled with a variety of different ingredients depending on style and occasion.
In Japan, these are known as gyoza and have a slightly different style. Across Asia and around the world there are subtle variations that have led to hundreds, or maybe thousands, of different types of dumplings.
Dumplings are usually a side dish rather than the main course, and they often require more labor to make than other dishes, including painstaking rolling and filling.
Therefore, they are a labor of love, especially for holidays and family gatherings.
What Compliments Dumplings Flavor?
The taste your dumplings have will depend on the ingredients they are filled with and how they are prepared.
Normally, dumplings are doughy with a flavorful filling inside that could be made up of meat, vegetables, or both. There might also be seasonings in the filling which impart their own flavors.
The taste of the dumpling wrapper is neutral but starchy and complements the stronger flavor of the filling.
It’s also customary to add even more flavors to dumplings with garnishes, sauces, and dips.
Sliced or pickled ginger can add a bright and spicy note of flavor to the dumplings, and dipping in soya sauce or chili sauce can add another whole layer of taste.
What Do Dumplings Look Like?
Dumplings come in all shapes and sizes, but they are usually small enough to be eaten in a few bites each and either wrapped or folded, sometimes with obvious creases where they were sealed.
Dumpling wrappers and dough are pure white from rice flour or brown or tan from wheat flour, although the color of a dumpling can be impacted by what it is filled with.
If dumplings are pan-fried, you will see sear marks and browning from the pan, but otherwise, dumplings are often served straight from a bamboo steamer.
What Texture Do Dumplings Have?
The soft and chewy texture of most dumplings is one of their biggest strengths.
Even when dumplings are pan-fried, they usually remain soft and easy to chew and eat, with fillings that are already cut and blended so well that they are a kind of paste.
When you bite into a dumpling, you will notice the softness and chewiness of the doughy wrapper, as well as the consistent texture of the filling. It’s a smooth, chewy and satisfying tasty experience.
Types Of Dumplings
Cultures from around the world have developed their own spin on dumplings. Although these dishes share a lot of similarities and probably some common culinary ancestors, they are each unique with their own traditions and flavors.
Shui Jiao Dumplings
These are the standard variety of Chinese steamed dumplings that can be filled with either meat or vegetables.
They are versatile and make great appetizers or side dishes. Although they originate in China, they are found across Asia and the world.
Xiao Long Bao
These “soup dumplings” include ingredients in the filling that create a savory soup inside when the water from the steaming process contacts the filling. You first poke the dumpling to drink the soup contained inside, before eating the rest.
These flatter, pan-fried dumplings are called Guo Tie in China and Gyoza in Japan, where they became popular after World War II. In the West, they are better known as “pot stickers” and work great with different dipping sauces.
These delicate rice paper dumplings are cooked and eaten in soup, rather than on their own. The most popular fillings for wontons are pork and shrimp.
These Korean dumplings are prepared from beef, chicken, and other ingredients. They are perfectly complemented by a side of kimchi and some hot dipping sauces.
Banh Bot Loc
These Vietnamese dumplings are wrapped in Tapioca dough and usually filled with shrimp and pork belly. They make a great appetizer served with sweet chili fish sauce, but are best eaten right away because they don’t store well.
These heart Nepalese dumplings are stuffed with meat or vegetables and develop a savory broth inside them like xiao long bao, although they are smaller.
Where Do Dumplings Come From?
A traditional story claims that the inventor of the dumpling was Zhang Zhongjing, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine during the Eastern Han Dynasty that lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD.
During a particularly cold and brutal winter, he devised a way to nourish the people of his village and keep them warm. He took mutton, chili, and local herbs, and wrapped them in the dough, and steamed it.
These first dumplings helped the people of the village survive and remain healthy throughout the winter.
It’s a great story, but the idea of the dumpling – a meat or vegetable filling wrapped in a starchy grain – was thought of independently by many different cultures.
We don’t even consider all many of these dishes to be dumplings: calzone, gnocchi, matzo balls, ravioli, and empanada could all be considered types of dumplings.
Dumplings are a pretty natural and universal cultural innovation and although we are most familiar with dumplings from Asia, they have been a part of cuisine in almost every culture for a very long time.
Are Dumplings Healthy?
You can make dumplings a part of your healthy diet and enjoy them regularly, but you should pay close attention to the types of dumplings you eat and how many of them you consume, as well as the toppings you add.
The most basic dumpling is not bad for you. A rice or wheat flour wrapper adds some carbohydrates to a filling that is usually fatty meat mixed with vegetables that are good for you, like cabbage or leek.
However, there is often a lot of sodium added to the filling, and this is only increased when dumplings are served with soya sauce or other dipping sauces that are high in sodium.
Although dumplings include healthy ingredients, the ways they are cooked (deep-frying and pan-frying especially) and the ways they are served often increase the total fat and sodium.
If you enjoy dumplings and are concerned about the health impacts, you can minimize the negatives and increase the positives by choosing steamed dumplings with vegetable fillings, and eating your dumplings with as little added sodium as possible.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Dumplings?
Dumplings are delicious and wholesome and are especially great on special occasions, but if you eat them every day there are some dangers to be aware of.
As a high-glycemic-index food, dumplings are quickly digested and their energy is rapidly used.
That means that if you fill up on dumplings you could experience a rush of energy followed by a crash later on, leaving you in a bad mood and likely hungry again. Dumplings are also not great for people who have diabetes, for this reason.
Most dumplings are high in both calories and sodium. With more than 500 calories per serving, dumplings are side dishes that include as much caloric energy as the average full meal, while leaving you hungry for more.
It’s easy to eat too many dumplings, which can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in the long term.
How Do You Eat Dumplings?
These beautiful dough packets of flavor are a pleasure to look at, but how do you actually eat dumplings? What is the right way to enjoy them without embarrassing yourself?
It’s easier than it looks.
You can use either a fork or chopsticks to lift the dumpling. If you want to dip it into a shared sauce or add some toppings like sliced ginger, now is the time to flavor your dumpling.
When you are ready, lift the dumpling to your mouth and take a bite! You don’t need to fit the whole thing into your mouth, but it is convenient if you can.
It’s considered bad etiquette by most to dip a dumpling you have already taken a bite of into the dipping sauce. Once your dumpling has been dipped, eat the whole thing and reach for the next one.
For soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) there is a slightly longer process that is almost as simple.
You dip your dumpling and add any toppings you want before poking into the dumpling with a chopstick to create a hole you can drink the soup out of. When you are finished with the soup, you can eat the rest of the dumplings.
Dumpling Nutritional Information
|Per 4 small pork dumplings according to Livestrong.com|
Quick Table: Dumpling Recipes
|Shrimp And Chive Potsticker Dumplings||164||15 minutes|
|Wonton Soup With Sichuan Red Oil And Black Vinegar Chili Sauce||169||25 minutes|
|Korean Kimchi Mandu Dumplings||49||1 hour 10 minutes|
This adapted recipe includes a rich and flavorful dumpling filling, as well as a sauce that brings out the best in those flavors. The recipe calls for store-bought dumpling wrappers, so you don’t need to worry about that part.
These potstickers are delicate and delicious, with a complex flavor of shrimp and chive along with rice wine and sesame oil. When pan-fried, these potstickers are sure to disappear quickly at your dinner table.
Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Dumplings can take a lot of work to make, but it all pays off when you impress your family, friends, and guests with a meal that is so full of flavor they can’t believe it.
These dumplings are an elevated, gourmet take on Wonton soup that will delight and impress anyone at your table.
The star ingredient is the Sichuan red oil, which complements the light and wholesome flavor of these wontons perfectly. It might seem like too much heat at first, but the combination is amazing and will grow on you quickly.
Remember to start this recipe a full day in advance to get the best results. The red chili oil needs time to infuse, and these wontons can take a while to make on their own as well.
You can do all of the preparation the day before, and the soup will come together quickly.
Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes
These steamed dumplings are Korean through and through, from the dumpling style to the kimchi filling.
They’re also delicious and perfect for dumpling lovers who want a regular healthy meal. These larger Mandu dumplings are steamed and can be made healthier than some of the other varieties.
This is especially true considering they are filled with fermented kimchi, which has incredible health benefits.
This easy recipe uses store-bought wonton wrappers for convenience and is versatile and delicious. Add these dumplings to your manduguk (Korean dumpling soup) or tteok-manduguk (Tteokguk with Mandu).
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Dumplings Taste Sweet?
Most dumplings are savory rather than sweet, although many have some sugar added to bring about the natural flavors in the filling.
Although you might notice some natural sweetness to dumplings, overall they are savory rather than sweet and served as appetizers, side dishes, or main courses rather than as treats or desserts.
Are Dumplings Soft Or Crunchy?
Steamed dumplings are normally soft and chewy, with a smooth and consistent texture. Chinese Shui Jiao dumplings and Xiao Long Bao are like this, as well as wontons and other dumplings that are served in soups.
However, dumplings can also be pan-fried or deep-fried, and in this case, they become crunchy. Japanese gyoza and Chinese fried wontons are good examples of this.
These fried dumplings are crisp and crunchy, with an oilier texture, and are more suited to dipping sauces.
What Is Usually In Dumplings?
Dumplings can be filled with anything! There are dumplings with all kinds of fillings, from herbs and meat to cheeses and potatoes.
The filling inside a dumpling is usually fatty, salty, and flavorful in comparison to the mild and starchy flavor of the dough or wrapper.
The most popular fillings for dumplings worldwide are meat (including seafood) and vegetables.
Often, these are included together in the same filling. Pork and shrimp are common dumpling fillings, as well as chive, leek, chicken, beef, spinach, and other greens.
What Tastes Better Steamed Or Fried Dumplings?
This is a matter of opinion – steamed and fried dumplings each have their own appeal, and you have to decide for yourself which taste you prefer.
Steamed dumplings are softer with a chewy texture that brings out the flavor of the filling. Steamed dumplings are also very good at absorbing other flavors in the mix, like soya sauce or ginger.
If you want to taste every part of the dumpling and experience the subtlety of all of these flavors, steamed dumplings are preferable.
Fried dumplings taste more like fast food, with a satisfying and fatty crunch. The skin of a steamed dumpling has relatively little flavor, but when fried, dumpling skins become like chips and have a flavor all their own.
To some, this makes them more delicious than steamed dumplings, although it covers up and obscures the flavor of the filling just a little bit in the process.
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