In the recent few years, 'Momo' has become quite a popular food item among Dhakaite foodies and in other cities across the country. The bite-sized nuggets, unlike most fast food items, are not greasy and pungent. However, momo is not the most original of food items as it is derived from dumplings, which can be found around the world in a dazzling array of varieties.
Stuffed, boiled, steamed, deep fried, shallow fried and even baked inside a tandoor, it is quite difficult to find a cultural cuisine that does not include dumplings in some form. Just like bread, dumplingsprobably arose independently in several cuisines. And in all likelihood, they were invented as a way to stretch a small amount of meat to feed more people.
Dumplings are an ancient food. Recipes for them appear in Roman texts, and it is certain that Chinese dumplings are even older. But what actually is a dumpling? According to food historian Alan Davidson, "Dumpling. A term of uncertain origin which first appeared in print at the beginning of the 17th century, although the object it denotes --a small and usually globular mass of boiled or steamed dough -- no doubt existed long before that."
The description makes it easy to understand that momos certainly are a type of dumpling. But do you know that our very own pulipitha also falls under the same category? Even shingara is a beloved fast food item inspired by dumplings. Yes, there are many food items with different names from different cultures that fall under dumpling's umbrella. So, let us take a tour around the world and find the many varieties of dumplings that exist.
Generally known as Dim sum, Chinese people are certainly experts when it comes to Dumplings as we know it. A prime example is the pinched Xiao Long Bao, which not only has the traditional pork filling, but also stays moist due to the aspic added inside. The aspic melts when steamed and fills one's mouth with a flavourful broth when they bite into it. Varieties of dumpling appear in both Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine. The most common Chinese dumpling - jiaozi, refers to a thinly rolled piece of dough stuffed with ground meat and/or vegetables. These can be steamed (zhēngjiao), boiled (shuijiao) or pan-fried (guotie, also known as "potstickers").
Dumplings are prevalent in many European countries, though they are not called so. Among the flavourful pasta, Italy hides dumplings by the names of ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi. Another well-known European dumpling is pierogi. Originating in Central and Eastern Europe, pierogi is most commonly thought of as Polish. These dumplings can be stuffed with potato, minced meat, cheese, fruit or sauerkraut. They are usually boiled, then pan-fried in butter with onions.
When we think of dumplings, they are either stuffed with vegetables or meat. But the Czech dumpling ŠvestkovéKnedlíky contains fruit, sometimes a whole fruit and often a plum. They are boiled, then sprinkled with sugar, and served with quark or "curd cheese".
South-East Asian Dumplings
The dumplings in this region are known as momos. which can be found in abundance in Tibet, Nepal and northern India. These steamed dumplings are filled with ground meat, vegetables or cheese, and served with a spicy dipping sauce.
Among the sweets of the sub-continent, Bangladeshi pulipitha and Indian modak both are examples of sweet dumplings. And if we take deep-frying into consideration, samosa or singara can also be considered as dumplings.
Elsewhere in Asia, you can find Banh Bot Loc in ZVietnam, Gyoza in Japan, Mandu in Korea, and Buuz in Mongolia. Though not as abundant, some variations of dumpling can also be found in African and American countries.
BrazillianCoxinhas, which roughly translates to "little thigh", are dumplings moulded into a shape meant to resemble a chicken leg and then deep fried. Empanadas are also deep fried pouches of fried dough with a variety of fillings, and are found all over South America. And while Tamales are not typically considered dumplings, they are an iconic Mesoamerican dish that dates all the way back to the Mayan civilization. They are made with a starchy, corn-based masa or dough which is filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables before being steamed by wrapping in a corn husk or banana leaf.
Now that you know dumplings come in many shapes, sizes and flavours, keep an eye out the next time you order momo, and try to use this newfound knowledge to figure out exactly what kind of dumpling you are eating!