Dumplings

The humble dumpling...

A worldwide staple


Dumplings, much like Yorkshire puddings, were invented to help stretch out a meal cheaply so that any lack of meat wasn’t noticeable.

The small suet balls, which are generally poached in stews or soups but can sometimes be fried or baked,  have been around for a while having started life as a mixture of just flour and water.

The humble dumpling has been around for centuries

The food is simple and has no pretentions, although it comes in a number of guises. Like many of our staple dishes of today, dumplings have evolved through peasant cuisine and based on grains.

The type of grain would depend on any given region and could be made from oats, wheat, maize or even potato and pulses. They can be plain or filled – as with apple or plum dumplings as examples – and served as a main dish, side dish or dessert.

It is thought that the name for the dish comes from the Norfolk area during the 1600s although its origins go back much further – to the Roman invasion and occupancy.

Their version of the dumpling from around AD50 was made with lentils although they didn’t gain the popularity of our flour based versions. However, as they evolved and richer households added butter, bone marrow, sugar and fruits, they started to gather pace as a delicacy – to the point that King John, in the late 12th century, was known to be a massive consumer.

Dumplings of the world

They have remained more popular in colder climates and in particular the UK, a large area of central Europe including Bavaria and Austria and Italy  – where they are known more as Gnocchi.

Dumplings are a worldwide food

A Chinese dumpling is a traditional Chinese food stuffed with meat and vegetables traditionally eaten at the junction between the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year. This period is called Jiaozi, and the dumplings people eat during this time are named after it.  In Japan there is a similar good called Gyoza. Pot Stickers are another form of dumpling and they are the same as our version but fried on one side.

In Africa, banku and kenkey are defined as dumplings in that they are starchy balls of fermented cornmeal dough that are steamed.  Souskluitjies are steamed, sweet, dumplings found in South Africa, sometimes made with plain flour and sometimes with the addition of dried fruits or other flavors. They are often served with a cinnamon flavoured syrup or a custard sauce.

South Africa has another kind of dumpling known as melkkos. These dumplings are formed by putting milk, one teaspoon at a time, into a dry flour mixture. The flour clings to the milk and forms dumplings, which are then boiled in a mixture of milk and butter. They are served hot and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Specialities

Dauphine ravioli are the best-known French dumpling. The regional speciality consists of two layers of pasta made out of wheat flour, eggs and water, surrounding a filling of Comté or Emmental cheese, cottage cheese made of cow’s milk, butter and parsley. They are usually associated with the historic region of Dauphiné in South-Central France.

In Romania, the dumplings usually contain plums or cottage cheese. Sweet dumplings are either pre powdered, or get dragged through a plate with sugar when a sweeter taste is needed. In Hungary, dumplings are called gombóc and in Austria “Zwetschgenknödel”. Sweet varieties called gombóc are made with flour and potato dough, which is wrapped around whole plums or apricots, and then boiled and rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs. Shlishkes or “Krumplinudli” are small boiled potato dumplings made from the same potato dough as the sweet plum dumplings, also rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs.

In Romania, the dumplings usually contain plums or cottage cheese. Sweet dumplings are either pre powdered, or get dragged through a plate with sugar when a sweeter taste is needed. In Hungary, dumplings are called gombóc and in Austria “Zwetschgenknödel”. Sweet varieties called gombóc are made with flour and potato dough, which is wrapped around whole plums or apricots, and then boiled and rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs. Shlishkes or “Krumplinudli” are small boiled potato dumplings made from the same potato dough as the sweet plum dumplings, also rolled in hot buttered bread crumbs.

Bryndzové halušky, considered the Slovak national dish, are small potato dumplings without a filling, served with salty sheep’s cheese on top. The same dumplings are also used to create a similar dish, strapačky.

Germany, Poland, Romania, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia boast a large variety of dumplings, both sweet and savoury – and Germany has the only potato dumpling museum in the world, the Thüringer Kloßmuseum.

If you fancy a meal with dumplings have a look at our recipe options: