In one form or another, you can find those delightful morsels known as dumplings in countries and cultures around the world. The first dumplings, as we know them, may have been jiaozi, which originated in China during the Han dynasty between 206 BC and 220 AD. Some say ancient Rome had dumpling recipes although those versions weren’t wrapped in dough. Other scholars believe dumplings originated in the Middle East and spread from there.
Wherever they originated, most dumplings are marked by the influence of many cuisines. In Los Angeles, we have a wealth of dumplings to choose from, including these 11 delicious examples.
Xiao Long Bao
With Chinese cuisine, it’s nearly impossible to choose a single dumpling but we’ll go with xiao long bao aka XLB aka soup dumplings. They typically contain a ball of ground pork, ginger and green onion swimming in a pork gelatin that melts and turns into broth when they’re cooked. They originated in Shanghai and have become popular around the globe, thanks in part to Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung. The juggernaut, which now has five locations in L.A. and Orange counties, is still one of the best Southern California spots to try xiao long bao. Their version of the dumpling is known to have the thinnest and most delicate wrapper.
- Westfield Santa Anita: 400 S. Baldwin Ave., #M5 (Level 2), Arcadia. 626-446-8588.
- South Coast Plaza: 3333 Bristol St., Space 2071 Costa Mesa. 714-549-3388.
- Americana at Brand: 177 Caruso Ave., Glendale. 818-551-5561.
- Westfield Century City: 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., #2400, Century City. 424-382-1118.
- Del Amo Fashion Center: 21540 Hawthorne Blvd., #519 Torrance. 310-214-1175.
These Georgian dumplings are one of the country’s most popular foods and likely originated in the mountainous regions north of capital city Tbilisi. The steamed version at Khinkali House are large with a soft, pasta-like skin. Choose from fillings such as spiced meat, mushrooms or cheese. To eat a khinkali properly, hold it where the pleats meet (you’re not supposed to eat this part but it makes for a great handle) and bite the lower portion.
- Khinkali House: 113 Artsakh Ave., Glendale. 818-649-1015.
A small dumpling that’s common across Central Asia and the Middle East, manti are prepared in different ways, depending on the country. Monta Factory focuses on Armenian baked manti or sini manti (also called sini monta), which are boat-shaped with the ground meat filling exposed at the top. They’re baked until the skin is slightly crunchy and served with a light tomato sauce and garlic yogurt.
- Monta Factory: 1208 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale. 818-396–4445.
Buuz are Mongolian steamed dumplings filled with minced mutton or beef, onion, garlic and herbs. The name suggests that they came to Mongolia by way of the Chinese baozi. You can find them at Arag Mongolian Cuisine, where the large dumplings are filled with beef and served with a side of vinegary cabbage slaw. They hold a lot of broth, so be careful when you bite into them.
- Arag Mongolian Cuisine: 3012 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake/MacArthur Park. 213-378-0075.
The origin of the pierogi is still debated but we know they appeared in Poland around the 13th century. One legend involves Saint Hyacinth, who supposedly fed hungry people with pierogis during a famine caused by Tatar raids. Unlike the meat-heavy dumplings in other countries, pierogi can be filled with mashed potatoes, cheese or cabbage, although you’ll also find versions filled with ground meat. Also known as vareniki, they can be boiled or fried and are typically served with onions or sour cream. Try them all by getting the pierogi sampler at Santa Monica Polish restaurant Solidarity.
- Solidarity, 1414 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. 310-393-8831.
Bánh Bột Lọc
Said to have originated in the imperial capital of Huế, these Vietnamese tapioca dumplings are filled with shrimp and pork then steamed in banana leaves. The name bánh bột lọc means “clear flour cake” because the tapioca dough becomes translucent when the dumplings are fully cooked. Find them at Vietnamese restaurants around town that specialize in Huế cuisine, such as 5 Stars Huế.
- 5 Stars Hue: Multiple locations including 31 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra. 626-872-0095.
The origin of these Ashkenazi Jewish dumplings is uncertain but they were probably influenced by the ravioli of Italy. Served in a broth similar to the one for matzo ball soup, kreplach are harder to prepare and therefore less common. At Factor’s Famous Deli, you can get them filled with chicken and served in chicken broth along with shredded chicken and carrots.
- Factor’s Famous Deli: 9420 W. Pico Blvd., Pico Robertson. 310-278-9175.
In Korean, mandu means “dumplings” and the world encompasses so many different types, including boiled mul-mandu and pan fried gun-mandu, it’s almost unfair to treat them as a single category. But we love Korean dumplings so much, we couldn’t resist. Food scholars think mandus, most likely the steamed kind, were introduced to Korea by the Mongols during the Goryeo dynasty, in the 14th century. At Chang Hwa Dang, you can get several kinds of mandu, from pan-fried kimchi mandu to pork mandu soup. The pan-fried mandu are crisp and perfect but we also love the comforting mandu soup.
- Chang Hwa Dang LA: 3377 Wilshire Blvd., #104, Koreatown. 213-334-4333.
Japanese gyoza come from Chinese dumplings called jiaozi. Legend has it that Japanese soldiers brought word of this dumpling to their compatriots after being stationed in China during World War II. Gyoza, which are typically filled with pork, cabbage, ginger and garlic, are usually pan-fried. In Southern California, there’s no shortage of gyoza. You’ll find them at pretty much every ramen joint and in the frozen food section of most grocery stores. At Otomisan, the last remaining Japanese restaurant in Boyle Heights, the gyoza are light and pan-fried to perfection.
- Otomisan: 2506 1/2 E. 1st St., Little Tokyo. 323-526-1150.
Pelmeni is considered to be the national dish of Russia. The name means “ear bread” in the Udmurt language, which refers to the way the dumplings are folded over. Pelmenis were traditionally frozen outdoors in Siberia and carried by hunters as provisions. These days, they’re often made using a mixture of different meats, such as the traditional Slavic mixture of veal and pork available at Kalinka in Glendale. These dumplings are boiled and served with a dollop of sour cream.
- Kalinka: 1714 Victory Blvd., Glendale. 747-240-6868.
Momo may be the most well known dish from the Himalayas. Common belief says they originated in Tibet. Depending on the region, these dumplings are filled with meat or vegetables then steamed and served with tomato achaar (a type of chutney). In Nepal, where they are traditionally eaten by the Newar people in Kathmandu, momos are filled with yak meat. You’ll find this version at Pasadena’s Tibet Nepal House, where the yak momos are wrapped into squares and served with a bright, housemade achaar.
- Tibet Nepal House: 36 E Holly St., #3905, Pasadena. 626-585-0955.
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