Known by different names on different continents, dumplings have been in existence for over 2000 years. Dumplings first appeared in print in the early 17th century but they’ve probably existed longer than that.
Sweet or savoury, these are delicious treats made from steaming or frying dough. Cuisines all over the world use a variety of fillings, shapes and preparations to make dumplings. They were probably invented as a way to increase the quantity of food using the same amount of meat. When the meat is mixed with vegetables and filled in dough, it makes for a complete filling meal.
Apicius, an ancient Roman cookery text, mentions dumplings made from roasted chopped pheasant, seasoned with salt and pepper. Chinese made filled dumplings long before that which were called iiaozi.
Legend has it that a man named Zhang Zhongjian invented dumplings as a cure for frostbite! He lived during the Han Dynasty and one day when he returned to his ancestral village after a long absence, he saw that a lot of people had frostbitten ears. So he made these ear-shaped dumplings with some dough filled with mutton, chilli and some warming medicinal herbs, boiled them in water and gave them to the frostbitten people. He is known as the ‘Medicine saint’ in Chinese history.
Whether or not he managed to cure people, his dumplings became quite popular.
Today, dumplings are enjoyed all over the world – momos in Nepal, gujias/modaks/samosas in India, empanadas in Brazil, fufu in Ghana, Jiaozi/Xiao Long Bao in China.