The Stuffed Pasta/Dumpling Connection

Out of all of the odd coincidences that have occured in the history of food, the one that sticks out in my mind revolves around a small piece of dough with some filling placed on it, and then folded in some way that it becomes a small little treat.

Think of an individual piece of ravioli. It’s really not all that complicated to create. So easy is this type of food that we see some variation of it all across the world.

The Russians have pirozhki, little half moons of pasta-like dough, filled with potatoes, or onions, or cheese. It is then baked or deep fried. The pierogie of Poland is a direct descendant of this Russian dish.

India has the tiny pastry called the samosa, but this is but a relation of the middle eastern pastry called sanbusak. Filling can be anything from meat to cheese to raisins. The samsas of the Turkish regions and the sambosa of Afghanistan can all trace their lineage to the sanbusak. These are distant cousins of the ravioli, the dough being far less glutenous.

However, when I look at jiaozi of China, I often wonder if there is a historical connection between it and the stuffed pasta of Italy. The dough looks similar, although being a little larger in size and the dough being a little thinner in width.

Directly related to jiozi is the mantou, also found in China, but likely originated in Central Asia where it can be found in Iran, Afghanistan and other coutries in the area. Sometimes mantou can be as large as a fist. And if we’re going to look at larger stuffed pastries, I could create a post that lasts for another two thousand words. And I didn’t even touch wontons, mochi, or the multitude of other smaller stuffed pastas/pastries that are out there.

What I love about all of these items is that, while you can trace some of the influences throughout food history, many of the foods mentioned above were introduced without influence from one another. It might not be a big deal to some. After all, sticking a filling in a square of dough isn’t really that big of a stretch of the imagination, it does show that people do think alike, even when they live thousands of miles apart. When it comes to food, we should celebrate those foods that bring us closer together, whether it is in a communal, or (as in this instance) a historical context.