The Mongols' Most Enduring Legacy?
August 17, 2022 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Map showing the spread of dumplings (r/MapPorn)

Stuffed boiled dumplings and the Mongol Empire, 1200–1350.
Contemporary stuffed dumplings with dozens of different names and minor variations in preparation map onto the former extent of the Mongol Empire. They all have a wheat dough wrapper (which was sometimes leavened in China), a filling of meat (usually lamb) and onions, and a pleated seal. Although scholars still debate the origin and etymology of these dumplings, it is clear that the Pax Mongolica shaped the geography of their diffusion. Pierogi have a cheese filling. The Japanese gyoza was a later adoption from China. The relations with baked or fried dumplings, called sanbusak and samosa, and with ravioli are unclear.
Cuisine and Empire by Rachel Laudan - "Cuisine and Empire shows how merchants, missionaries, and the military took cuisines over mountains, oceans, deserts, and across political frontiers. Laudan’s innovative narrative treats cuisine, like language, clothing, or architecture, as something constructed by humans. By emphasizing how cooking turns farm products into food and by taking the globe rather than the nation as the stage, she challenges the agrarian, romantic, and nationalistic myths that underlie the contemporary food movement."

Whose cuisine reigns supreme?

also btw... previously:
-Meat Stuffed in Dough
-The circuitous histories of hamburgers and ketchup
posted by kliuless (51 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is a dumpling a sandwich?
posted by chavenet at 7:34 AM on August 17, 2022 [5 favorites]


Is a dumpling a sandwich?

The Cube Rule says no.
posted by mhoye at 7:37 AM on August 17, 2022 [5 favorites]


Catherine the Great & the Volga Germans (meat & cabbage in a dough wrapper)
posted by fings at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


There’s a lot of room for independent discovery here - once you have something like bread and something flavourful you can wrap in that bread, it seems like an obvious next step - but tracing the evolution of that history is a fascinating exercise.

Is there a way to see this in some sort of well-tooled topological sense? I’d love to see a cartography of dumplings visualized over time that I could overlay or compare with other foods, practices or ingredients.
posted by mhoye at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2022 [5 favorites]


The relations with baked or fried dumplings, called sanbusak and samosa, and with ravioli are unclear.

Whatever the relation is, it pre-dates the Mongols. The word sanbusak comes from Middle Persian, and was adopted into the Arab culinary repertory fairly soon after the conquest of Iran. It's mentioned in India as early as the eleventh century, by the historian Beyhaqi, and spread rather extensively along Central Asian and Indian Ocean trading networks. (previously) The westernmost spread of the dish, linguistically speaking, may be in the Sephardic dessert pastry sansathicos, but I don't think this has been really rigorously investigated.

Of course, not all baked/fried dumplings are part of the samosa family! What about pirozhki (which are, linguistically at least, more closely related to pierogi), or pasties (whose name appears for the first time in late thirteenth-century England)?

Of course, according to Unified Dumpling Theory, pies of any sort are only "near dumplings," so I guess the question is moot anyways.
posted by the tartare yolk at 8:06 AM on August 17, 2022 [12 favorites]


Once a guy approved us to chat in a Moscow restaurant (still debated if he was information services keeping or not). Upon learning we were Italian he exclaimed: ah, Italians, all dumping nations are the same, russian, Chinese italians...
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2022 [4 favorites]


Pierogi have a cheese filling.

Like, maybe in America they do. Meat is certainly one of the more popular fillings, as is ruskie (potatoes and quark and onions) and you can't have Christmas Eve without the traditional sauerkraut and foraged mushroom filling, but a surprising number of varieties are sweet, usually fruit based.

I was touched by a scene in Crazy Rich Asians where even the filthy rich family sit down and make dumplings together. It's such a ritual in Poland too, pierogi and gossip.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2022 [10 favorites]


Blew my mind when I realized Armenians and Chinese still use basically the same word for dumplings (manti and mantou, respectively) and am Armenian friend recently told me he uses meat-filled ravioli as "mock manti" since making manti from scratch is a pain.
posted by potrzebie at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2022 [3 favorites]


--"near dumplings" is my new geo location, "Modern Unified Dumpling Theory" my religion
--the map of the spread of dumplings does not, in fact, show my waistline
--my dumpling obsession is actually a scholarly pursuit, so nyahh

This is the best "how to" dumpling* video, always make a hot water crust: Dumplings 3 ways, Northern China Style
*for northern china style dumplings. I like a thick chewy wrapper and a big dumpling.
Long ago I had curried mashed potato dumplings in won-ton style wrappers, so now I put anything in dumplings. Current project is chicken ricotta with loads of summer herbs, in a mushroom bechamel. I'm going to make them like blintzes, but small and fat, so yah, they're near or dumpling adjacent.
posted by winesong at 8:32 AM on August 17, 2022 [8 favorites]


My bestie growing up used to have pierogi-making sessions with her mom that took all day and resulted in dozens of dozens.

The least appetizing filling she ever told me about was lung - I assume pork lung? but did not inquire further. They regularly made blueberry as well. The standard was of course potato and cheese, wherein the cheese product was actually cheez-whiz. Delicious. For a while they would sell them, my mom would buy 4 dozen or so at a time.

(They also make the best cabbage rolls I have ever had, but this is not the cabbage roll thread)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:37 AM on August 17, 2022 [3 favorites]


> There’s a lot of room for independent discovery here...

You might think that, but reflect that the Mongol conquests were on a larger historical timescale basically instantaneous. The dumplings existed first only in a corner of the steppe nomad group of societies, and then suddenly they were everywhere from Korea to Kiev.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 8:42 AM on August 17, 2022 [4 favorites]


DOT Jr., upon visiting a new place, immediately asks to partake of "whatever they eat here in pocket form."

This plan works in Malta or in Mexico, in Warsaw or Wisconsin.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:59 AM on August 17, 2022 [9 favorites]


A colleague from back in my Chowhound days went on to become a teacher, and his school did these kinds of special weeks where students would learn a varied curriculum that was all centered around a specific topic. So he used Dumplings as his basic topic.

He used dumpling recipes to teach fractions (halving, doubling, etc, the recipe). He used 'is a dumpling a sandwich' as a debate topic. He used the spread of dumplings as a topic in history and geography. Dumpling names as a language topic. The dumplings of your people as a topic in personal history and journaling. Basically, it was a week in which everything was seen through the lens of dumplings.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2022 [27 favorites]


War, what is it good for? Spreading culinary innovation!
posted by atrazine at 9:12 AM on August 17, 2022 [5 favorites]


Look at that delicious through line from wontons to kreplach… one more bullet point for why Jews love Chinese food?

Anyways, I’m hungry.
posted by Mchelly at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


now I put anything in dumplings

Rich leftovers that were great yesterday but you’ve had enough today and they’ll be tired tomorrow? Storebought wrappers, dumplings, freezer, future tired you will be so happy with them.
posted by clew at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


I would have though the Mongol's most enduring legacy was the claim that 1-out-of-200 men alive today are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


Aw man, now I want chicken n dumplings!
posted by NoMich at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2022


I cannot wait to bring this up at my family’s holiday season all day pierogi making and bullshitting session.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


Dumplings: the first killer app, as it were.
posted by cardboard at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


Our dumpling consumption has skyrocketed since we discovered microwavable frozen Korean steamed dumplings — easily the best convenience food discovery of the past few years. I have a belly full of them right now.
posted by mubba at 11:18 AM on August 17, 2022 [6 favorites]


The dumplings existed first only in a corner of the steppe nomad group of societies, and then suddenly they were everywhere from Korea to Kiev.

The thing is, the first link seems to imply this, but doesn't actually say that. Nor do the supporting links.

One says there is evidence of dumplings going back to the 8th century Tang dynasty, among other places. The other posits an origin for dumplings among Turkic peoples in the ancient Near East that then diffused eastwards to China and Southeast Asia, long before the Mongols came. It also posits that stuffed dough parcels came to Europe via Arab traders in the eastern Mediterranean, though there is also evidence of their independent invention in the Italian peninsula, noting that the ancient Romans had stuffed pie dishes that were effectively giant versions of ravioli and there is mention of tortellini-like dishes going back deep into the Middle Ages.

All of the articles agree that there isn't any clear answer as to where dumplings arose or how they spread, and that there's also good reason to believe there could have been multiple independent inventions. I'd like to see more evidence that the spread of dumplings was due to the Mongols to support the first map.

It could be just that the Mongols conquered vast swathes of Eurasia that already had traditions of dumplings because that area has had a rich tradition of cultural exchange for millennia before the Mongols came, rather than they being the cause of the spread of dumplings.
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:22 AM on August 17, 2022 [3 favorites]


Could be. British food was so bad the British Empire was devoted to conquering places with better food.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:15 PM on August 17, 2022 [5 favorites]


Khinkali are the ones that come to my mind -- the Georgian version, also available in Armenia.
posted by gimonca at 1:04 PM on August 17, 2022


Georgians are very insistent that khinkali are not related to pierogi or pelmeni and are unique and original to Georgia, especially shape wise. As someone who subsisted on konbini butaman on a winter trip to Japan, I wisely kept my silence...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:15 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World Very good book!
posted by robbyrobs at 1:25 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


This is topical because I just came out of that vegetarian cookbook request Askme having purchased a vegetarian Polish cookbook. So I'm pretty sure I'm about to become a perogi queen!
posted by atomicstone at 1:42 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


You didn’t ask but anyway here’s my gluten free dumpling skin recipe. I like half rice and half light (not wholegrain) buckwheat the best, all rice makes it too hard on the bottom when making potstickers. You could probably substitute a gf blend with xanthan gum and leave out the psyllium husk but I haven’t tried it

1 cup (160 g) flour (choice or mix of rice, light buckwheat, millet, sorghum, whatever)
2/3 cup (75 g) tapioca flour
2 tsp psyllium husk powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup (150-160 g) hot water
2 tsp oil

Mix well and let sit at room temperature at least a half hour, then make small balls (this recipe makes 24) and flatten in a tortilla press.
posted by cali at 2:28 PM on August 17, 2022 [4 favorites]


chavenet: "Is a dumpling a sandwich?"

The real question is: is it a metaverse?

I'd say: yep.
posted by signal at 3:02 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


This thread is making me hungry for some dumplings :(

| Armenians and Chinese still use basically the same word for dumplings (manti and mantou, respectively)

Mantou refers to steamed unfilled buns nowadays, though Wikipedia does confirm that mantou and manti are cognates. I wonder what happened there?
posted by seapig at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2022


hahaha haaa - oh man, what does it say about me, that i totally thought this was about the biker gang. said to myself, "well that's a lot better than meth!"
posted by lapolla at 3:15 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


I love crispy gyoza so, so much. And gyoza-making parties cannot be beat. Which of the dumpling varieties get a light frying?
posted by curious nu at 5:04 PM on August 17, 2022


pirozhki (which are, linguistically at least, more closely related to pierogi)

I'm guessing there's some linguistic connection between them and the brik/bourek family?
posted by tangerine at 5:06 PM on August 17, 2022


Whoever made the map made a really curious choice with Japan. Indeed, since it wasn't (successfully) invaded by the Mongols, it didn't get dumplings directly from them, so i get why it's not dark gray on the map.

However, the map maker instead took pains to mark Japan with "gyoza" and the accompanying text that "The Japanese gyoza was a later adoption from China." Sure, that's all true...but why point out the adoption of the gyoza from China and not point out the adoption of the manju from China in the mid-1300s? It's literally the thing that the map is showing the spread of.
posted by Bugbread at 5:47 PM on August 17, 2022


The Cube Rule says no.

I'm about to get divorced for refusing to refer to soup as anything but wet salad.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:21 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


Which of the dumpling varieties get a light frying?

Xiao long bao can be steamed to 2/3rds cooked, then pan fried the rest of the way.

My frozen steamed dumplings massively leveled up when I got an induction wok. It brings the water to a boil quickly and holds whatever temperature without a fuss. It's deep enough with the lid on to have a standard dish on a rack to lay down parchment then the frozen dumplings. It's microwave-level convenience for steaming.
posted by porpoise at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


Which of the dumpling varieties get a light frying?

Let your heart guide you.
posted by mhoye at 8:15 PM on August 17, 2022 [6 favorites]


tangerine - also a possible connection with bierock, the Russian/Volga German dish from fings' Catherine the Great video upthread.

Bierock are a testament to the form - I just can't ever believe that they're going to be good, and then I eat ten.
posted by McBearclaw at 9:00 PM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]


Gnocchi may not be stuffed dumplings but I can guarantee you want to see them being fried.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:02 PM on August 17, 2022 [4 favorites]


... a surprising number of varieties are sweet, usually fruit based.

Western Canada has a large Ukrainian population, so much so that even the biggest food stores carry Ukrainian products as mainstream without any comment. I grew up with blueberry and strawberry perogies, but we were probably most proud of the Saskatoon berry ones. My wife, from eastern Canada knew only the savory ones growing up.
posted by bonehead at 9:04 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]


Fried cheese is an fried fondue dumpling.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 11:02 PM on August 17, 2022


Is an empanada a dumpling?

I love food history, maps, and history in general and I can't wait to share these links with my coworkers.
posted by vrakatar at 11:12 PM on August 17, 2022


Ravioli Of Lying To God
This dish has another name

- herrgottsb'scheisserle or 'Fool the Lord' - because of the story of how it first came about.

One of the most popular theories is that the Cistercian monks of Maulbronn Monastery (hence the name Maultaschen) didn't want to go without meat during Lent observance. So they concealed the forbidden food from the sight of the Lord by enclosing it in pasta dough.



> theclockworkjules

> God: What are you eating? Cistercian Monk: *chews faster*

Further details.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:42 AM on August 18, 2022 [6 favorites]


This is topical because I just came out of that vegetarian cookbook request Askme having purchased a vegetarian Polish cookbook

Vegetarian Polish cooking is a thing?
posted by acb at 2:19 AM on August 18, 2022


Vegetarian Polish cooking is a thing?

You would not believe the amount of vegan restaurants in Warsaw, it's come to the point when where I hear of a new sushi place I have to start by making sure if it's traditional or vegan. And hey, milk bar tradition. Plus feudal past means that outside the few times there was access to freshly slaughtered or preserved meat, the peasants had to get by on potatoes and bread and dumplings, with maybe a little bit of preserved meat as garnish. To this day a Polish meal includes a side salad as a non-negotiable item. I think it's one of the cuisines where people emigrated to America and got their heads turned by the amount of available meat.

Famously, all dishes for Polish Christmas Eve dinner - and the minimum is twelve unless you want to have bad luck all year - are pescetarian and often non-dairy as well.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:01 AM on August 18, 2022 [4 favorites]


So they concealed the forbidden food from the sight of the Lord by enclosing it in pasta dough.

I am seriously struggling with the idea of a divine being that sees all and knows all except if it’s wrapped in pasta. The implications are huge. Pastafarians live in service of the Great Deceiver. Italy is explained outright. A whole new light is shed on Marco Polo’s historical significance. Lasagna is spiritual fraudloaf. The mind reels.
posted by mhoye at 8:07 AM on August 18, 2022 [11 favorites]


I am seriously struggling with the idea of a divine being that sees all and knows all except if it’s wrapped in pasta. The implications are huge. Pastafarians live in service of the Great Deceiver. Italy is explained outright. A whole new light is shed on Marco Polo’s historical significance. Lasagna is spiritual fraudloaf. The mind reels.

as a devout Pastafarian, I need to favorite this comment 10 or 20 thousand times!
posted by supermedusa at 9:53 AM on August 18, 2022 [3 favorites]


the spread of dumplings
My dumpling-loving brain parsed this as a flood of dumplings soon to roll down the streets in my town. I am disappoint.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2022 [1 favorite]


Really? I imagined it as a sort of pastry smörgåsbord, with samosas, piroshki, gyoza, momo, tortellini and more side by side,
posted by acb at 1:11 PM on August 18, 2022


I'm sort of paralyzed by the thought of all those dumpling-ish things that I want now.
But my local Asian store has a huge choice in the freezer, so that's a starting point. IMO, they are the best solution for days where you just can't cook, above any take-out I can think of.
posted by mumimor at 6:44 AM on August 21, 2022


BTW, I think the owners of that store are Hazara, which is relevant. I'll have to ask them next time I go there.
posted by mumimor at 6:46 AM on August 21, 2022


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