Dumplings are savory dishes made with meat and vegetables wrapped in dough. They are known across the world, from Italian ravioli, Japanese gyozas, and Brazilian empanadas to the Chinese dim sum kept frozen in our home’s refrigerators. They have been an international food and are present from ancient and cultural bowls to modern plates. As a popular dish, side, or snack, dumplings are a real crowd pleaser at many events and gatherings.
It won’t be a surprise that this wrapped goodie has a delicious and delightful history. Well, the story of the dumpling begins with its creation. Who could have been its inventor?
Who invented the dumpling?
The widely accepted inventor of the dumpling is a medical practitioner from China. His name is Zhang Zhongjing of the Han Dynasty.
Dumplings key contributors
- Zhang ZhongjingHe is a Chinese medical practitioner considered to have invented dumplings.
Zhongjing wrapped meat and herbs inside the dough and cooked them to share with the villagers during the winter.
- Ancient RomansThey recorded the first dumpling recipe in history.
While dumplings are known to have been invented for a long time and originated in China, their first recipe appearance was in an ancient Roman cookbook called Apicius.
- Japanese soldiersJapanese World War II soldiers introduced gyozas.
During World War II, Japanese soldiers were so in love with Chinese dumplings that they adapted the dish to their homeland. With more finely chopped meat in a thinner wrapper, they invented a chewier, different flavored dumpling variety that sets itself apart from jiaozi.
- Middle EasternsThe Kibbeh dumpling variety is a signature Middle Eastern dish that originated in the Levantine region (Syria and Lebanon).
Kibbeh is a torpedo-shaped dumpling made with cracked bulgur wheat, ground lamb or camel meat, onions, and spices. Its name is derived from “kubbah,” an Arabic word which means “ball,” Kibbeh can be served like a raw ball that is either fried or baked. Kibbeh is considered a national dish of Syria and Lebanon.
- NepaleseThey created another dumpling variety called momo.
Created by Nepalese, momo is a variety of dumplings filled mainly with buffalo meat and necessary herbs for flavoring. It is served in cooked tomato sauce with Sichuan pepper.
When was the dumpling invented?
The consumption of dumplings was traced back as early as 3600 B.C. However, it is officially recognized to be invented during the Chinese Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD. It was winter, and people were having a hard time in the cold.
A brief history of the dumpling
According to the legend, the winter season arrived then in Eastern China during the Han Dynasty. Many were experiencing the ill effects of cold, including the risk of frostbitten ears. To keep people warm, Chinese medicine practitioner Zhang Zhongjing steamed mutton and herbs wrapped in the dough to look like ears. At that time, Chinese physicians believed that eating foods that resemble the body parts that need healing helped heal those parts. Whether Zhongjing’s dumplings cured frostbite or not, the villagers appreciated his creation so much. When spring came, they kept making crescent-shaped dumplings and called them Jiaozis, which means “tender ears.”
Later, recipes for dumplings appear in ancient Roman texts. Archeologists found their very first recipe in Apicius, a Roman cookbook. As centuries passed by, cultures formed varieties of dumplings, but the wrapped dish didn’t get its name until the 17th century. In 1600, the term “dumpling” was first used and was found in an English text.
In the present, dumplings are even packed and preserved in freezer sections, carrying the appearance that we know of today. They have become a great go-to meal or snack in households all over the world, especially in Europe and more prevalent in Asia.
The dumpling timeline
- 3600 B.C.Dumplings were recorded to be consumed.
As far back as 3,600 B.C., archeologists have found that dumplings were part of human diets in China during the Tang dynasty and in Switzerland.
- 206 BC to 220 A.D.The period of the Han Dynasty when dumplings were invented.
During the Han Dynasty, dumplings were created by Chinese medicine practitioner Zhang Zhongjing.
- 1600The term “dumpling” was first used.
The first time the term “dumpling” is used is found in an English text from 1600. It was noted that the term might be of German origin
- 400 A.D.The first dumpling recipe was written.
The oldest recipe of dumplings recorded was found in a Roman cookery manuscript called Apicius, around 400 A.D.
- World War IIThe creation of Gyozas, an adaptation of the Chinese jiaozi.
Japanese soldiers loved Chinese jiaozi dumplings during World War II, so when they returned to Japan, they made their version of them and called it Gyoza. Gyozas have thinner dumpling wrappers bounding more finely chopped meat. They have a chewier texture and different flavors. They have then become a side dish served in Japanese eateries.
Where was the dumpling invented?
Dumplings have made their way throughout the world from the country of China, particularly China’s second imperial dynasty, the Eastern Han Dynasty.
Why do people love dumplings?
- Variety and versatility
Dumplings are spread out widely across the world. Many “versions” of dumplings were created, like cilantro and basil dumplings. They have a lot of options available when it comes to fillings. They can also be cooked in different methods like steaming or frying. On top of this, dumplings are great, along with several side dishes like rice and noodles.
- Convenience and easy preparation
Presently, frozen dumplings are widely spread in the market. You can enjoy dumplings for your meal and snack as easy as steaming and frying. If you opt for homemade dumplings, you won’t be concerned. They are also easy to prepare with fresh vegetable ingredients and dumpling wrappers, and your taste buds will ultimately be satisfied.
- Traditionally Chinese
Dumplings offer a great and easy way to experience Chinese food and culture. Thanks to its ancient roots from the Chinese dynasty preserved until today.
The dumpling by the numbers
- 18Dumplings are known for having several creases or folds. The number of folds varies per dumpling, but Din Tai Fung, the famed soup dumpling restaurant, recognizes 18 as the perfect number of dumpling folds.
- 30Food editor Hilary Biller invited blogger Stephen Haw to a dumpling tasting. They went to the People’s Republic of Noodles in Linden, Johannesburg. The restaurant owner, Emma Chen, suggests that the reasonable quantity of dumplings per person for a single sitting is 30.
- 1066In September 2019, in Iwkowa, Poland, Beata Jasek made 1066 pieces of dumplings, achieving the world record for the most dumplings made in one hour by an individual.
- 2625The word spelled out with the largest rice dumplings consists of 2,625 rice dumplings. The world record was achieved in 2019 in Jinan, Shandong, China, by Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., Ltd. The team had 16 participants spell out their brand name with rice dumplings, which took them 28 minutes to organize the dumplings in position.
- 30In the National Dumpling Eating Competition in 2017, the competitive eater Isaac Harding managed to get a world record in eating 30 dumplings in two minutes. The previous world record for dumpling eating was 18 and was achieved in 2011.
Five facts about the dumpling
- It was intended to feed more people.
Dumplings were made in a manner that a small amount of meat would be stretched to feed more people. Mixed with some vegetables and wrapped in dough, a pound of meat must be a fine meal for a family of four.
- Dumplings come with different names across different cultures around the world.
Dumplings include dishes like Russian pelmeni, Nepalese and Tibetan momos, Italian ravioli, tortellini, Japanese Gyoza, Indian samosas, Polish perogies, and Turkish mantis, Korean mandu, South American empanadas, Arabic samosa, and Uzbek Samsa.
- The Chinese consider it to bring forth good wealth and prosperity.
For Chinese cultures, dumplings mean health and continuous growth. Yellow-tinged dumplings represent the gold currency used centuries ago in the country. Eating them means positioning yourself in great wealth and an affluent future.It is believed that biting a gold coin in your dumpling during New Year attracts prosperity in the coming months.
- It is featured in Hollywood.
In the Pixar short film Bao, dumplings help a Chinese-Canadian mom. As a daughter of immigrants living in Canada, Director Domee Shi’s mother comes to the movie set and conducts dumpling-making lessons herself for the crew. Shi acknowledges how pervasive this food is in the Chinese experience.
- It symbolizes togetherness and completeness.
During the Chinese Lunar New Year, extended families get together to bond and catch up. They make dumplings of different kinds and combine them, signifying togetherness and completeness. This act declares a successful team and family for the whole year.
Dumplings invention FAQs
- Can you eat dumplings cold?
Eating dumplings when freshly cooked or just cooled down is best. Dumplings that are left cold can be too chewy and thus requires reheating.
- How do you fold dumplings?
An easy and common dumpling fold goes like this. First, fold the dumpling wrapper in half, meeting the middle points at the top and pinching them to seal. Facing the side of the wrapper, fold one side towards the middle. Do the same on the other side. Press the fold to seal, ensuring it is airtight.
- What can I serve with dumplings?
Dumplings can be served with Chicken Stir-Fried Noodles, Zucchini, or any pasta dish. It can also be served alongside vegetable salads like Quinoa Cabbage and Green Bean Salad. Scallion Pancakes are also great, with dumplings on the side.