A Brief History of Dumplings: An Animated Introduction

Dumplings are so deli­cious and so ven­er­a­ble, it’s under­stand­able why more than one coun­try would want to claim author­ship.

As cul­tur­al food his­to­ri­an Miran­da Brown dis­cov­ers in her TED-Ed ani­ma­tion, dumplings are among the arti­facts found in ancient tombs in west­ern Chi­na, rock hard, but still rec­og­niz­able.

Schol­ar Shu Xi sang their prais­es over 1,700 years ago in a poem detail­ing their ingre­di­ents and prepa­ra­tion. He also indi­cat­ed that the dish was not native to Chi­na.

Lamb stuffed dumplings fla­vored with gar­lic, yogurt, and herbs were an Ottoman Empire treat, cir­ca 1300 CE.

The 13th-cen­tu­ry Mon­gol inva­sions of Korea result­ed in mass casu­al­ties , but the sil­ver lin­ing is, they gave the world man­doo.

The Japan­ese Army’s bru­tal occu­pa­tion of Chi­na dur­ing World War II gave them a taste for dumplings that led to the cre­ation of gyoza.

East­ern Euro­pean pel­menipiero­gi and vareni­ki may seem like vari­a­tions on a theme to the unini­ti­at­ed, but don’t expect a Ukrain­ian or Russ­ian to view it that way.

Is the his­to­ry of dumplings real­ly just a series of bloody con­flicts, punc­tu­at­ed by peri­ods of rel­a­tive har­mo­ny where­in every­one argues over the best dumplings in NYC?

Brown takes some mild pot­shots at cuisines whose dumplings are clos­er to dough balls than “plump pock­ets of per­fec­tion”, but she also knows her audi­ence and wise­ly steers clear of any posi­tions that might lead to play­ground fights.

Relax, kids, how­ev­er your grand­ma makes dumplings, she’s doing it right.

It’s hard to imag­ine sushi mas­ter Naomichi Yasu­da dial­ing his opin­ions down to pre­serve the sta­tus quo.

A purist — and favorite of Antho­ny Bour­dain — Chef Yasu­da is unwa­ver­ing in his con­vic­tions that there is one right way, and many wrong ways to eat and pre­pare sushi.

He’s far from prig­gish, instruct­ing cus­tomer Joseph George, for VICE Asia MUNCHIES in the prop­er han­dling of a sim­ple piece of sushi after it’s been light­ly dipped, fish side down, in soy sauce:

Don’t shake it. Don’t shake it! Shak­ing is just to be fin­ished at the men’s room.

Oth­er take­aways for sushi bar din­ers:

  • Use fin­gers rather than chop­sticks when eat­ing maki rolls.
  • Eat­ing pick­led gin­ger with sushi is “very much bad man­ners”
  • Roll sushi on its side before pick­ing it up with chop­sticks to facil­i­tate dip­ping
  • The tem­per­a­ture inter­play between rice and fish is so del­i­cate that your expe­ri­ence of it will dif­fer depend­ing on whether a wait­er brings it to you at a table or the chef hands it to you across the counter as soon as it’s assem­bled.

Explore TED-Ed’s Brief His­to­ry of Dumplings les­son here.

For a deep­er dumpling dive, read the Oxford Symposium’s Wrapped and Stuffed Foods: Pro­ceed­ings on the Sym­po­sium: Foods and Cook­ery, 2012, avail­able as a free Google Book.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Japan­ese Restau­rants Show You How to Make Tra­di­tion­al Dish­es in Med­i­ta­tive Videos: Soba, Tem­pu­ra, Udon & More

How to Make Sushi: Free Video Lessons from a Mas­ter Sushi Chef

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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