Asian Dumplings 101
A primer on one of the world's most prolific comfort foods.
The whole world loves a dumpling, from Italian gnocchi and German spaetzle to Russian pelmeni and Jewish kreplach. But no one loves them quite like the Chinese. Known generally as gow gee in Cantonese and jiaozi in Mandarin, Chinese dumplings take a dizzying array of forms. Below, a look at some of the area's most delectable dumplings.
Xiao long bao
What it is Like bao, or "buns," xiao long bao are pouch-shaped, but unlike bao, their skins are made from dough that hasn't risen. When eaten, they burst with ground pork bathed in an aromatic soup (thanks to a cube of gelatinized broth that melts when steamed).
Where to find It Lao Wang Noodle House's Taiwanese owners have mastered this Shanghai classic, which is dipped in black vinegar. Over at TAG, chef Troy Guard gives the dumplings a French onion soup twist.
Ham sui gok
What it is Deep-fried, oval ham sui gok evoke fritters or croquettes, with crunchy, unexpectedly sweet rice-flour shells that strike a contrast to the gravied pork and mushrooms inside. Where to find it Star Kitchen calls them "pork sweet rice sticky dumplings;" you'll just call them addictive.
What it is These thin-skinned packages vary across the provinces of China—here unstructured pouches, there flat triangles; here boiled in soup, there pan- or deep-fried. Where to find it The won tons at both Chopsticks China Bistro and Lao Wang Noodle House riff on the Szechuan style, boasting skins as delicate as noodles and as intricately folded as origami; they're served in an exhilarating red chile oil with chopped peanuts. Meanwhile, Izakaya Den's inventive but misleadingly named pork-apple pot stickers are actually fried won tons, accompanied by a sweet chile sauce.
Gow chai gau
What it is Chinese leeks, also known as garlic chives, shine bright green through the semitranslucent wrappers of gow chai gau. Where to find it Star Kitchen's pan-fried, pork-stuffed pockets are slightly oily, but thoroughly tender and earthy. Pair with the chile dipping sauce.
What it is Filled with shrimp, crab, and/or pork and vegetables, siu mai are distinguished by thin skins and open faces—their squarish or cylindrical pouch-tops are traditionally dotted with peas or a bit of carrot or roe. This Cantonese dim sum standard is a Japanese fave as well. Where to find it Izakaya Den's version is most exquisite, served in a bamboo steamer with kicky mustard-soy and jalapeño-ponzu sauces.
What it is Chewy and browned to a crisp, the thick-skinned, flat-bottomed pyramids or crescents known as pot stickers or guo tie (gyoza in Japanese) derive their satisfying texture from a combination of steaming and pan-frying. Where to find it The mom-and-pop experts at Lao Wang Noodle House stuff theirs with pork or shrimp. Over at Bones, chef Frank Bonanno Frenchifies his with a rich filling of plump escargot over a ginger garlic-butter sauce.
What it is Momo (the Tibetan word for dumpling) may contain anything from lamb and bison to yak. Where to find it At Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center in Golden, the steamed or gently fried crescents are filled with beef or a cabbage-heavy vegetable mélange. In Boulder, Tibet Kitchen throws chicken into the mix.
If you go
- Lao Wang Noodle House, 945 S. Federal Blvd., 303-975-2497
- TAG, 1441 Larimer St., 303-996-9985, www.tag-restaurant.com
- Star Kitchen, 2917 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-0089, www.starkitchendenver.com
- Izakaya Den, 1518 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0691, www.izakayaden.net
- Bones, 701 Grant St., 303-860-2929, www.bonesdenver.com
- Chopsticks China Bistro, 5117 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village, 720-489-9888, www.chopsticksbistro.com
- Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center, 1518 Washington Ave. Golden, 303-278-7939, www.ussherpahouse.com
- Tibet Kitchen, 2359 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-440-0882, www.tibetkitchen.com