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Kabobs may be the specialty at Aurora’s five-year-old Ariana Kabob Cafe, but we regularly drive across town for owner and Afghanistan native Liza Whitcomb’s tender Afghani beef-and-onion dumplings. Steamed in thin wrappers, they’re topped with a wonderfully tasty mess of garlicky yogurt, tomato sauce, and a sprinkle of dried mint. 2767 S. Parker Road, Aurora, 303-745-6262
We never begin a meal at Sakura House, the Japanese noodle house gem hidden under downtown’s Sakura Square residential tower, without an order (or two) of its remarkable pork “gyoza” (pan-fried and sometimes steamed Japanese dumplings). They’ve got thin pleats and deeply browned, crusty bottoms, all barely containing a juicy pork-ginger-chive filling. 1255 19th St., Suite A, 303-292-2323
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Thin-skinned and supple, wontons are called “hong you chao shou” in the Szechuan province of China. Hop Alley’s pork-and-preserved-cabbage version, in slippery wrappers shaped like folded arms (“chao shou”), swim in a shallow pool of lip-tingling chile oil under a shower of chopped salted peanuts. 3500 Larimer St., 720-379-8340
Xiao Long Bao
Lao Wang Noodle House on South Federal is consistently lauded as having the best Shanghai-style soup dumplings in the metro area—and we concur. The surroundings may be plain, and the owners may tell you what to order, but the xiao long bao are meaty delights with an almost creamy broth inside. Pro tip: Double down and order the superior pork gyoza too. 945 S. Federal Blvd., 303-975-2497
Next time you visit 33-year-old Zaidy’s Deli in Cherry Creek, skim past the matzo ball soup on the menu in favor of the cold-busting kreplach soup. The chicken broth is the color of sunshine, and it’s studded with chunks of carrot and celery so tender they practically fall apart as your spoon approaches. But it’s the hearty ground-brisket-and-grilled-onion kreplach dumplings that take this soup into must-order territory. 121 Adams St., 303-333-5336
The pasta geniuses at Uptown’s Coperta always include handmade ravioli on their Southern Italian menu. The current iteration is stuffed with ricotta, drizzled with a beautiful “agrodolce” (sweet-and-sour sauce), and topped with cubes of butternut squash and ribbons of fresh mint. 400 E. 20th Ave., 720-749-4666
Boiled or pan-fried, filled with mashed potatoes or ground meat, we never tire of the humble pierogi. That’s especially true at Wheat Ridge’s three-year-old Pierogies Factory, where Poland’s national dish can be ordered by the half dozen or in groups of 10. Mix and match so you can sample all of founder Cezary Grosfeld’s filling options—especially the tangy sauerkraut-mushroom variety. 3895 Wadsworth Blvd., Wheat Ridge, 303-425-7421
When winter blues strike, head to downtown’s 15-year-old Red Square Euro Bistro for a bowl of soul-warming pelmeni. The petite beef-filled dumplings swim in a shallow pool of rich beef bouillon and are garnished with rosebuds of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives. 1512 Larimer St., Unit 38R, 303-595-8600
Fact: Handmade “guo tie,” or pot stickers, require a lot of labor. That’s why when you walk into either location of Zoe Ma Ma, you’ll likely spot someone behind the counter rolling, filling, and crimping the little purses. Owner Anna Zoe’s Chinese-Taiwanese recipe incorporates shrimp, pork, garlic chives, and, we presume (since the rest of the ingredients are a secret), a dash of magic. We especially love that you can buy them a la carte for just $1.55 each. 1625 Wynkoop St.; 2010 10th St., Boulder; 303-545-6262
What sets Tibet Kitchen’s momos apart is the liberal use of spicy fresh ginger in the filling. For nine years, Boulderites have been scarfing platefuls of these juicy dumplings, which come in chicken, beef, and veggie (our favorite). Plus, the spicy tomato dipping sauce is so tasty, you might find yourself eating it sans momo with a spoon. 2359 Arapahoe Road, Boulder, 303-440-0882
For Edwin Zoe, founder of Zoe Ma Ma restaurant, his mother’s dumplings are synonymous with family. —As told to Callie Sumlin
When my parents got married, my dad says my mom was a terrible cook. Since [dumplings] were the only thing she knew how to make, she would make them for weeks at a time. He would encourage her, and she has a perfectionist personality, so she was just trying to improve and improve. I remember her constantly tweaking, saying “Do you like this better?” or “How about this?” I like to think I had input in the recipe.
Later on, I was a bachelor for a number of years, and she would come out and visit me and I would have pot sticker parties. She’d cook; it would be a standing-room-only affair in my tiny Boulder condo. People drinking, talking—and waiting for the next pan of pot stickers to come out.
For me, dumplings are the heart and soul of Zoe Ma Ma. When I decided to do this project with my mom, I said, “If we don’t put out pot stickers, then it doesn’t reflect our family.”