By any name, in any form—boiled or fried, plain or pleated—dumplings are comfort food.
Rare is the culture that doesn't love a dumpling. The little dough pillows can be stuffed with myriad fillings (or none at all), and cooks all over the world have been making them for centuries. As locations of Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung pop up in major West Coast cities, demand for the dish keeps skyrocketing. Food lovers get steamed debating the top shops, but don't fret: Here are seven great spots to dig into dumplings.
Portland's wildly popular, James Beard–nominated Russian eatery, Kachka, recently welcomed a little sister, Kachinka. And just like Kachka, this casual restaurant delights diners with its pelmeni. The small Siberian ravioli, stuffed with beef, pork, and veal, are either simmered in a meaty broth or panfried and served with butter and vinegar. A three-vodka flight is as natural an accompaniment as thick sour cream.
Don't be fooled by Mount Everest Momo Café's strip-mall exterior: The Boise eatery is anything but cookie cutter. Inside, photos of Nepal cover the walls, and the menu is replete with momos—pleated, round Nepalese dumplings packed with mixed vegetables or garlicky, gingery meat. Owner Raj Shrestha recommends the momos filled with ground yak—a meat which he swears is heartier and more flavorful than beef—dipped in a spicy tomato sauce.
Natasha Koshalko of All Pierogi Kitchen & Euro Market in Mesa, Arizona, thanks Grandma Anna for the recipe she uses to make her traditional, crescent moon–shaped Ukrainian pierogi. The cooks hand-form hundreds of the pleated dumplings daily, stuffing them with sauerkraut and other savory fillings. Live accordion music on weekend evenings might encourage you to linger.
Last year, a sleek food marketplace named China Live opened in San Francisco's Chinatown. At the Market Restaurant inside, diners sit by the dumpling bar and watch chefs steam up xiao long bao—dough pockets full of minced pork and chicken that gush broth the moment you bite into them. Try the Shanghai regional specialty, panfried sheng jian bao, a pork dumpling with a crisped-up bottom.
The chefs at Salt Lake City's Tradition take Southern standards up a notch. (Exhibit A: the fried green tomatoes garnished with garlic-tomato-chile jam.) Their upgrade to chicken and dumplings? Tradition's dumplings are flecked with scallion, then warmed in a golden broth seasoned with togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice blend that adds a chile kick.
With a menu that includes Korean fried chicken sliders, beef chow fun, and green curry, Denver's ChoLon Modern Asian defies easy categorization. So it's fitting that the eatery's best-selling dish is the French onion soup dumpling, a decidedly out-of-the-box bao featuring caramelized onions in beef broth and gooey Gruyère cheese. Order it at happy hour; on busy nights, it can disappear by dinner.
Chef Woo Jin Kim of Gyoza Bar in Vancouver, B.C., isn't afraid to tinker with the famed Japanese pot sticker. Two of his creations— a crispy beef gyoza flavored with Korean chile paste, accompanied by quinoa and kale; plus a chicken gyoza with sweet-sour scallion sauce, paired with crisp green Broccolini—may transform even the staunchest traditionalist.