Blame it on your grandmother’s amazing baking skills, those wonderful celebration & holiday treats, or flat-out genetic preferences, all dessert is deeply personal and engraved into our hearts. Still, there’s a great wide world full of tastes that have never come close to your tongue. Ignorance may be bliss, but there will always be a part of your personal dessert history that will make you wonder “What if?”. Yes, some of your past choices will always be with you, but as you try new flavors in new places, some of those older “favorites” will make you realize they really weren’t that special after all. To phrase this another way, there are a ton, a plethora, a variety, of new desserts that you are just waiting to try. The problem is… you don’t know what (and where) they are. Therefore, we wanted to take you on an incredibly quick trip around the world in which you can “sample” some of the desserts you would have otherwise never been introduced.
Alfajores, South America
To be fair, it’s very possible that you’ve seen these cookies before – they’re found all over South America, from Argentina to Peru. The ends are made of crumbly shortbread cookies that hold a delectable layer of dulce de leche – a similar type of caramel candy made by simmering sweetened milk. Additional versions are available as these cookies are highly customizable. They may be covered in dark chocolate, drizzled with white, rolled in a variety of nuts (including coconut), or simply elevated through the use of spices.
Borma, Middle East & Turkey
If you’ve had baklava before, then you should roughly understand the flavor profile of the Borma. These treats are produced by rolling threads of golden knafeh – a type of pasty dough – around a sweet, nutty pistachio, pine nut, or walnut center. However, unlike baklava, these are deep-fried leading to a nice crispy bite. Bakery owners surely tempt tourists and locals alike as they pile these tasty deep-fried sticks high in store windows.
Gulab Jamun, India
Having been lucky enough to sample a few of these from an Indian bakery here in my hometown, I can assure that these gulab jamun are absolutely delicious (and relatively light!). Each of these balls starts as a scoop of khoya – a reduced cow or buffalo milk mixture that is simmered for hours over a very light flame. Then, this melting substance is fried in ghee – clarified butter. This frying adds additional flavor to the “milk” before it is soaked in aromatic syrup. Roses and cardamom seeds often flavor this sweet treat.
The opportunities to try these treats are relatively easy to come by. To be honest, the next time you’re in a culturally-rich neighborhood, just stop by the bakery! You’ll obviously enjoy looking at all the new foods and treats but being able to sample something new is the absolute best.
The Unique History of Dumplings
Did you know that a dumpling eating record was set in Sydney, Australia in 2019?
To celebrate the Chinese New Year, they held a celebration in Sydney in which 764 people all ate dumplings at the same time. They met the previous record in 2013 when 750 individuals participated.
Whether you choose to eat them at a massive celebration or in the comfort of your home, dumplings are an indisputable part of global cuisine. But where exactly did this tasty meal stem from?
We’re here to fill you in! Check out our guide below to learn the evolution and ancient history of dumplings!
Intro to the History of Dumplings
Dumplings have popped up in various cultures throughout history. The easiest way to narrow down their origin though is by first asking: what is a dumpling?
Dumplings are pieces of dough that are fried, boiled, steamed, or baked. Typically the dough holds meat or vegetable fillings. Occasionally the dough is cooked without fillings.
We can trace dumpling-like recipes as far back as Ancient Rome. However, the classic dumpling we all know and love has its origins in Ancient China.
The history of Chinese dumplings began over 1,800 years ago under the Eastern Han Dynasty. A man named Zhang Zhongjian returned to his home village and found that the villagers were suffering from frostbite.
Zhongjian was a medicinal practitioner and searched for a way to assist his fellow villagers. To fight the cold, Zhongjian blended together meat, vegetables, and herbs and wrapped the mixture in scraps of dough. The dumplings were then steamed to bind all the ingredients together.
It’s believed that Zhongjian used his skills as a doctor to create the dumplings. He chose herbs that would help combat frostbite and keep the villagers safe and healthy.
The steaming hot dish was a good way to fight the ill effects of a harsh winter. The villagers enjoyed the meal so much that they continued to make dumpings even when spring arrived.
The Spread of Dumplings
The history of dumplings doesn’t end with its conception in Ancient China nearly 2,000 years ago. Dumplings have pervaded throughout the centuries, and they’ve evolved and changed to fit the needs of the people.
We can see the passage of dumplings as early as the 1300s. At this time, traders often carried their goods along the Silk Road. It’s suspected that this is how one dumpling recipe came to pass from one culture to the next.
At this time, it’s suspected that the Turkish peoples adopted the manti dumplings, likely from the Mongolian peoples traversing the Silk Road. Manti dumplings are made from a spiced meat mixture—typically lamb or ground beef—which is then wrapped in a thin dough before they’re boiled or steamed.
This type of dumpling is most commonly compared to the Chinese jiaozi and baozi dumplings. The manti steamed buns are now a staple even in Russia and post-Soviet countries, where they’ve crossed over from Central Asia.
Pierogi is the Polish word for dumplings and another dumpling variety that many Westerners have grown familiar with. Pierogi—which is actually the plural of the word pieróg—are a Polish staple and are even commemorated with a yearly festival. These dumplings, wrapped in unleavened dough, are stuffed with either savory or sweet fillings before they’re boiled and then pan-fried.
Pierogi have a debated origin story. However, some suspect that pierogi entered Poland from China via the Silk Road, much like the manti dumplings that emerged in Turkish culture.
Additional Cultural Adaptations
While China is often considered the earliest origin site for what we now refer to as dumplings, other dumpling variations have cropped up around the globe since then. Whether you travel through Latin America, Africa, or Central Europe, you’re sure to find the local take on dumplings.
Many dumpling recipes arose as a solution to poverty. It’s much cheaper to combine a ration of meat with vegetables and dough scraps than to create a more meat-hearty entree.
Many of these recipes even take a different route and create sweetened dumplings, perfect for desserts. Others incorporate cheese, much like the Italian ravioli and tortellini and the potato-based gnocchi. You’ll even see an American spin on dumplings in the classic Southern chicken and dumplings dish.
The Globalization of Chinese Dumplings
However, the tasty variations from China still prevail around the world and are a notable addition to American cuisine.
In fact, Chinese food in general has become an integral part of the diets of many Americans. It’s likely that dumplings, as with many other popular Chinese dishes, arrived around the same time.
Chinese immigration to the U.S. began in the 1800s, so we can safely assume that dumplings arrived in the U.S. at this time as well. The Chinese diaspora would still indulge in traditional Chinese celebrations throughout the year. Food played an important role in these celebrations.
By the mid-1800s, Chinese restaurants were becoming more popularized in America. Chinatowns, such as the largest one in San Francisco, were growing in popularity, and their cuisine was too.
Dumplings were but one of many Chinese dishes to emerge in America, but the mass Chinese immigration in the 19th century certainly solidified the dumpling as an addition to the ever-evolving Chinese-American cuisine.
The Importance of Dumplings
The history of dumplings stretches back hundreds of years and has been passed down by hundreds of thousands of hungry travelers and chefs. We’re happy to say that there’s a dumpling for everyone, whether you’re indulging in Chinese potstickers or Italian ravioli!
For more articles on travel and your favorite foods, check out the rest of our website!
Bring Your Appetite To The World’s Best Food Festivals
The world’s best food festivals are offering up some of the tastiest treats in the world in an atmosphere that’s so fun you’ll want to come back again and again.
There are so many festivals out there these days but most of them are centered around music. Maybe you’re not a huge music fan, or the bands you like aren’t really the festival type. Well, don’t worry, because there are still festivals for you; food festivals!
Food festivals are just like music festivals except there way more satisfying and the only drugs people are taking are antacids. Here’s a festival lineup you can get behind, the world’s best food festivals.
WILDFOODS FESTIVAL (HOKITIKA, NEW ZEALAND)
Are you an adventurous eater? Then the Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika, New Zealand may be for you.
Here they cook up foods you would never think to eat like seagull eggs, earthworms or mountain oysters. If you’re reading this thinking “why go to New Zealand to this festival when I can stay home and puke for free?” Then you would be labeled as a non-adventurous eater and I would recommend you stick with the chicken feet and duck heads.
THE GOLDEN SPURTLE (CAIRNGORMS, SCOTLAND)
Okay okay, this next festival is a little less adventurous. The Annual Golden Spurtle is the World Porridge-Making Championships. The Golden Spurtle is the prize the winner of this competition receives. “Yeah, but what’s a spurtle?” you ask. A spurtle is a wooden stick that is used to stir a pot of porridge. Plus it’s a fun word to say. Spurtle.
A lot of people are not very adventurous eaters and you can’t get much less adventurous than porridge.
THE ONION MARKET (BERN, SWITZERLAND)
At the onion festival, you can eat delicious onion soup, onion tarts and anything else that you could think to fit an onion into, or if you want you can even eat a raw onion. Why not? It’s not like they’ll run out of onions, there are 50-tons of onions there every year.
The festival starts at 6 am because they have to get rid of all of these onions. The coolest part of this festival actually isn’t onion or food related at all, it’s the confetti war that starts at 4 pm sharp, giving you another excuse to cry when confetti shoots into your eyeball.
WATERCRESS FESTIVAL (HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND)
When you think of a food worth celebrating the first thing that probably came to your mind was watercress. The English use this herb a lot in their soups and salads and sauces.
Everyone’s favorite village of New Alresford becomes a street festival where farmers and chefs come to sell their goods.
This festival even bestows the honor of Watercress King and Queen on two lucky participants who enter the festival in a horse and cart.
SALON DEL CHOCOLATE (QUITO, ECUADOR)
Now we’re talking. This chocolate festival in Ecuador is off the hook.
Did you know Ecuador produces more high-quality chocolate than any other country? I didn’t until I started writing this article. There are about 15,000 people who visit this festival and they have a chocolate tasting, and cooking classes and even a chocolate sculpture competition. Ecuador rules!
BACON FESTIVAL (SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA)
It looks as though California really does know how to party. The capital city of Sacramento has a bacon festival where they cook organic bacon right on the street. There’s bacon tater tots, bacon ramen, bacon ice cream and also plenty of sweet, sweet beer.
A Kevin Bacon tribute band is the icing on the bacon cake that makes this festival one not to miss.
Plane Snacks That Are TSA Approved
We came up with some easy snacks that are guaranteed to be approved by the TSA so you can be nibbling on the plane without having to break the bank.
When you’re traveling by airplane eating can get expensive. You don’t want to keep buying stuff at the airport because soon your snack budget will have exceeded the price of your plane tickets. You want to bring snacks aboard but the last thing you want to have happen is to have TSA tell you that you can’t bring that food past security. Then you’re left with the decision to either throw your snacks away or try to shove as many in your mouth at once while making your way through the security line. We came up with some easy snacks that are guaranteed to be approved by the TSA so you can be nibbling at the gate and on the plane without having to break the bank.
Veggies & Hummus
Toss some veggies in a jar, like some carrots and celery. Maybe some bell peppers. Fill up a mason jar with some delicious, healthy veggies but leave some room at the top. Take an applesauce container and fill that with hummus then lay it on top of the veggies and close your jar. Now you have a healthy and filling snack that you can bring all over the airport with the TSA’s consent. Plus all the protein in the hummus and fiber in the vegetables will leave you feeling full longer so you won’t be tempted by those unhealthy options that seem to surround the airport.
Apple To Go
Take an apple and then an individual tube of peanut butter and toss them both in a Ziploc bag. Now you have something to satisfy that sweet tooth while also giving you some protein. Your belly will feel nice and full while on the run and no one will complain about the hideous smell of your food which you often get when you try to bring some quick airport food on a plane, like some fish curry or pickled eggs.
Take four silicone cupcake liners and fill one with cheese, one with deli meats, one with mixed nuts and one with crackers. Then you can fill up the rest of the Tupperware with frozen grapes to help keep everything in the Tupperware cool. Now you have a variety of snacks you can munch on and the grapes not only keep everything cool but they taste fantastic as well all on their own. Yummy!
Travel Food Kit
Did you know there is such a thing as a travel food kit? It kind of looks like a giant tackle box but it is full of snacks for you, not for your fish. You can fill it up with nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, cheeses, chocolate or whatever your heart desires. Fill up this snack kit and you will have enough snacks to feed a family. If you’re not traveling with a family then you will probably have enough snacks to eat your whole vacation! Just kidding, but you should definitely be able to have some snacks left over after your flight.
Traveling cheap is all about traveling smart and bringing the right snacks with you is a giant step forward in making sure you’re doing your best to not break your budget.
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