Global Dumpling Guide & Where to Eat Them in Shanghai

By Sophie Steiner, June 21, 2024

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Riding on the coattails of our China Dumpling Guide, we decided to set our sights further afield and explore Shanghai’s global dumpling offerings.

READ MORE: Your Essential Guide to the World of Chinese Dumplings

From Japan to Korea, Nepal to Russia, and even Turkey and Italy, we have made it our mission to eat renditions of the world’s finest pockets of joy, right in our backyard of Shanghai.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

To do this, we must delineate what is (and more importantly what is not) a dumpling. 

An abbreviated version of the wholly omniscient Google’s definition is essentially...

  • Dough made from a variety of starchy sources – wheat, flour, rice, bread, or potatoes

  • Wrapped around any makeup of filling – meat, fish tofu, cheese, vegetables, or fruit

  • Cooked in any manner of ways – steamed, boiled, fried, baked, or any combination of those

Cool, way to help us narrow that one down, Google. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An equally futile Wikipedia chimes in with, “the precise definition of a dumpling is controversial, varying across individuals and cultures.” 

Well, we’ve never been known to shy away from controversy here at That’s Shanghai, so why break that trajectory now?

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In short, we’ve decided to trust our (not-so trustworthy) instincts on just what visually, aesthetically, tastefully, and comprehensively feels like a dumpling.

And in doing so, we’ve thrown all our darts at the proverbial board that makes up the city’s dining scene, munching our way through as many menu items that include the word 饺子 (jiaozi) – the all-encompassing umbrella term for filled, crimped and sealed dumplings of any kind – across the city and listed it out in alphabetical order for your reading pleasure. 


Gyoza | Japan 

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Chidori-Ashi, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Japanese Culinary Institute teaches that gyoza recipes made their way to Japan via China, gaining particular traction when Japanese soldiers returned from Manchuko following World War II with a craving for this beloved Chinese street food that is now considered to be one of Japan's national dishes. (1)

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Even the written characters for gyoza in Japanese (餃子) share the traditional Chinese characters for jiaozi (餃子), further strengthening the storyline of how jiaozi became gyoza

Gyoza tend to be filled with minced pork, steamed and then fried on the bottom, resulting in their signature 'lacey skirt' of brittle batter.

Diners can first dip in a tare and rice vinegar sauce before crunching away, the thin elastic dumpling skin tearing open to reveal this delectable dumpling’s overflowingly juicy center. 

Where to get it:

  • Chidori-Ashi, 1/F, #36-38, 890 Chagning Lu, by Huichuan Lu 长宁路890号玫瑰坊一楼36-38商铺

  • Toriyasu, 172 Huichuan Lu, by Changning Lu 汇川路172号, 近长宁路

  • King BBQ 鳥King, 2088 Yan’an Xi Lu, 延安西路2088号

READ MORE: 12 Izakayas to Satisfy Your Shanghai Yakitori Cravings

READ MORE: We Walked in a Mall in Shanghai and Fell Into a Tokyo Wormhole


Mandu | South Korea

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Yi Ba Du, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, author and historian Michael Pettid writes that mandu – or Korean dumplings – were originally a part of Korean royal court cuisine, believed to have arrived on the Korean peninsula in the 14th Century by way of the Yuan Mongolians. (2)

The behemoth folded dumplings are most commonly steamed, but can also be enjoyed boiled in soup, grilled, or pan-fried. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As diverse as mandu are in preparation options, conventional fillings are equally expansive (and even vary based on seasonality), ranging from pungent kimchi to pork and scallions, from pheasant meat to glass noodles with chopped vegetables.

Where to get it: 

  • Yi Ba Du 怡吧都韩国料理, 2/F, 6 Yinting Lu 银亭路66号2号楼

  • Ma Pu Wu 麻浦屋, #39, Lane 1051 Hongquan Lu, 虹泉路1051弄39号


Manti | Turkey

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So Mezze, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Born from Armenian roots, manti are traditional Turkish dumplings – believed by many historians, such as Stewart Gordon (author of When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the “Riches of the East”), to be the first dumplings in Central Asia.

These dumplings are thought to have spread through trade routes and war to the far corners of the East and West.

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So Mezze, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It’s no surprise then, that manti also make a showing in parts of the Balkans and Central Asia (like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan), and share the same Turkic root word (mantu) with Korean mandu, Greek manti, Afghan mantoo and Chinese mantou. (3)

Traditionally stuffed with spiced meat – most often ground beef or lamb – and boiled or steamed, these marble-sized bundles are pinched and ribbed in the middle, creating that pleasantly uneven noodle chew. 

Tossed in a thick dollop of tangy yogurt and a drizzle of chili oil, a plate of manti translates to utter comfort food, a satisfying meal regardless of country of origin. 

Where to get it: 

  • So Mezze, 358 Kangding Lu, by Shanxi Bei Lu, 康定路358号, 近陕西北路

  • Garlic, 698 Yongjia Lu, by Anting Lu, 永嘉路698号, 近安亭路

  • Pasha Turkish Restaurant,125 Nanchang Lu, by Maoming Lu, 南昌路125号, 近茂名路


Momo | Nepal, Bhutan & India

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Yak & Yeti, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Believed to be borrowed from the northwestern Chinese dialect term momo (馍馍), a name for wheat-based steamed buns and breads (4) the term mome in the Newari language (that is spoken by the Newars of Kathmandu Valley) relates to cooking by steaming, according to New Everest Cuisine on the history of momo. (5)

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

With notably thicker skins, Nepalese-style momo tend to be rounder in shape, conventionally filled with either chicken or pork.

At times, yeast or baking soda is added for a doughier texture, allowing the dumplings to hold their shape when dipped in a variety of sauces – tomato chutney, sesame sauce, acchar, or even broths.

Most often steamed, momo can also be pan- or deep-fried. 

Where to get it: 

  • Yak & Yeti, 97 Xiangyang Lu, by Changle Lu 襄阳路97号, 近长乐路

  • Nepali Kitchen, 819 Julu Lu, by Fumin Lu 巨鹿路819弄4号,近富民路

  • Newa, D103, 850 Xikang Lu, by Haifang Lu 西康路850号D103室, 近海防路


Ravioli | Italy 

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8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Arguably one of the world’s most recognized dumplings, the humble Italian ravioli consists of thin pasta dough, stuffed with any manner of savory (but sometimes sweet) filling, usually served in or with a sauce.  

Unlike many other dumplings found on this list (and throughout the world), ravioli aren't individually folded, but instead, long lasagna-like egg pasta sheets are spread out, with fillings scooped and placed a few centimeters apart.

A second pasta sheet is the layered over the top and smoothed, a precursor to the crucial cutting step.

A fluted ravioli wheel slicer sections off each individual ravioli by cutting the dough into strips, simultaneously pressing closed and cutting the corrugated edges into the final ravioli square. 

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Yaya's, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Running the size gamut – from miniscule to the width of an entire plate, there’s really no wrong way to ravioli

Where to get it: 

  • 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana,  6-7/F, 169 Yuanmingyuan Lu, by Beijing Dong Lu, 圆明园路169号6, 7楼, 近北京东路

  • Bambino, 600 Shanxi Bei Lu, by Xinzha Lu, 陕西北路600号, 近新闸路

  • Yaya’s, Unit E, 329 Tongren Lu, by Nanyang Lu, 铜仁路329号1层E区, 近南阳路


Vareniki & Pelmeni | Russia & Ukraine

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Borsch & Kompot, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The land of potatoes, vodka, and camaraderie, Russia is also home to many dumpling varieties, the vareniki being one of the broadest of terms.

Bridging stomachs from Russia to Ukraine, the vareniki even dips its toe into Poland with the variation, known as pierogi.

While pelmeni – as a name – may be more globally recognized, they're typically only filled with uncooked beef or fish (whereby the filling and dumpling skin is simultaneously cooked), whereas vareniki can include pre-cooked mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, cabbage, and even sweet and sour cherries. (6)

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Borsch & Kompot, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Regardless, these denser skin dumplings are classically enjoyed with a scoop of sour cream as an all-day treat, adored by people of all ages. 

Where to get it: 

  • Borsch & Kompot, 1411 Yuyuan Lu, by Changning Lu, 愚园路1411号,近长宁路

  • Flying Elephant飞象西餐厅, 2750 Gonghe Xin Lu,共和新路2750号


Understandably, this list is in no way fully comprehensive – and even within each country, there are regional differences in naming, preparation, fillings, and folding – but we vow to keep our eyes peeled and our tummies at the ready to start rounding up Part II. 

READ MORE GUIDES 

Your Essential Guide to the World of Chinese Dumplings

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All the Bing: A Guide to China's Favorite Street Food

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Sources:

(1) Japanese Culinary Institute

(2)  Pettid, Michael J. (2008). Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History. Reaktion Books. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-86189-348-2. Retrieved 10 October 2018.

(3) South China Morning Post 

(4) Wayback Machine 

(5) Slow Food 

(6) The Moscow Times


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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