Pros: An absolutely incredible range of delicious recipes
Cons: Some of the directions could have used a little more polishing
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Brian Yarvin’s title A World of Dumplings might conjure up images of chicken and dumplings for some, or soup for others, but it’s about a much wider range of foods than that. He uses the word to refer to nearly any form of filled dough treat, savory or sweet, whether baked, fried, steamed, poached, or boiled.
A brief introduction provides some tips and hints and introduces you to the wide range of treats waiting for you in the pages to come. The first major section offers up recipes from Asian countries, including Japan (mmmm, Gyoza!), Korea (Mandu!), China (everything from Wontons to Shanghai-Style Soup Dumplings), Vietnam (Spring Rolls), Thailand, and India (Samosas!). The recipes I mentioned by name are only a sampling of what’s on offer, and the book also includes recipes for the wrappers as well as a handful of dipping sauces. Each regional section also includes interesting notes on how or why a particular type of dumpling is made the way it is.
Central Asia and the Middle East offers up recipes from Uzbekistan, which includes one of my all-time favorites from this cookbook: Samsa, or Sweet Walnut Fritters (relatively easy and incredibly delicious!). It moves on to the Republic of Georgia, the Middle East (simple and delicious Chickpea Pies in a yeast-dough wrapper), and Turkey.
Russia and Eastern Europe includes recipes from Russia (Piroshki and the sinfully delightful Beggar’s Purses), the Ukraine (Vareniki and Vushka), Poland (Pierogi of all types), and recipes from the Eastern European Jewish tradition, such as Kreplach and Knishes.
Western Europe focuses on Italy with its Ravioli, Tortellini, and Panzerotti, but also includes a recipe or two from Germany and Sweden.
The Americas introduces us to dumplings from Brazil (Pastels and Esfirras), Mexico (Empanadas), Jamaica (Patties), the US (Cajun Meat Pies anyone, or Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dumplings?), and even one from Canada.
The flavors in these recipes are uniformly delightful, and the photos definitely help the cook to figure out how to assemble these wonderful tidbits. However, the directions did occasionally confuse me a bit. Take, for instance, the Samsa, or Sweet Walnut Fritters. The dough gets rolled out into a sheet that is 12 x 24 inches. The directions say to cut the dough into six-inch squares, and the recipe says it makes 20 of the dumplings. Well, if you actually cut the squares six inches to a side, the 12 x 24 sheet would make eight dumplings, not twenty. And I couldn’t find a size of square that actually divided the sheet into 20 dumplings wrappers. The closest I could come was three-inch squares, which made 18. That certainly worked well enough, but this kind of confusion definitely makes the book a little harder to use in places.
I do highly recommend the use of a pasta machine with those recipes that specify it. The author notes in his introduction that it makes life a lot easier, and I must concur with that. We were certainly able to make a recipe without the specified machine, but it would have been much easier with it.
If you’re a dumpling fiend as I am, I highly recommend this cookbook. The results are delicious, there’s a huge range of delightful recipes to choose from of all kinds, the photos walk you through the difficult steps, and even the rough spots in the directions are minimal.