There is perhaps no food more universal than the dumpling – or some variation of it. The simple concept of folding dough into a pouch, filling it with meat, vegetables, cheeses or anything else that strikes one’s fancy, and then frying, steaming, boiling, pan-searing or baking it is found in some incarnation in almost every food culture in the world. Whether you call it empanada, pastelito, salteña, shumai, gyoza, croquette, croqueta, samosa, pierogi, ravioli or a hundred other names, the result is always delicious.
Two of the most familiar takes on the dumpling are the Asian and Latin versions. Little Chopsticks presents a classic Chinese version with its Steamed Dumplings, while Sakura pan sears their Gyoza, the Japanese incarnation of the pork dumpling. Spain, long the standard-bearer for its namesake country’s cuisine in Rhode Island, adds a bit of outside influence (Asian? Caribbean?) to its Shrimp Empanadilla, garnishing a shrimp and roasted vegetable-filled dough with ginger papaya aioli. For a more typically Spanish take, try the Croquetas de Pollo at Bocado, filled with chicken and served with honey aioli. Little Chopsticks, 495 Smith St. 273-0049. Sakura: 231 Wickenden St. 331-6861. Spain: 1073 Reservoir Ave., Cranston. 946-8686. Bocado: 60 Valley St. 270-6080.
Worlds collide (inside flaky dough) once again at Veggie Fun, a pan-Asian vegan restaurant that offers a spin on the Indian version of dumplings with its Curry Samosas, served with mint chutney. Similarly, Rhode Rage, one of the newer entries to the city’s food truck scene, mashes up Indian with French in its Confit Duck Samosas, accompanied by a red wine braised cherry dipping sauce. Veggie Fun: 123 Dorrance St. 270-4700. Rhode Rage: 323-0370.
The Dean Hotel’s German beer hall Faust brings northern/eastern Europe into the conversation with its Pierogi. They’re filled with the standard potato and onion, but dressed up a bit with the addition of preserved mushrooms and quark, a type of curd cheese common in Germany and Austria. Faust: 122 Fountain St. 351-5200.