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How Old Are Dumplings?

Were cavemen making them?

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Photo: David

To kick off its Dumpling Week, a celebration of all things doughy, fatty and delightful, NPR takes a moment to reflect on dumplings’ surprisingly ancient origins:

No one knows for sure, but Ken Albala, a food historian at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., thinks dumplings have been around for a very long time. “Almost without doubt, there are prehistoric dumplings,” he says.

This is mostly a matter of speculation. (“I think it’s a very fine line between putting in loose flour or meal, and getting a porridge out of it, or putting in lumps…A dumpling, I don’t know, it seems like more fun to me,” Albala told NPR.) But we do know that people living more than 1,000 years ago in the Tang Dynasty made dumplings “that look exactly the same as you’d see served in a restaurant in the area today,” one food writer said. By the 13th century, Turkish traders had adopted the manti dumpling from Mongols they encountered, and in the Renaissance, Italians had caught on to the magic of gnocchi, bringing the dumpling concept to Europe.

Renaissance recipes went something like this:

If you want gnocchi take some cheese and mash it, then take some flour and mix it with egg yolks as if you are making dough. Place a pot of water over a fire. When it starts boiling, place the mixture on a board and slide it in the pot with a spoon. When they are cooked, place them on plates and top them with a lot of grated cheese.

What could be bad?

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