Dumplings have been around for thousands of years, and it’s safe to assume that they have been adapted and enjoyed in many different countries and cultures in many different forms. One of the first known forms of dumpling was in a Roman cookery text known as Apicius. The recipe is fairly simple, roasted pheasant, chopped fine and mixed with fat, salt and pepper and moistened with broth. Simple boiled dumplings such as these are still highly popular in many European countries today.
The popular filled dumplings were introduced later in Europe, but rose to ‘fame’ in Chinese culture. A version of dumplings known as iiaozi were enjoyed in China for over 1800 years. It is according to legend, Chinese stuffed dumplings were invented during the Han Dynasty by a man named Zhang Zhongjian. The legend apparently occurred when Zhang had recently returned to his village during the coldest point of winter, after a long absence. He noticed that many of his fellow citizens were suffering from frostbite, and in particular around their ears. As a way to solve this problem, Zhang cooked up a batch of mutton, chili and healing herbs and then wrapped them in scraps of dough. He folded the dumplings to look like little ears, boiled them and handed them out to his neighbors. We will never know if they really cured frostbite, but the citizens loved the taste of Zhang’s creation so much that they continued to make the dumplings long after the winter season had passed.