(Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Aushak (leek and scallion)

Afghan Bistro

You’ll find aushak on many Afghan restaurant menus, but at home, “you don’t make it every day,” said Sofia Masroor, a cook and co-owner at Afghan Bistro in Springfield. The dish of scallion dumplings is a delicacy saved for special occasions. At her family’s restaurant, leeks complement the traditional scallion stuffing inside wonton wrappers. The dumplings, steamed to perfection, are topped with a mixture of ground beef and lentils, plus yogurt and dried mint, which balance the overall spice.

$4.95-$14.95 as appetizer or entree. 8081-D Alban Rd., Springfield. 703-337-4722. afghanbistro.com.

(Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Chicken shumai

China Chilcano

Siu mai, or shumai, are traditional Chinese dumplings recognizable by their open-top, purselike appearance. At José Andrés’s China Chilcano, in Penn Quarter, which explores the intersection of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine, they’re given some Peruvian flair: Dabs of ají amarillo sauce made with yellow South American peppers top the tender “pollo” dumplings, filled with chicken, scallion and wood-ear mushrooms. Steamed to order and served in a bamboo basket, they get an extra flavor boost from the accompanying dipping sauce of black vinegar and chicha de jora, a South American beverage made from maize.

$11. 418 Seventh St. NW. 202-783-0941. chinachilcano.com.

(Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Spicy laab shumai


One bite of these dumplings, and you’ll realize you’re not in Southern China anymore. The searing, mind-clearing heat is the giveaway, a bird’s-eye chili burn that would be as foreign in Guangdong province as the stink of a good blue cheese. These shumai channel the fishy and fiery components of Southeast Asian cooking, not the clean, direct flavors of Cantonese dim sum. If the laab filling isn’t pungent enough, the dumplings sit in a light fish sauce and come sprinkled with toasted rice, fried garlic, fried shallots, pickled chiles and cilantro. Not Cantonese, not Thai, not Cambodian, the dish is a brilliant fusion all its own.

$7. 1351 H St. NE. 202-838-9972. maketto1351.com.

(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Shanghai wonton soup

Reren Lamen & Bar

The broth — a ginger-scented liquid simmered 48 hours with pork and beef bones — is so opaque and creamy that you can’t even see the school of willowy wontons that hover just below the surface. As good as the broth is, the wontons are the stars: Their soft, slippery wrappers conceal a filling of ground pork belly, egg, scallions and ginger, an aromatic mixture that suggests something lighter than the rich wave of flavor that ultimately crashes on your palate. This generous bowl is one of the greatest daily bargains in a city that, increasingly, provides its best deals only at happy hour.

$4. 817 Seventh St. NW. 202-290-3677. rerendc.com.

(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)



There are satisfactory pelmeni from the frozen section of Eastern European grocery stores, and then there are the pelmeni at Samovar in Rockville: Velvety and rich, these Siberian dumplings are made from an egg-enriched dough and filled with juicy veal. (If the shape reminds you of a body part, it’s no accident: Their name comes from the Finno-Ugric term pel’nyan, meaning “ear bread.”) Each order comes with a little dish of homemade sour cream; its tanginess simultaneously cuts through and enhances the dish’s richness.

$14. 201 N. Washington St., Rockville. 240-671-9721. samovarrestaurant.com.

(Winyan Soo Hoo/The Washington Post)

Pan-fried soup dumplings

Shanghai Taste

Weekends hail the arrival of Shanghai Taste’s oft-celebrated pan-fried soup dumplings, each bundle surrounded by a delicately fried skin and a pillow-soft shell. One bite, and you’ll understand why the line often snakes out the door. There during the week? The traditional pork soup dumplings not only have tender meat, but they also pack a welcome punch of robust, savory goodness thanks to the flavorful soup filling.

$7.25. 1121 Nelson St., Rockville. 301-279-0806.

(Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post)

Soup dumplings

Ten Tigers Parlour

The Asian speakeasy-inspired Ten Tigers Parlour in Petworth focuses on cocktails and Japanese teas, but the soup dumplings are also worth trying, especially since good versions can be scarce in Washington. The dense filling resembles that of a pork meatball with the fresh addition of chives, but the skin achieves the coveted “QQ” texture — a Taiwanese phrase describing the dumpling’s hard-to-achieve bounce and springy chew.

$8. 3813 Georgia Ave. NW. 202-506-2080. tentigersdc.com.

(Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post)

Chicken momos


The momo, a pocket of vegetables or meat and spices, is “famous in Nepal,” said Laliguras chef Dawa Tamang. “People eat it every day.” It’s not hard to see why — order a plate of the chicken momos at Laliguras, and they’ll be gone in a flash. It’s partly because of the chicken’s delicate spices, a mixture of black cardamom, bay leaves, cloves, coriander and cumin called momo masala. But it’s also because of the mildly spicy dipping sauce, which incorporates tomato, cilantro and sesame seeds. The sauce doesn’t overpower the momos. You won’t want to leave a drop behind.

$8. 4221-B Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-735-5097. laligurasdc.com.

(Maura Judkis/The Washington Post)

Uzbek manti


Many dumplings are considered appetizers, but Rus-Uz in Arlington doesn’t mess around. Order the Uzbek manti, and you’ll get a massive plate of dumplings that’s hearty enough for a meal. These dumplings — heavy with lamb and onion in the filling and drizzled with tangy yogurt and tomato sauces on top — are distinguished by their delicate pasta and free-form shape. Look closely, or you might not be able to tell where one dumpling ends and another begins.

$15.99. 1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington. 571-312-4086. rus-uzcuisine.com.

(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Kawa manti

Dolan Uyghur

In Xinjiang, China, where the Uyghur people are an ethnic minority, manti are a dish prepared for honored guests. But everyone is an honored guest at Dolan Uyghur in Cleveland Park, a restaurant that serves several iterations of the dumplings. The manti, handmade by specially trained Uyghur chefs, are steamed for precisely 21 minutes. The Piter variety, filled with beef, are a treat, but better yet are the Kawa manti, delicate pouches packed with beef and a somewhat surprising ingredient: pumpkin.

$15. 3518 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-686-3941. dolanuyghur.com.

(Becky Krystal/The Washington Post)

Pan-fried mandu

Gom Ba Woo

The mandu at Korean spot Gom Ba Woo, available steamed or pan-fried, are served in 12-piece portions, which means you should come with friends — or an appetite. The half-moon-shaped pockets are filled with a mild mixture of ground pork, scallions, cabbage and bean sprouts, then perked up with a soy-based dipping sauce, as well as such banchan (or side dishes) as kimchi and radishes. The skin of the pan-fried mandu benefits from its crisp texture, but you don’t have to miss out on the steamed version: The kitchen is amenable to letting you sample both in one order.

$10.95. 7133C Columbia Pike, Annandale. 703-642-1577. gombawoo.net.

(Holley Simmons for The Washington Post)

Pork gyoza

Toki Underground

If a soup dumpling and a traditional pork dumpling had a baby, it would look something like the dough pockets at Toki Underground. The H Street ramen spot mixes pork with soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, scallions, napa cabbage and togarashi seasoning before stuffing it into a pouch that’s steamed or fried. The restaurant uses extra fatty Berkshire pork, so the dumplings plump up with jus when cooked. Plus, the sauce they’re served atop — a thick Japanese tare — is enhanced by the unctuous filling that spills out.

$6. 1234 H St. NE. 202-388-3086. tokiunderground.com.

(Maura Judkis/The Washington Post)

Chicken gyoza

Bantam King

Don’t skip straight to the ramen at Bantam King, the chicken-soup restaurant from the same team as Daikaya. There’s a secret ingredient in the sui gyoza, four delicate dumplings that can kick-start your meal. What makes these purses of poultry so special is the sauce, composed of Chinese vinegar, soy sauce, roasted chicken reduction and chili oil. The secret ingredient is butter — a twist! — which makes for a satisfyingly rich dunk, offset by some cilantro for freshness. Pro tip: It plays well with the house sake.

$5.50. 501 G St. NW. 202-733-2612. bantamking.com.

(Emily Codik/The Washington Post)

Mongolian dumplings

Ching Ching Cha

The Mongolian dumplings at Ching Ching Cha are the perfect snack to go with one of the Georgetown teahouse’s exceptional teas. Stuffed with a mixture of lamb, onion, garlic and cabbage, plus ticklish amounts of pepper, these narrow, squiggly guys look like they’ve been braided shut before being served in a shallow pool of a soy-based sauce. Don’t skip the flowering teas; as the water heats things up, the dried leaves blossom into a flower in your cup.

$5.50. 1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-333-8288. chingchingcha.com.

(Kara Elder/The Washington Post)


Mari Vanna

Khinkali, hailing from Georgia, are almost too cute to eat. At Mari Vanna, in Dupont Circle, the delicately folded dumplings are filled with lightly spiced beef and onion then served with a garnish of ground pepper. Word to the wise: Don’t eat the intentionally tough topknot — they’re meant to be a handle by which you pick up the dumpling, sans fork and knife. (They’re also a reminder of how many you’ve managed to eat.) It’s easiest to slurp the inner broth with your first bite before continuing to the rest of the dumpling.

$19. 1141 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-783-7777. marivanna.ru/washington.

(Savannah Stephens/The Washington Post)


Chutzpah Deli

Chutzpah Deli, an unassuming Jewish deli in Fairfax, serves up delicious kreplach two ways — in a comfort-filled chicken noodle soup or deep-fried and served with onions. In the so-called Jewish wontons, minced beef, onion, and spices come together in a slightly sweet dough that gives the soup a better-than-noodles upgrade. But about that spice . . . Is it cloves? Nutmeg? The recipe is a closely guarded family secret, so you’ll have to try them and make your own guess.

$6.50. 12214 Fairfax Towne Center, Fairfax. 703-385-8883. chutzpahdeli.com.

(Kara Elder/The Washington Post)


Fare Well

When you think of pierogi, “plant-based” might not be the first thing that pops in your head. But the version of the Central and Eastern European dumplings on Fare Well’s dinner menu could change that. They’re filled with a mixture of potato, onion and garlic and housed in a simple flour-water-oil dough. Four plump pierogi are served with sour cream (made from tofu), sauerkraut and a seasonal vegetable. Even omnivores will be pleased by their buttery, creamy, comforting richness.

$16. 406 H St. NE. 202-367-9600. eatfarewell.com.

(Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Steamed pork buns

Chinatown Express

Passersby are frequently lured into Chinatown Express by the noodles being pulled by hand in the window, but the steamed pork buns shouldn’t play second fiddle. Each order of eight fluffy dumplings, stuffed with spiced pork, arrives atop a bed of cabbage leaves in a metal pan. Servers suggest giving the accompanying soy sauce a punch from the jars of pickled ginger and vinegar at each table. An extra tip: Instead of using chopsticks to give the buns a dip, scoop some liquid into your spoon, place the bun on top and pop the whole thing in your mouth.

$5.95. 746 Sixth St. NW. 202-638-0424. chinatownexpressdc.com.

(Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Steamed dumplings in red hot sauce

Panda Gourmet

The Sichuan delights of Panda Gourmet are well documented, as is the quality of its Sichuan chili oil, which offers depth and sweetness as well as a blaze of peppers that can make even the bravest eater turn fire-engine red. Their steamed dumplings are slathered in oil, with a veritable pool at the bottom of the dish, and dusted with sesame seeds and scallions. They’re a little slippery and intensely flavorful.

$6.95. 2700 New York Ave. NE. 202-534-1620. pandagourmetdc.net.

(Photo by Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post)

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