Eastern Chinese: Tang Bao
Yes, that’s a drinking straw sticking out of the house specialty at Wang Xing Ji, an offshoot of the century-old restaurant in Wuxi, near Shanghai. Tang bao is a grapefruit-size orb that’s bloated with soup in a steamer. As with its popular petite cousin, xiaolongbao, one slurps the savory broth before digging into the crab and pork filling. » 140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, 626-307-1188.
At the grandmotherly Polka pouches of hand-rolled dough encase fist-size quantities of ground pork and chicken, whipped potatoes and cheese, or stewed mushrooms with sauerkraut. The gnocchi-like kopytka are the perfect starchy side for beef stew, but purists simply use a dab of butter. Poles love their dumplings so much; they make berry-filled versions for dessert, too. » 4112 Verdugo Rd., Eagle Rock.
At Mantee Cafe we’ve spotted more than a few diners hoarding whole orders of these boat-shaped dumplings. Served in a garlicky yogurt sauce, the tiny beef- or spinach-filled nuggets are as addictive as Garlic fries. » 10962 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-761-6565.
Afghan: Ashak & Mantu
Ashak, the floppy leek-filled pasta parcels served at Azeen’s, are blanketed in a meaty, tomato-laced, Bolognese-style sauce and swirled with garlic-infused yogurt. Like mantu—a dome-shaped, lamb-filled relation also on the menu—ashak characterizes Afghanistan’s hallmark blend of East Asian and Persian flavors. » 110 E. Union St., Pasadena.
Sold along the dusty lanes of Nepal and Tibet, the steamed packets and pillowy crescents known as momo hold subtly spiced vegetables and chicken. At Himalayan Cafe, the pickle-curry dip adds a blast of flavor. » 36 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena.
Russian dumpling parlors, or pelmennaya, serve this tortellini-like offering, which is made in mass quantities, frozen outdoors, and consumed through the winter. At Russian Dacha Cafe plump morsels float in consommé with a dollop of sour cream. » 5338 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-509-5828.