Dumplings: A surprising mainstay of Indian cuisine
When you think of the word ‘dumpling’, you may think of a traditional British beef stew topped with fluffy balls of herby dough. You might even think of the Chinese dumpling, where thin dough parcels are filled with mince and vegetables and either steamed or fried. But it may surprise you to learn that dumplings are also a popular choice for people in India, and are used in a variety of ways.
In India, dumplings are small balls of dough that are either steamed, boiled, fried or baked. They can be served with sweet or savoury dishes, and are used both as part of a main meal or as a snack in itself. They are extremely popular throughout the regions of India.
In the south-western state of Kerala, locals regularly enjoy Pidi - small rice dumplings, flavoured with coconut - alongside their chicken curry. Pidi have an incredibly soft texture and melt in the mouth; one taste and you’ll be hooked forever! The people of Kerala also enjoy Pidi as a dessert, known as Paal Pidi, which is cooked in coconut milk for added sweetness.
The people of Gujurat regularly eat Palak Methi Muthia, with Muthia being a staple food of the area. And why wouldn’t they? These delicious mouthfuls are high in nutritional value, thanks to the addition of spinach and methi leaves on the outer layer, which also add an enticing and vibrant colour. Palak Methi Muthia are usually garnished with sesame seeds just before serving, to add a pleasingly crunchy texture.
Another variation of the Indian dumpling is the Gujia, eaten mostly in the northern regions of Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These dumplings are made with either maida flour, or sufi (a finely ground wheat) flour, and are stuffed with khoya - a common dairy product in India made from dried or thickened whole milk. Guji can also contain fillings such as sugar, dried fruits and coconut, giving a fruity and aromatic scent during cooking.
Further south, the Kozhakkatta is a popular sweet dumpling mostly associated with Lord Ganesh. They are a key feature of the Hindu festival Ganesh Chathurthi, which celebrates the rebirth of Lord Ganesh and takes place on his birthday. People cook them in abundance, using rice flour to make the batter and filling them with coconut and jaggery, an unrefined sugar.
A similarly sweet variety of dumpling made from the same ingredients as Kozhakkatta is Modak, popular in the south and western regions of the country. This steamed version is served hot, with a generous helping of ghee.
The cuisine of India is one of the most varied and exciting in the world. So, if your experience of dumplings is limited to just a few, consider heading to one of London’s best fine-dining Indian restaurants to see just how versatile they can be. From melt-in-mouth dumplings to delicious curries, thalis and desserts, their chefs cook a variety of authentic dishes inspired by regional Indian favourites and modern cooking techniques, all served in a stylish setting.