Ode To My (Traveling) Sister

When you grow up with a sister only one year younger than yourself, jealousy can be as common as fights for the front seat. Who got the better Christmas present? The cuter crush? Or, more importantly, the larger slice of dessert? Whilst jealousy is slowly becoming replaced by the sensible mask we put on called “adulthood”, there is one area that I refuse to hide my jealous feelings about. My sister’s passport. Despite Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants being one of our favourite movies (a fact I probably shouldn’t share publicly) my sister is hogging the metaphorical pants. Although she spent the good part of last year in Denmark, skulling cheap beer, guzzling even cheaper chocolate, and flirting with boys with names like Anders, she is again jet-setting across the globe whilst I remain (albeit happily) in the outback. Very soon she will be hiking her way up Mt Everest, just for kicks. I’ll push aside my overly-protective worries for her tumbling down the mountain alla Jack and Jill, and focus my emotions on the jealousy that followed her to Northern Europe and now to the other top on the world. And that jealousy centres around dumplings.

Whilst being a food we often associate with cheap Asian roadside stalls, it is actually rife in these northern corners of the world. In fact, a Wiki search will demonstrate that most cultures have their own version of these tasty little morsels.

It’s remarkable to think that dumplings have literally evolved across many parts of the world, independently. Though it makes a lot of sense when we stop to think why. Eating utensils did not commonly exist during the Middle Ages, so these small round balls were developed out of necessity to be easily eaten by hand and to mop up sauces. For centuries most parts of Central Europe have used dumplings in soups, to mop up stews and gravies, and even as a dessert. Just as extensive as their uses are their ingredients- the basis of European dumplings can be stale bread, potato, semolina, flour, rice, cheese, vegetables or meat, and are filled with flavours, can have flavours added through them, or receive their flavouring from the sauces. Unlike my sister, I can’t speak for exotic European dumplings such as Beef Marrow Dumplings from Burgenland (Burgenlander Markknoderln), Herb-Bread Crumb Dumplings from Lower Austria (Krauter-Broselknodel aus Niederosterreich) or Tyrolean Spinach Dumplings (Tiroler Spinatknodel), however surprisingly I can speak for Apricot Dumplings from the Wachau (Wachauer Marillenknodel aus Erdapfelteig). It is a dish remarkably similar to the plum gnocchi my sister and I annually beg my Triestine Nonna to make, which suggests over time the recipe crossed out of Germany, into the Czech Republic, through Austria and Solvenia, and into Trieste, the small costal city in northern Italy. However I’m sure Nonna will argue that the Germans actually stole it from the Italians, or alternatively the journey of the dumpling was in reverse. Either way, it is a remarkably delicious recipe, and one I am excited to share!

Unfortunately, my knowledge on exotic Nepalese dumplings is even moreso limited, however the one experience I can draw on is a goodie. At the trendy, organic, biodynamic and cosmopolitan Eumundi Markets near Noosa, there is a Tibetan refugee. He has a small cart that draws long lines. Like many in the line on any given market day, I had no idea what I was lining up for, but figured if one man could draw so many people, it must be good. It was my first introduction to momos, and I too would climb Everest to have another. Momos are steamed dumplings native to Tibet, and have been brought to Nepal where they have been claimed as a staple snack or meal. Their varieties are much simpler than Europes- they come round or crescent shaped, and are a flour and water dough filled with meat or vegetables.  Momos can be fried or steamed, and are served with a tomato based sauce (or, if you’re at the Eumundi markets, sweet chilli sauce). Words cannot do justice to this little morsel, you simply need to try one to understand. You could try using Everest as an excuse, but for now this recipe will need to suffice (or so I keep telling myself).