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A Dumpling By Any Other Name…

April 11, 2020

Today I woke up with a burning desire to understand the world of eastern European dumplings. I mean, what is the difference between pierogi, pelmeni, pirozhki, vareniki, etc? Everyone is dying to know this right?

So a quick Google search answered all my questions.

For me the quintessential dumpling – the one I crave periodically – is pelmeni. It’s a Russian dumpling that originated in the Urals (and quite possibly was introduced to the region by the invading Mongols). Russian pelmeni are pasta like dumplings filled with raw meat (usually pork) and boiled or fried in butter. A good Russian pelmeni dish is always served with a dollop of smetana, or sour cream.

Pierogi are traditional Polish dumplings. These resemble pelmeni in look and texture, though they are typically vegetarian, stuffed with things like potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, sauerkraut, cheese, etc. Apparently they can also be filled with sweet ingredients. Pierogi are typically prepared by frying them in butter. The Russian word for pierogi is vareniki, so there is another mystery solved for me!

Pirozhki is another Russian word swirling around in my head from my college days (I was a Russian studies major ages ago) confusing my understanding of doughy delights. Turns out pirog is the Russian word for pie and pirozhki encompasses all the variations of said term. Pirozhki are made with yeast-risen dough and are prepared by baking or frying.

Now if, like me, you associate pretty much all pie with something sweet, you might be sorely disappointed if someone offers you a pie overseas and it is anything but! I learned this lesson living in former British colonies. Excited that there were pie shops all over New Zealand, my enthusiasm was soon squelched by a realization that none of the pies in those shops contained anything remotely like what my family makes for holidays.

So just like the British versions, Russian pirozhki are often filled with meat and other savory ingredients. However they do also have sweet pirozhki as well!

This concludes today’s random thoughts! Happy Easter, or Passover, or Saturday, depending on your practices and beliefs! Stay safe, stay hopeful, and stay kind!

Oh! And I’m happy to report that I have not relapsed on the smoking front in many years now. I’ve never been so happy that I quit smoking! To those thinking about quitting, give it a go. And keep giving it a try over and over again. Eventually it may stick!

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