When October rolls around, it begins. Umbrellas are folded up, patio furniture is moved to the garage and barbecues get covered up in preparation for the winter ahead. Culinary thoughts move away from burgers and coleslaw and watermelon to heartier, more comforting foods, the kinds that will stick to your ribs and make you want to hibernate for a little while.
One of those comfort food staples is the dumpling – a little pocket of dough filled with warming goodness. Almost every culture in the world has some variation on the theme. While some are more prevalent in Edmonton than others, here are five dumpling dishes that will help keep you full throughout the fall.
at Ikki Izakaya
When an order of takoyaki arrives at your table at Ikki Izakaya on Jasper Avenue, you really have to resist the urge to dive right into the dish. For one thing, these grilled octopus dumplings will be far too hot to eat right away; you might burn your tongue. But it’s also a delight to watch the dried bonito flakes on top dance in the heat radiating off the dish.
Once sufficiently cooled off, though, the takoyaki are real treats. They’re more like fritters than traditional dumplings – each a bite-sized ball of dough studded with chunks of grilled octopus and green onions, pan-fried until crispy and brown on the outside and soft on the inside.
If you’re a little squeamish at the thought of eating octopus, these dumplings are a great way to introduce a new variety of seafood into your diet. –Glenn Cook
Reinventing the perogy in Edmonton requires a deft touch, but the mixing of Asian and eastern European flavours in Select’s chicken masala perogies is done in the most delicate of fashions. The doughy pillows are covered in sauteed onions and bacon – traditionalists can rejoice. Instead of sour cream, though, the perogies are cradled on a tamarind yogurt. It’s actually more sour than sour cream, but when mixed with the sweet onions and salty bacon, it works.
The masala spice is subtle. It adds fragrance and a little bit of a floral note to the palate. As fusion dishes go, this one won’t offend baba, but it’s just adventurous enough to feel like it’s not the same old, same old. –Steven Sandor
It’s not often that you encounter the elusive “perfect bite,” but the Xiao Long Bao (or soup dumpling) at Shanghai 456 is most assuredly one.
Part flavour bomb and part experience, the dish – humbly described on the menu as a “steamed mini pork bun in basket” – is a collection of six golf ball-sized dumplings stuffed with seasoned ground pork and a hot, silky, meat-stock broth.
As each of them is only one accidental puncture away from losing the piping hot soup, use your chopsticks with care. Lift the teardrop-shaped dumpling from its bamboo steaming basket, and coat it in the accompanying black rice vinegar and ginger dip. The sweetness of the vinegar and heat of the ginger bring a surprising acidic balance to an otherwise hearty bite, so be sure to dip liberally.
Next, place the dumpling onto your spoon, nibble the tiniest hole in the soft doughy skin, and – as with any soup – slurp. Once the salty broth has touched every crevasse of your palette, feed on the soup-infused ground pork and dough for that delectably savoury, perfect bite. –Cory Haller
14456 118 Ave., 780-451-8333, website n/a
Jalapeno Cheddar Perogies
at Wendy’s Gourmet Perogies
Perogies are one of the most popular and recognizable eastern European dumplings, but unless you grew up with a Ukrainian baba, your experience with the doughy treat might be limited to the variety found in the grocery store’s frozen-food section. If that’s the case, venture to Wendy’s Gourmet Perogies. The restaurant, tucked into a strip mall off 99th Street, is only open until 5 p.m., so you’ll have to stop by early in the day, but you certainly won’t be alone – even on a Tuesday afternoon, nearly every table is packed.
Wendy’s doesn’t concern itself with decor or formality – the daily options are listed on a chalkboard and dished up on paper plates, cafeteria-style. While there’s cheddar and bacon-cheddar for traditionalists, give the hybrid jalapeno cheddar a try. The diced jalapeno peppers in the filling add just the right amount of heat to balance the rich, doughy dumpling.-Adrianna Szenthe
4532 99 St., 780-432-3893, website n/a
at A Yah Mi Deh! Jamaican Restaurant and Bakery
With bright yellow walls and reggae music playing over the sound system, it’s hard not to smile when you walk into A Yah Mi Deh! Jamaican Restaurant and Bakery. But the biggest smile ought to be reserved for when you turn the corner and see an overflowing tray of Jamaican dumplings in the display case.
The dumplings at A Yah Mi Deh! are each about the size of a racquetball. They each have a crispy, golden brown crust that gives way to a dense interior that’s perfect for sopping up leftover curry sauce or braising liquid. They’re simple – traditional Jamaican dumpling recipes on the Internet usually call only for flour, butter, baking powder, water and salt – but they’re simply delicious.
The dumplings go especially well with the oxtail, which is fall-off-the-bone tender and doesn’t have the overwhelming amount of spice sometimes associated with Jamaican food. –G.C.