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Golden Europe Restaurant in Arvada.
Golden Europe Restaurant in Arvada.
Ruth Tobias

Around the World in 10 Dishes: Dumpling Edition

Exploring the global food scene on the Front Range, dish by dish.

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Golden Europe Restaurant in Arvada.
| Ruth Tobias

If you thought flatbreads were hard to categorize, just try wrapping your head around dumplings for a minute. You could start with the narrowest definition, as offered by the Oxford Companion to Food: a small blob of steamed or boiled dough. But suppose there’s a bit of filling inside that blob. Suppose it’s baked or fried. And how small is small? At what point do dumplings become, say, buns, tamales, doughnut holes or Cornish pasties?

Our answer may not fly with Oxford editors, but most cooks will appreciate it: you draw the line by feel, by instinct, as well as by common sense and practice. (For example, we’re perfectly comfortable with the idea that most stuffed pastas, like ravioli and tortelloni, are also dumplings, whereas empanadas, samosas and knish are not.)

Here are 10 goodies at the top of our list, but there are so many others that a sequel post will be in order soon—stay tuned.

· Around the World in 10 Dishes: Flatbread Edition [EDEN]
· Wine Time in a Beer Town: Can You Drink Reds with Seafood? [EDEN]

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Bagel Deli

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6439 E Hampden Ave
Denver, CO 80222
(303) 756-6667
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Funny how you can’t say kreplach without hacking up some phlegm, yet the thing itself—as served in chicken soup—gets glowing credit the world over for relieving the very symptom it triggers. Whether or not lunch at this southeast longtimer really trumps a trip to the doctor’s office, guaranteed a bowl of its goldene yoich, complete with these smooth little beef-stuffed envelopes of goodness, beats the taste of Mucinex any day.

2. Belvedere

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323 14th St
Denver, CO 80202
Generally speaking, Westminster’s Cracovia Restaurant and Bar is the place to beat for Polish eats, including the half-moon morsels known the world round as pierogi—which may be boiled, baked or fried, incorporating anything from ground meat to mashed potatoes to onions and sauerkraut or fruit. But this rustic downtown charmer gets the gold star for one type in particular: tender, buttery, sweet-cheese pierogi, which blur the line between dinner and dessert.

3. China Jade

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12101 E Iliff Ave
Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 755-8518
Not to knock cheesy fried crab rangoon, but you haven’t had wontons until you’ve had them Szechuan-style—as at China Jade, where the silken, pork-filled bundles of joy called hong you chao shou come doused in chili oil and sprinkled with scallions.

4. David's Kebab House

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970 S Oneida St
Denver, CO 80224
(303) 355-2188
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Pelmeni aren’t dubbed the Russian ravioli for nothing. This mom-and-pop cafe in a south Denver strip mall makes the cutest proof of that, in the form of fat little chicken- or beef-stuffed buttons drizzled with olive oil and topped with sour cream.

5. Golden Europe Restaurant

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6620 Wadsworth Blvd
Arvada, CO 80003
(303) 425-1246
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Czech houskové knedlíky are basically reconstituted bread slices, but we prefer to think of them as gravy sponges. That’s the function they serve at this cozy Mitteleuropan kitchen in Arvada, anyway, absorbing (for instance) the velvety spiced sour-cream sauce that tops tender, sauerbraten-like beef svíčková.

6. Ella Fine Diner

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1262 Alpine Ave.
Boulder, CO 80304
Edwin Zoe obviously loves his comfort food—and the women in his life who make it. Not only did he his install his Taiwanese mom in the kitchen of Zoe Ma Ma, he enlisted the help of his Hungarian mother-in-law in designing the menu for Ella, right down to the kneidlach (matzoh balls). She nailed it: they’re airy and tender and all the better for soaking in Zoe’s light, bright chicken soup.

7. Il Pastaio

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3075 Arapahoe Ave Unit B
Boulder, CO 80303
(303) 447-9572
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Gnocchi di patate fatta in casa (“housemade potato dumplings”) may be the most fun phrase to say in Italian ever, and this little family-run Boulder gem may be the most fun place to say it. You get your choice of 11 sauces with the pillowy spud nuggets (to use another fun phrase), but the classic pesto’s the way to go.

8. Lao Wang Noodle House

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945 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 975-2497
Many Chinese-food experts go to great lengths explaining why Shanghai’s world-famous xiao long bao shouldn’t be confused with proper soup dumplings (the name actually means “little basket buns”). But against a cross-cultural American backdrop, you can’t unsee how the loose English description sticks to these supple pouches of pork in gelatinous broth. And yes, Lao Wang still makes the best.

9. Star Kitchen

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2917 W Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80219
(303) 936-0089
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When it comes to dumplings, this dim sum diamond doesn’t make a clunker. But if for some unfathomable reason you were to limit yourself to one type, make it a plate of golden-fried, egg-shaped ham sui gok. They’re quite the studies in contrast: glutinous-rice flour gives the crunchy shell its light sweetness, while the soy gravy in the ground-pork filling adds savory richness. Swoon. Make it two plates.

10. Tom's Home Cookin'

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800 E 26th Ave
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 388-8035
If there’s one dish that illustrates how tradition trumps precise terminology, it’s chicken and dumplings. Throughout the American South, the name covers everything from stews laced with what are essentially noodles—made from flattened and cut dough—to whole biscuits smothered in chicken gravy. On Wednesdays, this Five Points fixture serves up the latter version; rest assured you’d rather shut up and eat it than squabble over dictionary definitions.

1. The Bagel Deli

6439 E Hampden Ave, Denver, CO 80222
Funny how you can’t say kreplach without hacking up some phlegm, yet the thing itself—as served in chicken soup—gets glowing credit the world over for relieving the very symptom it triggers. Whether or not lunch at this southeast longtimer really trumps a trip to the doctor’s office, guaranteed a bowl of its goldene yoich, complete with these smooth little beef-stuffed envelopes of goodness, beats the taste of Mucinex any day.
6439 E Hampden Ave
Denver, CO 80222

2. Belvedere

323 14th St, Denver, CO 80202
Generally speaking, Westminster’s Cracovia Restaurant and Bar is the place to beat for Polish eats, including the half-moon morsels known the world round as pierogi—which may be boiled, baked or fried, incorporating anything from ground meat to mashed potatoes to onions and sauerkraut or fruit. But this rustic downtown charmer gets the gold star for one type in particular: tender, buttery, sweet-cheese pierogi, which blur the line between dinner and dessert.
323 14th St
Denver, CO 80202

3. China Jade

12101 E Iliff Ave, Aurora, CO 80014
Not to knock cheesy fried crab rangoon, but you haven’t had wontons until you’ve had them Szechuan-style—as at China Jade, where the silken, pork-filled bundles of joy called hong you chao shou come doused in chili oil and sprinkled with scallions.
12101 E Iliff Ave
Aurora, CO 80014

4. David's Kebab House

970 S Oneida St, Denver, CO 80224
Pelmeni aren’t dubbed the Russian ravioli for nothing. This mom-and-pop cafe in a south Denver strip mall makes the cutest proof of that, in the form of fat little chicken- or beef-stuffed buttons drizzled with olive oil and topped with sour cream.
970 S Oneida St
Denver, CO 80224

5. Golden Europe Restaurant

6620 Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada, CO 80003
Czech houskové knedlíky are basically reconstituted bread slices, but we prefer to think of them as gravy sponges. That’s the function they serve at this cozy Mitteleuropan kitchen in Arvada, anyway, absorbing (for instance) the velvety spiced sour-cream sauce that tops tender, sauerbraten-like beef svíčková.
6620 Wadsworth Blvd
Arvada, CO 80003

6. Ella Fine Diner

1262 Alpine Ave., Boulder, CO 80304
Edwin Zoe obviously loves his comfort food—and the women in his life who make it. Not only did he his install his Taiwanese mom in the kitchen of Zoe Ma Ma, he enlisted the help of his Hungarian mother-in-law in designing the menu for Ella, right down to the kneidlach (matzoh balls). She nailed it: they’re airy and tender and all the better for soaking in Zoe’s light, bright chicken soup.
1262 Alpine Ave.
Boulder, CO 80304

7. Il Pastaio

3075 Arapahoe Ave Unit B, Boulder, CO 80303
Gnocchi di patate fatta in casa (“housemade potato dumplings”) may be the most fun phrase to say in Italian ever, and this little family-run Boulder gem may be the most fun place to say it. You get your choice of 11 sauces with the pillowy spud nuggets (to use another fun phrase), but the classic pesto’s the way to go.
3075 Arapahoe Ave Unit B
Boulder, CO 80303

8. Lao Wang Noodle House

945 S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219
Many Chinese-food experts go to great lengths explaining why Shanghai’s world-famous xiao long bao shouldn’t be confused with proper soup dumplings (the name actually means “little basket buns”). But against a cross-cultural American backdrop, you can’t unsee how the loose English description sticks to these supple pouches of pork in gelatinous broth. And yes, Lao Wang still makes the best.
945 S Federal Blvd
Denver, CO 80219

9. Star Kitchen

2917 W Mississippi Ave, Denver, CO 80219
When it comes to dumplings, this dim sum diamond doesn’t make a clunker. But if for some unfathomable reason you were to limit yourself to one type, make it a plate of golden-fried, egg-shaped ham sui gok. They’re quite the studies in contrast: glutinous-rice flour gives the crunchy shell its light sweetness, while the soy gravy in the ground-pork filling adds savory richness. Swoon. Make it two plates.
2917 W Mississippi Ave
Denver, CO 80219

10. Tom's Home Cookin'

800 E 26th Ave, Denver, CO 80205
If there’s one dish that illustrates how tradition trumps precise terminology, it’s chicken and dumplings. Throughout the American South, the name covers everything from stews laced with what are essentially noodles—made from flattened and cut dough—to whole biscuits smothered in chicken gravy. On Wednesdays, this Five Points fixture serves up the latter version; rest assured you’d rather shut up and eat it than squabble over dictionary definitions.
800 E 26th Ave
Denver, CO 80205

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