The Dumpling: A Ubiquitous Side Dish

From the popular dim sum versions in China to the Native American rendition cooked in grape juice, this worldwide food trend has existed for centuries. In Germany, the dumpling often finds a new shape, filling, or function in each particular region, and these little darlings appear on German dinner tables across the country any time of year. Whether made of potatoes, bread, semolina, or flour, there’s one thing all dumpling lovers agree upon: Sauce—and lots of it—is a must-have dumpling accompaniment!

Sauerbraten with Thuringian dumplings © picture-alliance / ZB Enlarge image This cook presents plates of tender slices of Sauerbraten with Thuringian dumplings. (© picture-alliance / ZB) Popular with main courses such as sauerbraten or pork roast, this side dish will go with just about anything that is served with a good, rich sauce. In the fall, one could serve it with freshly caught game, including wild boar, deer, or duck, and it is a popular dish to serve alongside the Christmas goose. It also pairs well with another favorite side dish of the winter season: braised red cabbage.

One of the best-loved dumplings is also the most labor-intensive. As a result, making Thuringian potato dumplings, which are known as green dumplings, is generally a family undertaking. The dough is a mix of cooked, mashed potatoes and grated, raw potatoes that have been pressed to remove all of their liquids. Some cooks swear the key to the proper consistency is to put away the food processor and grate this heap of potatoes by hand. The dough is then wrapped around a couple of buttery croutons, and then the dumpling is cooked in gently simmering water.

Zwetschkenknödel © picture-alliance Enlarge image Zwetschkenknödel are plum dumplings typical of Southern Germany. (© picture-alliance) There are, however, many other varieties of dumplings. Diebichen are flour-based, sweet dumplings that are formed with two spoons and cooked in milk. Raisins or plums can also be added to the dough. Hefeklöße are made from yeast bread dough which is then suspended on a towel over a pot of boiling water. The Serviettenkloß is a large rolled dumpling with a dough made of bread that has been soaked in milk. The dough is rolled into a kitchen towel and submerged into a pot of simmering, salted water. Afterwards, it is served in slices. Then there are the Gemengte Klöße, Halbseidene Klöße, und Seidene Watteklöße, to name just a few more, which are made with one or more of the following ingredients: potatoes, potato starch, bread, flour, or semolina.

Children are especially fond of dumplings, sometimes even neglecting the main course in favor of them. They also look forward to the day after a big feast when dinner will include slices of leftover dumplings that have been pan-fried in butter. Then, of course, there are the always popular sweet dumpling varieties, which may be filled with plums or served with a vanilla or fruit sauce.


The Ubiquitous Dumpling

Thuringian Dumpling © picture-alliance / Helga Lade GmbH, Germany