By Sharon Hudgins

For the past several weeks, I’ve spent most of my waking hours (and some of my dream states) tracking down dumplings. That shouldn’t be so difficult, you say? After all, dumplings are heavy and slow, and they’re not known for being too sharp on the ball. It ought to be easy to catch them, you’d think, with only a little effort of the part of a dumpling detective. Besides, most of them can be found floating in soups, keeping company with meats, or soaking up sauces.

But don’t let them fool you. Dumplings can be very slippery indeed. And when it comes to ingredients and cooking methods, the earnest dumpling tracker finds herself on treacherous ground. Dumplings are good at disguises, appearing in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are solid throughout; others hide fillings inside, ranging from the plainest bread croutons to fruits, berries, jam, and even caviar. Several of them have aliases, too, the same dumpling being known by different names in different places. Not only do the devious little devils change their names the minute you look away, you also never know whether to look for them in a pot of boiling liquid, in a frying pan full of sizzling fat, or even hiding away in a hot oven somewhere.

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