Are pierogi Polish? On the outset I would have said ‘of course’. I was born in Poland and my Mom would make these tasty treats all the time. Now I serve them to my kids. My oldest son loves meat pierogi. Then again, he also loves meat ravioli, sans red sauce. And he also loves meat wontons and pot stickers, sans soy sauce. Hmmm. I am sensing a common theme here. These dishes are all so close in makeup, yet their respective countries are wide spread. How did Poland, Italy and China collaborate on these dumpling delights?
I was curious. So I put on my global cuisine hat (a toque for you aficionados) and did some research. All roads seemed to point me in the direction of the Mongol Empire and Marco Polo. Marco Polo was born in the thirteenth century (1254 A.D.) in Venice, Italy. He was observant about cultures that were very different from his own, an excellent trait that carries into our global world of business today. He was born into a powerful Venetian merchant family with extensive trade contacts which is how he heard about the great Mongol empire: An empire that stretched west to today’s Poland, east to Java and Korea, south to Turkey and Persia, and north to Siberia. In 1271, Marco Polo’s father and uncle took him to travel through the Mongol empire, all the way to its capital in China. Marco proved a shrewd businessman who won the Mongol emperor’s favor and was sent on special missions all over the region. When he returned to Venice 26 years later, Marco was persuaded to write his memoirs. Relying on notes and memories and with the help of a romance writer, he wrote “The Travels of Marco Polo, or, A Description of the World.” It is now on my reading list!
So there, as I see it, is the connection. The dumpling delicacy most likely originated in China.
The earliest mention of ravioli appears in the writings of Francesco di Marco, a merchant of Venice, Italy in the 14th century – after Marco Polo’s return to Venice.
And finally we return to Poland. As Marco Polo was sent on missions throughout the emperor’s region and the Mongol Empire did stretch to today’s Poland, it is likely that descriptions of foods and even recipes were shared.
As my research concludes, I am more convinced than ever that we have even more to collaborate on between each of our fabulous cultures and cuisines! As much as I love Polish Pierogi and Italian Ravioli, and Chinese Wontons, I have learned that I must now try Turkish Manti, Jewish Kreplach, Korean Mandu, Nepalese Momo, and even Indian Gujiya. Our world is indeed beautiful. And I will do my part to love it – one dumpling at a time. Yum!