You’re probably pretty clued up on dumplings by now, living in China and all that. But how about pierogi? Poland’s version of the iconic eats. Down a cosy wee lane on Jiaozhou Lu you’ll find Pierogi Ladies, China’s only pierogi restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered what it's like to sling this versatile style of dumpling, we’ve asked Co-owner Gosia Modlińska to share some of her secrets
The dough is key
'The dough must be thin, that’s the most important part. When you make pierogi you don’t want the dough to dominate the taste inside. This is what many supermarkets in the United States and Poland do, where it's too thick and the quality tends to be lower as a result. The dough is only supposed to be the background. We also add butter and some oil to make the dough more elastic – with butter it’s much better.'
Have fun with the flavours
'The beauty of pierogi is that they’re very flexible. You can put anything inside whether savoury, sweet or sour (as long as it’s a good combination of flavours). The most popular pierogi we sell are classic, quesadilla and feta spinach. Everyone likes potatoes, cottage cheese and onions together. It’s the perfect hangover cure. Chicken, cheese and sundried tomatoes is also a great mix. Likewise feta spinach with cheese and garlic as a vegetarian flavour. In Poland we use fruit as a filling which is a bit unusual in China – the idea that a pierogi can be sweet.'
'The typical dip is sour cream, but a lot of people add spicier sauces depending on their preferences. Some pierogi are even served with soy sauce. There’s no limit, you can experiment as much as you want really. I’ve just created a wood ear (Chinese black fungus), bamboo shoot and tofu combination for the summer.'
They are very different to Chinese (and other) dumplings
'The word pierogi comes from the old Slavic word ‘pir’ which means festivity. Originally, they were made for weddings, Christmas, Easter and funerals. The basic, classic shape looks like the sun because that’s what the old Slavic people would worship. Pierogi are different to Chinese dumplings because the stuffing is pre-cooked rather than raw. For the dough we add oil and egg (in the non-vegan ones) instead of just using flour and water. We once held a class for Italian ravioli which use only egg yolks and flour and require a special machine to roll them. For pierogi we only need our hands and a rolling pin.'
They aren’t as easy to make as they look
'When we first opened in 2016 we were making around 150 pierogi a day. You need to experiment, practice and learn the proportions. Many students learn that it’s not as easy as it looks. Sometimes they make them at home and the dough is too watery. It comes with time, I started in my twenties and it wasn’t easy!'
Savour, don’t scarf
'The best way to eat them is with two bites. You need to celebrate the goodness of pierogi so one bite is too fast. Wait until they cool off a little bit and then go for it.'