Doma Kitchen, a modern Eastern European restaurant from Angelika Corrente and husband Stanislav Mayzalis, has become popular with Marina del Rey locals despite a location hidden in the back corner of a strip mall. Chicken “pelmeni” features Siberian style dumplings packed with house-ground chicken bobbing in flavorful chicken broth. Each bowl comes with a fresh dill garnish and a side of enlightening sour cream.
Kabul native Salim Jalal runs Halal Boys, a tiny Reseda restaurant serving Afghan comfort food. His logo sports sword-shaped skewers, but the menu delves far deeper than grilled meats. Jalal sources thin dumpling skins to produce mantoo, well-spiced ground beef and onion dumplings that he steams and plates on tangy bed of yogurt and cream. He showers dumplings with yellow lentils, dried mint, tomato, and more ground beef. Ashak is a different type of Afghan dumpling with plenty of overlap, but a leek filling.
Hangari Bajirak Kalguksu is best known for knife-cut noodle soups. They’ve sold enough bowls to fuel an expansion at Koreatown’s popular Alexandria Plaza. That said, their Korean-style dumplings – mandu – are another good reason to visit the restaurant. Thin, translucent dumpling skins contain ground pork, scallions, and glass noodles. Hangari steams their mandu and serves them with jalapeño-spiked soy sauce.
Artur Ulikyan hails from Yerevan, Armenia, and has built a following on Encino Plaza’s second floor thanks to private banquets, parties, and Armenian-Russian comfort food. Pelmeni are supple dumplings that come with a choice of ground beef (flap meat) or chicken (thigh). Dumplings are fried until crispy coats form or boiled to maintain a softer texture, dusted with parsley, and served with black pepper and sour cream for dipping.
Nikuman-Ya, Kenichi Usui’s stall in Gardena’s Marukai Market, ostensibly specializes in dim sum, but their weekend-only gyoza may be their higher purpose. In a glass-fronted kitchen, Usui rolls thin dumpling skins that contain juicy, scallion-flecked pork (or chicken) fillings. These pan-fried Japanese dumplings get crispy on the griddle and tout lacy caramelized skirts. Dip the seven-dumpling order in complementary soy sauce.
Wallaporn “Dang” Vattanatham sold Saladang and sister restaurant Saladang Song in 2015, but current owner Anong Karnsomport preserves her Thai culinary legacy, which dates to 1993. The name still references Dang and remains a “sala” (meeting place in Thai). Pun klib are glutinous steamed dumplings filled with a peppery mixture of ground chicken and crushed peanuts. Fried garlic bits rest atop the dumplings and provide kick.
Natasza Congdon helps to carry on Krakow-born mother Elina O'Lague’s vision, which started with a Polish restaurant called Warszawa. The family restaurant debuted in Berkeley in 1972, later relocated to Santa Monica, and has operated as a rebranded restaurant, Solidarity, since 2015. A big back patio with potted succulents and fire pits is clearly the best place to enjoy the family’s “Polish soul food.” Chicken soup features lamb dumplings crafted with leg meat, garlic, dill, onions, and oregano. Solidarity also serves big plates of soup-free lamb dumplings with spicy Dijon mustard.
Yerevan native Evelina Yegiazaryan makes the most of the limited space at Su Beoreg & Monta Factory, a tiny Armenian café she runs in north Pasadena with husband Grant and son Jack. Monta may be listed second in the restaurant name, but are still essential to order. An aluminum tray of open-faced, boat-shaped beef dumplings are seasoned with red pepper and sumac and baked. They’re showered with spicy red pepper paste and treated to a generous serving of tangy garlic cream sauce that uses yogurt as the base.
Tara Gurung Black operates locations of Tara’s Himalayan Cuisine in Palms, Artesia, and Newbury Park. At all three outposts, she features kothey momo, pan-fried dumplings typical of Tibet and Nepal filled with juicy ground chicken and a soft mix of carrot, cauliflower and cabbage. The order of six dumplings comes with achaar, a punchy tomato-based condiment made in-house with well-balanced spices.
The original TKF has thrived since 2004 on Tumanyan Street in Yerevan, Armenia, featuring Georgian comfort food. At their Glendale spinoff, they serve khinkali by the piece. Large dumplings are available boiled or deep-fried filled with choice of ground beef; spinach and mushroom; and sulguni, a tangy, salty cow’s milk cheese. I recommend the first and last options, both deep-fried, and served with a dish of cooling sour cream. NOTE: Tumanyan Khinkali Factory is currently closed for renovations with expected completion on Oct. 30, 2018.