Dumpling Festival- Not Really a Dump
by Savannah Graziano
The World Dumpling Festival on Saturday, October 7, was a beautiful fusion of food and culture, making it a foodie’s version of Heaven on Earth. Located on the Chase Promenade in Millennium Park, the festival had everything from dumplings to music, live performances, and art vendors. The fest, hosted by the Chicago Cultural Alliance, was only the beginning of Inherit Chicago, a month long “intercultural citywide festival”. From October 1st through the 29th, the fest promises to be a “cultural journey” hosted in 30 heritage museums and cultural centers throughout Chicago. As far as a “cultural journey” goes, Dumpling Fest was a great kickoff event.
The layout was simple: two rows of dumpling stations with art vendors in between, a central area to eat with nearby booths for kids, and a live performance stage at the end complete with a dance floor. Upon entry, people must find their way to either buy or pick-up their tickets at will call. There was a rush at the start, and the event sold out fast. Some vendors were out of dumplings within a couple of hours. The event was crowded, which resulted in long lines at many stations and a lack of space within the event tent. While waiting in line, one could enjoy the live music, look at the art being sold, or even just stand and enjoy the smells.
Dumplings are, of course, an international staple with unlimited possibilities. Dumpling Fest showcased many of these variations, as there were vendors from all over the world. Some examples include: Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen which sold varenyky, Ethiopian Diamond selling sambusas, The Chow Bros. with The Elevated Pierogi, Himalayan Restaurant selling a himalayan momo, Himmel’s selling spätzle. Kamehachi served a gyoza, Hema’s Kitchen sold vegetable samosas, the Sweet Station gave out potstickers, La Bomba Restaurant sold empanadas, and last, but not least, Perfect Pasta had various gnocchi.
The wide range and assortment of dumplings may seem intimidating, but Dumpling Fest was a success. Although Chow Bros. sold out quickly, the festival still had much to offer. Himmel’s spätzle and bread dumplings with mushroom sauce were both rich and filling. Served separately but even better when combined, this dish was a home run. The Himalayan Momo from the Himalayan Restaurant was a spiced chicken dumpling in a steamed flower wrap doused in a special spicy orange sauce. As a part of its popular menu, this dumpling was a rich delicacy. After a long (but worth it) wait, La Bomba Restaurant served up its unique empanadas. With perfectly crimped edges separating the flavors, the black bean and sweet cream, as well as the vegetable and pepper empanadas, each had a distinct kick setting them apart from any other food. The Ethiopian Diamond’s sambusas were triangle shaped pockets of delight. With a vegetable or meat filling, they were a perfect, bite-sized snack.
A definitive highlight of the day was the varenyky, sold by Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen. If you are are not familiar, varenyky, also known as a pierogi, comes from Central and Eastern Europe. With a noodle-like outside and limitless fillings, the varenyky is a versatile Ukrainian and Polish staple. Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen sold four types of dumplings: traditional with a potato, cheese and sour cream filling, orange with pork, onion and mushroom filling, red with a chicken, pepper and tomato filling, green with kale, and white bean and green pea filling. With each bite seemingly better than the last, these were the perfect food to fill a stomach.
The allure of Dumpling Fest never wore off making it impractical to stay, but hard to leave. There was always another thing at another booth the catch one’s eye, or a change in entertainment to keep the listeners on their feet. While traffic through the fest had slowed, there were still those who stayed to the end. The World Dumpling Fest was a successful kickoff event and a job well done by the Chicago Cultural Alliance.