As a pioneer traveler, Marco Polo ranks right up there with Hannibal and Alexander the great. But Marco Polo was an explorer, not a conqueror. He left Venice in 1271 and spent the next twenty-four years traveling through China, India and the Middle East before he returned to Venice.

With his pasty Caucasian skin, the Chinese considered Marco Polo a barbarian. But Polo brought some of his own culture with him to China. Certain delicacies shared today by both Italy and China are meat-filled pastries. No one is certain whether Marco Polo’s entourage brought them to China, or whether they learned to assemble them in Beijing. These pastas are known in Italy as ravioli, and in China as jiao-tze.

At Oriental gatherings we enjoy watching Chinese women form an assembly line, fill the thin-skinned wrappers with meat or vegetable combinations, and pinch them with a fluted seal before setting them to boil in a steaming pot. Rich with plumpness, the jiao-tzes never break.

My husband, who was born in China, will go anywhere, anytime, for a taste of jiao-tze. Whenever we are invited to a Chinese party, we go early to watch the ladies make these morsels with the marvelous speed that can only come from years of practice.

Do your taste buds favor a special international treat?

Photo credit: Wiki Commons

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