Plump Dumpling/Pho Seng/Mamak, New York City

New Plump Dumpling Logo

New Plump Dumpling Logo

AKA Mamak

AKA Mamak

It is hard to know even where to start with this place. Maybe it is the fact it is called Plump Dumpling and Pho Seng and Mamak; the owner appears to be operating three restaurants out of one space and in a prior permutation it sold sushi too. Maybe it is the grudge match between Dumpling Man on St. Marks, the spot that pioneered East Village dumplings, and the Plump Dumping persona because the original Plump Dumpling logo looked too much like the Dumpling Man logo. Then there is the owner. When my group indicated we wanted to get some dumplings and started asking about the menu, like what are Peanut Dumplings?, the owner cut us off and declared that he would bring us dumplings and we would eat them. Within three minutes of him storming off to the kitchen multiple plates of steamed dumplings were deposited in front of us. Unfortunately, I have a food allergy to chicken and no one could tell us which plate was the pork verses chicken dumplings. Both have the same wrapper and the fillings are both seasoned with Hoison sauce and looked so identical, so I didn’t try either. This spot needs a refresher course on food allergies. Continue reading

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Google Dumpling News Feed Broken

Seems like Google has changed its News Feed system, my news feed has stopped listed Dumpling related news.  I will have to get that fixed.

-DH

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Gogogi, Washington Heights, NY

Fried shrimp dumplings

Fried shrimp dumplings

My day job has been crazy lately so I have been doing more take-out dumplings than I should. Gogogi is probably the Northern-most Korean restaurant in Manhattan, there are plenty of sushi joints run by Koreans in Northern Manhattan, but this the most uptown spot selling Korean food.  Gogogi mainly sells Korean BBQ meats over rice and Bib Bim Bop, but also has fried beef, shrimp and vegetable Mandoo. I think their main target customers are the students and physicians at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

The Dumplings: I ordered in the shrimp Mandoo, which showed up fast and were still hot and crispy when they arrived. These juicy dumplings were deep fried and were filled with chunks of shrimp, grated carrot, slivered scallions and a green vegetable that I think was super finely chopped broccoli. The overall flavor was relatively mild but pretty enjoyable.

The Dipping Sauce: the Mandoo came with a tiny tub of dipping sauce that was impossible to dip a dumpling in, so I ended up pouring the sauce over the dumplings. The sauce was a sweetened soy sauce with a little bit of vinegar tang.

The Location: Gogogi is on Broadway between 163rd and 164th in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

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New China 1, Dumpling Hunting in Detroit

Award winning delivery

Award winning takeout

I recently took a business trip to Detroit and when I checked into my downtown hotel the front desk guy told me that the hotel restaurant and room service were out of commission, but here have some menus for pizza delivery. So I donned my Mighty Mighty Bosstones hoodie and took to the streets for a dumpling hunt in downtown Detroit. In pretty short order I came across a liquor store and New China 1, the local ghetto Chinese take-out. The guys in the liquor store gave me some top tips on food at New China 1 and their recommendation for the Pork Lo Mein was spot on. New China 1 has also won some recent accolades, in 2010 it made the Top 100 list “In recognition of Excellence in Chinese Cuisine” in the Top Takeouts category.

The money-food exchange airlock

The money-food exchange airlock

New China 1 showed the remnants of the bad-old days, there was the remainder of a plexiglass partition that in the past would have divided customers from staff and there was a rotating air-lock like device that your food would have been passed through. At some point in the past the staff would have been completely sealed off from the customers.  Today some of the plexiglass has been removed and you can hand your cash directly to the teller and the rotating air-lock is used to hold menus. Continue reading

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In the News

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks at work and a couple of work dinners, so I haven’t had a chance to get out and try new dumpling spots to review.  On the plus side I did get to eat at Le Bernardin and Fig & Olive in the same week.  A couple of pieces of news caught my eye recently that I thought I would share.

  • Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown hit Shanghai and featured several dumpling eating outings.
  • Also in Shanghai, a Sports Illustrated reporter,  Courtney Nguyen, who is covering Asian tennis tournaments wrote up a nice dumpling tour post.  She hit my favorite spot, Yang’s Dumplings, even going to the same location I was first taken to by colleagues in Shanghai.  She also wrote up a great list of reasons to be skeptical about Din Tai Fung.  I have basically had the same reaction at the LA and Seoul Din Tai Fung locations.
  • The owners of Mom’s House Chinese Market, a great Asian market in Amherst MA, have opened Mom’s Dumpling and Noodle in the old Mango Mango spot in downtown Amherst.

 

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Dumpling Crimper, Kitchen Gadget

Dumpling Crimper

I have always crimped and pinched closed the wrappers of my dumplings by hand, but I was recently in my local Asian food market and saw these plastic clam-shell style dumpling crimpers and thought I would try them out. My take on them is that they produce a decent dumpling with some nice features but I will probably stick to hand crimping.

The circumference of even the larger of the two gadgets is smaller than the standard round dumpling wrapper available in Asian markets, so you can’t really pack a lot of filling into the dumpling. Until you get used to the smaller volume it is hard to keep the edges of the wrapper free of filling and get a clean closure. Also you get a fairly wide fringe of crimped dough around the edge. But if you pan fry the dumplings this fringe of dough fries up nicely and provides a crispy crunch feature to the dumpling. The crimping worked well and the dumplings stayed closed throughout the whole pan frying and steaming process.

The dumplings pictured above were stuffed with tofu, snow pea vine shoots and kim chi.

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Banh Mi Saigon, Northampton MA

Wontons in Veggie Pho Broth

Wontons in Veggie Pho Broth

I have previously described Banh Mi Saigon as one of the few places I’ll write about that does not serve dumplings. But in their new incarnation they have expanded their menu to include wontons, so I can now review them without a qualifier.

Banh Mi Saigon built its reputation selling sandwiches and Pho in a small space in a strip mall in Hadley MA.  After a devastating fire that destroyed the mall in October 2013 and wiped out some great businesses, the owners of Banh Mi Saigon regrouped and rebuilt in a bigger space in Northampton MA.  They are being helped out by Common Capital, a Holyoke-based nonprofit community development financial group, that is backing several of my favorite Pioneer Valley restaurants, including Oriental FlavorBanh Mi Saigon is now back and experimenting with some new menu items, making their classics again and re-establishing itself as one of the best restaurants in the Pioneer Valley. Continue reading

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Second Anniversary of Dumpling Hunter

2014_StatsDumpling Hunter just reach its second anniversary with 137 posts and 17,577 page views.  The graphic to the left shows page views by country for the top countries.  The top viewed Tags and Categories were Vegetarian/Vegan with 167 views and followed by Pan-fried at 62 and Soup Dumplings at 57 views.  The most read post was the review of Oriental Flavor, 1,183 views, which I rated as being the Best Chinese Restaurant in the Pioneer Valley.

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Iroha, New York NY

Photo Sep 23, 6 48 10 PM (HDR)

Spicy Cod Roe Takoyaki

Iroha has been in business for over 30 years, but about two years ago transformed from a sushi restaurant into a Izakaya.  Iroha is on the ground floor above the cellar dwelling Sake Bar Hagi, both of which are owned by the same company.  It seems that the rationale for Iroha’s re-boot as an izakaya was to capitalize on the massive overflow of folks who can’t get into Hagi on any given night. There is a note on the menu posted in front of Iroha that says you can also order items of Hagi’s menu.  Iroha has more of a sleek cocktail lounge vibe to it that Hagi and has a long bar along one wall, with tables along the other wall.

iroha_takoyaki_Add

Takoyaki Menu

The Dumplings:  Iroha is experimenting with, and pushing the boundaries of, the Takoyaki; they serve Takoyaki with cheese, with spicy cod roe and with sausage and have something they call Russian Roulette Takoyaki, which is an order for four Takoyaki that includes one ball flavored with wasabi.  I tried the spicy cod roe Takoyaki, which are a traditional octopus filled ball, drizzled with Japanese mayo, covered with slivered bonito, with dollops of spicy roe on top.  The spicy roe had a decent kick but wasn’t overpowering and definitely elevated the Takoyaki.  I won’t be surprised if I see this dish showing up on other Izakaya menu’s around town.  I didn’t try them on this outing, but according to the waitress, for the sausage Takoyaki they have replaced the octopus with pieces of sausage, while the cheese Takoyaki are the traditional fried octopus balls with melted cheese sauce on top.

I also tried the Ebi Nira Gyoza which are filled with shrimp and leak and come served Fajitas style on a sizzling black skillet.  These gyoza look like they were made in house, which is rare for a shrimp gyoza in NYC, and are filled with big, crisp chunks of shrimp and slivered green leaks.  They had a more delicate, but fresher taste than your typical processed, MSG’d, minced shrimp Japanese restaurant gyoza, this was an impressive gyoza.

Ebi Nira Gyoza

Ebi Nira Gyoza

The Dipping Sauce:  The gyoza come with a soy and vinegar dipping sauce flavored with a little sesame oil. Nothing special and a little overpowering for the shrimp.

The Location:  Iroha is on 49th street between 6th and 7th avenue and is part of a little hub of Japanese restaurants that also include the afore mentioned Saki Bar Hagi and also a Sopporo ramen bar.

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Peking Kitchen II, New York NY

Wontons in Spicy Peanut Sauce

Wontons in Spicy Peanut Sauce

I have reviewed dumpling spots in China and in China-towns, in Korea and in Korea-towns, in Little-Tokyos, in Italy, in Tibetan enclaves and in old school Eastern European neighborhoods. But I haven’t yet reviewed an old-school Ghetto Chinese restaurant, a phrase I first heard when I moved to NYC back in ’91. The Urban Dictionary defines a ghetto Chinese restaurant as “Characterized by fast, cheap, and sometimes good Chinese food. In dangerous parts, there may be inch thick plexiglass barricades separating kitchen and diner, with a turnstyle for exchanging food and money.” (49 thumbs up and 18 thumbs down for this definition).  These Chinese take-out spots were the pioneers of fast-food in many urban neighborhoods.  My favorite reference to one of these joints is the Fugees’ Chinese Restaurant piece on the The Score.

I decided to try out Peking Kitchen II in Harlem, which is a small take-out joint with three tables for eating-in, but these are mainly used by people waiting for their to-go orders.  It is so small and off the grid I can barely find any mention of it online, only seven reviews on Yelp.  Peking Kitchen II serves the full panoply of American Chinese dishes and also serves fried fish fillets, fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken wings, pork chops and fried sweat and green bananas (Plantain). Peking Kitchen II is not as armored up as some spots I have been to, there is no plexiglass between the customer and the cashier. Continue reading

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