Samurai Noodle is a Seattle based ramen bar mini-chain that serves fresh homemade noodles. They have a ton of options for adding ingredients to the base broths and noodles and for the pork broth you can order extra pork fat to deepen the broth flavor. They also have a couple of vegan ramen options. I thought the basic pork broth ramen was a strong effort, but next time I will probably get some additional pork fat. For my second outing to Samurai Noodle I focused on sampling their dumpling selection. Continue reading
Noodles has been serving pan-Asian noodles, curry dishes and dumplings to Smith College students and Northampton locals since 2008. Like restaurants in Korea and Japan, Noodles has plastic replicas of steaming bowls of noodle soup on display in its entrance way. This nod to authenticity is as about as close as Noodles gets to passing as a legit noodle stand in Japan or Korea.
Steamed Kimchi Dumplings
The Gothamist, which runs a series of city specific blogs, seems to have gone mad for dumplings this summer, they put out dumpling related list-icles across almost of their outlets.
Gothamist: The 8 Best Chinese Dumplings in NYC
LAist: The Best Dumplings in Los Angeles
Chicagoist: The 12 Best Dumplings in Chicago
DCist: The Best Places To Get Dumplings In The D.C. (But Mostly Rockville) Area
SFist: The 7 Best Dim Sum Spots In The Bay Area
The only outlet in their stable of blogs that didn’t have an article on the best places to get dumplings was the Shanghaiist. Maybe compiling that list is too daunting of a task in Shanghai, but here is a hint, the top 10 places to get dumplings in Shanghai are all the Yang’s Fried Dumpling outlets.
From top: Outside Scott’s BBQ; the wood chopping area; the mop bucket of sauce; the pulled pork; making a sandwich
My recipe for Kimchi & Pulled Pork Dumplings works best with Eastern North Carolina pulled pork. While Central and Western NC styles use a tomato based sauce and slow cook the shoulder cut of the hog, Eastern style BBQ uses a light vinegar based pepper sauce and uses the whole hog. I think the vinegar base sauce goes better with the kimchi than the tomato based sauce.
Practitioners of Eastern style can also be found in the coastal areas of South Carolina and of some of the best is found in Hemingway SC, at Scott’s BBQ. Scott’s pulled pork is melt in your mouth tender, with just a little crunch from mixed in pork bark, and has a mild smoky flavor and a tangy, medium heat spice from the sauce. My original Kimchi & Pulled Pork Dumplings recipe suggested pulled pork from Wilbur’s in NC, but I am switching it up to Scott’s as the official recommendation.
The Southern Foodways Alliance has done a great interview with the owner, Rodney Scott, and various TV chefs and travel celebrities have made the pilgrimage to see Scott’s smoke pits. The pits are behind a ramshackle old gas station that serves as the take-out counter and sit-down cafe. Rodney and his crew spend Monday and Tuesday chopping wood and making charcoal to fuel the pits and are open for service Wednesday to Saturday. They cook 8-10 hogs per day and close down when they run out of the day’s supply.
Scott’s sells whole hog pulled pork by the hog ($500), 1/2 hog ($250), 1/4 hog ($150), the pound ($11 per lb) or in a small ($3:50) and large sandwiches ($5:50) or on a plate with sides ($7.00), they will also smoke your own hog for you for $120 ($22.00 for a gallon of sauce). They also sell home made pork rinds and whole and half BBQ chicken. The sandwiches are a strictly DIY affair, you are given two slices of white bread in a plastic baggie and a styrofoam to-go tub piled high with pork. So you jam as much pork as you can between the slices of bread, slather on some extra BBQ sauce and eat.
The wave of gentrification that has swept through South Harlem has brought luxury condos, interesting bistros and celebrity chefs. Unfortunately it has not added to the dumpling eating opportunities in Harlem. Jado Sushi Harlem, is a case in point, it looked promising but seriously underperformed. Jado is a sleek, low lit, Japanese restaurant with a wet bar up front and a sushi bar in the back, and emphasizes concocted, multiple layered in-side-out rolls.
Since 1991 Uncle Vanya’s Cafe has been Hell’s Kitchen’s home for Russian comfort food. Vanya’s is a cozy spot on West 54th Street whose interior resembles a small rustic chalet or lodge. Back in the day I lived around the corner from Vanya’s and this was our go-to spot for Blini and stuffed cabbage.
Vareniki smothered in onions and mushrooms
Banh Mi Saigon – Banh Mi Sandwich
Banh Mi Saigon is the one non-dumpling vending restaurant I write about, as the name suggests they make Banh Mi sandwiches, and they are amazing. Until a fire wiped out the strip mall that housed them, they were the best Vietnamese restaurant in the Pioneer Valley and one of the overall best restaurants in the Valley. But the guys at Banh Mi Saigon just put the word out via their Facebook page that they are officially coming back. They will be opening in Northampton, MA in the old Pho Saigon spot on Main Street.
The word is that Mi Tierra, another great place that was lost in the fire, will also be coming back, moving into the Shiki Asian Fusion spot in Hadley. Hopefully we will be hearing that the other businesses lost in the fire are on their way back too.
The reviews on Yelp indicate that Windsor Dim Sum Cafe is the best Dim Sum house in Boston’s Chinatown, and my informal polling of people on the street in Chinatown seems to back that up. The Windsor doesn’t provide the traditional Dim Sum experience of ordering food from little carts that are pushed by the staff from table to table, instead the waiters provide cards listing all the dishes and you put check marks next to what you want. The restaurant helpfully supplies a menu with pictures and numbers that correspond to the check boxes on the card.
Locally known as “Oillie’s”, the Manhattan mini-chain Ollie’s has been serving up Sichuan inspired American-Chinese food to West-siders for 25 years. I recently noticed that the 116th street Columbia University location had a poster in the window advertising that they now had Xia Long Bao.
The Dumplings: Ollie’s serves pork, shrimp, chicken and vegetable dumplings that come either steamed or pan-fried and steamed little juicy buns with or without crab. The steamed dumplings are a mini-dumpling, about half the size of a dumpling you would normally expect to get.
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings - These dumplings were a solid effort with a reasonable amount of shrimp flavor. Based on the uniformity of the dumplings pleats I think these were commercially made rather than home made.
Steam shrimp mini-dumpling
Original Queens location
I really like the boiled lamb dumplings that are indigenous to western China and the city of Xi’an. New York’s Xi’an Famous Foods chain-lette got its start as a ten seat noodle bar in the Golden Shopping Mall basement food court in Flushing Queens that in 2006 caught the attention of Anthony Bourdain. With a newly minted business degree the owner’s son, Jason Wang, jumped into the business to help handle the Bourdain inspired flood of customers and saw the potential for expanding Xi’an across NYC. Now there are two locations in Queens, four in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. I have stopped by the East Village and the Upper West side locations and they are both small, close to being hole in the wall joints, that seat maybe a dozen people. Since Boudain, a parade of TV foodies have stopped in to try the hand pulled noodles, including Andrew Zimmern, Adam Richman and Bobby Flay.