Manhattan Valley Dumpling Tour

The Manhattan Valley neighborhood is situated between the Upper West Side and Columbia University’s Morningside Heights neighborhoods.  The neighborhood has perennially been on the edge of booming or gentrifying or becoming at hot residential neighborhood, with articles going back to at least 1990 talking about its pending real estate renaissance.  What has boomed in the last four or five years is the available options for eating dumplings.

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Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Gyoza, Japanese, Korean, Map, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Shanghai, Sheng Jian Bao, Shumai, Sichuan Dumplings, Soup Dumpling, Takoyaki, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | 1 Comment

Saki Bar Hagi and Iroha Closing

GrubStreet is reporting that two of DumplingHunter’s favorite izakaya, Sake Bar Hagi and Iroha both housed in the same building on 49th street, are closing this coming weekend.  The review of Hagi is here and the review of Iroha is here.  I loved the house made pork gyoza at Hagi, as well as their broiled, dried skate wing.  These two places produced some of the best food in the Times Square area; in my view, if you had to do afterwork drinks with colleagues or a business meet-up near Times Square (no other reason to be in Times Square) these were the go-to places.  After about 5:30 at night Hagi always had a line out the door, I imagine for the remaining few days of business the line will be crazy.  Thankfully there is a sister Saki Bar Hagi on 46th street in Hell’s Kitchen.

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Soy Boy Verde Ravioli

Rating:  

I previously reviewed Soy Boy’s Original Ravioli back in May 2017 and I just tried their Verde Ravioli which are filled with “garden herb-seasoned tofu”.  These green silver dollar sized ravioli are filled with tofu and okara which is the byproduct of making tofu. So essentially the filling is soy beans that have been processed into two fractions – tofu and okara – and then both processed products have been put into the ravioli.  The filling mix has a convincing ricotta cheese texture and has an orange color from tomato powder, and also contains dried onions, granulated garlic and herbs and spices. When eating them it is totally unclear which garden herbs are supposed to be seasoning the tofu, so my critique of the Verde ravioli is the same as for the Original ravioli; the filling is just a little bland.  I think Soy Boy needs to add some nutritional yeast to their ravioli filling to give them some cheese and umami flavor.

The ravioli are vegan and low in fat, a serving of six ravioli has 3 grams of fat, or only 30% of calories from fat, and no cholesterol.  Each serving also has 11 grams of protein, so a little over half of the protein found in a typical quarter pound burger.  So with a strong, flavorful sauce these ravioli make a good, healthy meal.

Soy Boy Verde ravioli, boiled and then pan fried, with home made sauce.

 

 

 

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Ravioli, Vegan, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Christmas Day Highlights from 2017

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Himalaya Friends Corner, Amherst MA

Vegetable Momo

Himalaya Friends Corner restaurant, in the old Mom’s Dumpling and Noodle location, sells dishes from across the Himalayan region with options from Tibet, India, Nepal and Bhutan.  The primary owner was a Buddhist monk in Tibet before immigrating and opening his first restaurant in Virginia. He and his two partners did all of the remodeling of the restaurant space themselves, including hand building the wooden chairs and tables. They have a range of dishes built around Yak meat, which they describe on the menu as being a particularly healthy meat. The day I was there the kitchen was pretty slow getting our orders out, but the main dishes we had, the Mixed Veg Pakora and Nepali Thali, were really good.

The Dumplings:  Himalaya Friends Corner sells six types of handmade Momo: Yak, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Pork and Vegetables. I was planning to try the Yak dumplings but they are $22 a plate, so I tried the vegetable and the lamb Momo.  The Momo are served with a side of seasoned cucumbers pieces.

The vegetable Momo are vegan and stuffed with cabbage, carrots, green peas and spinach.  These Momo are large and packed with finely chopped filling, each piece was probably equivalent to a daily serving of veggies.  The hand rolled wrappers were a good thickness, somewhere between a Chinese dumpling and a Gyoza wrapper.  The filling had a clean, fresh taste of steamed veggies, which I thought was under-seasoned, but my lunch companion rated them as the best dumplings she has had in a long time.

Lamb Momo

While I thought the vegetable momo were meh, the lamb momo were fantastic.  They were filled with seriously flavorful lamb, which was savory with a complex, slightly wild game flavor.  The steam cooking left the momo really juicy, they were almost like soup dumplings.  I will be heading back to Himalayan Friends Corner to get another order of these momo.

The Dipping Sauce:  Himalayan Friends Corner provides four squeeze bottles of sauce – a really spicy red sauce, a sweet and spicy sauce, a sweetened thick soy sauce made with Chinese mushrooms, and a tangy, blue cheese-esque tasting, cheese sauce.  Each of these sauces is really good, and this palette of options really elevates the restaurant.

The Location: the restaurant is just off the corner of the Amherst common at 61 Main Street.  Over the past 10 years, this spot has housed Fresh Side, Mango Mango and Mom’s Dumplings and Noodles.

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Danlu, Philadelphia, PA

Following is a guest post from a friend in Philadelphia.

A year ago when I moved to Philadelphia, I noticed the signs for Danlu.  The long awaited opening and a meeting canceled at the last minute made it possible for me to be the first paying customer to sample their Taiwanese street-food inspired menu.

Edamame pot stickers and Potato Spring Rolls Danlu

The Danlu crispy edamame pot stickers, served with a savory barrel-aged ginger vinaigrette, stole the show in a delicious meal.   Each was framed* and beautiful, and tasted amazing.  I had started with the grilled crepe with roasted chicken, pickled cabbage, peanuts, cilantro, and chilies, which I thought was great before tasting my next dish, which was a brightly colored array of pork sausage, curried potato spring roll and papaya salad with mango sauce.  But it was the crispy edamame pot stickers, with their blend of crispy and soft textures and rich flavors that ensured I’ll be heading back regularly.

Certainly, ordering three of their small plates gave me both enough for lunch and to take back to the office for dinner later, but the range was so delightful and the service so attentive that I was happy I had indulged in all three.  I’ll look forward to returning, and already have visions of a happy hour with my research team in the coming weeks.

Editorial note:  The edamame dumplings are cooked embedded in a layer of fried batter.  Danlu then cuts squares of batter with a single dumpling in the middle and serves the dumplings in this frame of crispy fried batter.

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Wang Foods “Frozen Dumplings for Pan Frying (Kunmandu)”

Wang Foods Kunmandu

Rating:  

Wang Food is sub-brand of the large Korean traditional foods exporter, Samjin Globalnet. The company has been promoting Korean food internationally since 1970 and sells a wide range of dumplings under the Wang Foods brands.  A lot of the dumpling choices appear to be vegan and I previously reviewed their Leek Dumplings here.

Most of the labeling on these dumplings is in Korean with the only English describing them as “Frozen Dumplings for Pan Frying (Kunmandu)”.  The dumplings are formed in the traditional Korean long thin moon shape and are filled with onion, green onion, leek, cabbage, soybean protein, vermicelli, soy sauce, ginger, MSG, sesame oil and black pepper, and are vegan.

I pan fried the dumplings and frankly they were pretty bad.  They had no discernible vegetable flavor, I was expecting at least some onion flavor in these, and tasted only of salt and MSG savory notes.  The filling had a mushy paste texture that was gross.  We threw this bag out and got some good Assi Brand dumplings.

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Wow Bao brings back the Automat

Wow Bao’s buns

Automats were fast food restaurants, popular in the U.S. in the mid-1900’s,  where simple foods and drink were served by vending machines.  The world’s first Automat opened in Berlin, Germany in 1895 and they were brought to the U.S. in 1902 by the restaurant chain Horn and Hardart, which opened its first Automat in Philadelphia.  Automats started to decline in popularity in the 1960s, and the last ones in New York City closed in 1991.  I remember seeing the last of the Automats in NYC shortly after I moved there.  On a recent trip to Paris I found a vending machine built into the wall of a corner butcher shop that sold ham products, kind of a pork Automat.

An Automat

Now Chicago’s Wow Bao is bringing back the Automat in Chicago’s Near North neighborhood to serve their dumplings and buns.  Wow Bao sells an assortment of Bao – teriyaki chicken, spicy kung pao chicken, whole wheat with edamame, thai curry chicken, spicy mongolian beef, BBQ pork, coconut custard and chocolate.  They also serve vegetable and pork and cabbage pot stickers.  At their new Automat concept customers will order and pay at a kiosk and pick up their food from one of a dozen LED-lit cubbies, which will display the customer’s name on an LCD screen when their food is ready. The restaurant won’t have any wait staff but will have human cooks, so the robots haven’t completely taken over.  Wow Bao is also introducing a new app so customers can order dumplings on their phones and pick them up from the Automat.  The Automat format could work great for Wow Bao’s expansion into the airport food service sector.

The return of the Automat was being spearheaded, by a grain bowl and salad chain called Eatsa, but their concept hasn’t caught on beyond their home base in San Francisco.  Eatsa scrapped  plans for a Chicago store and is closing existing stores in New York, Washington, D.C., and Berkeley, Calif.  So now it is up to Wow Bow to run with Eatsa’s technology and bring back the Automat.

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Panda Garden, Williamsburg, MA

Wontons in Hot Sesame Sauce

I am always skeptical of Chinese restaurants that have Panda or Wok in their name.  But Williamsburg, MA’s Panda Garden had been strongly recommended to me and the online menu listed some interesting sounding dishes, like Twice Cooked Pork and Pork with Spicy Tea Sauce, and there is a large vegan menu with fake meats.  The menu describes their vegetarian meats as being made of Chinese mushrooms, soy bean, vegetables and seaweed and states “There is NO Chicken or Beef!”.  We tried the vegan Mu Shu Pork and the Kung Po Chicken, both of which  had very convincing fake meats and light flavorful sauces.

Wonton with Hot Sesame Sauce

The Dumplings:  It is odd that a restaurant with an extensive vegan menu doesn’t serve a vegan dumpling, their veggie dumplings contain egg.

Wonton with Hot Sesame Sauce – These wontons came adorned with bean sprouts and dabs of red chili paste.  The wontons were filled with pork and scallions and the sauce was a mix of sesame paste and chili oil.  The sauce was good, with a nutty sesame flavor but wasn’t particularly spicy and could have been served a little hotter temperature-wise.  Overall this was a pretty decent version of this dish, but not particularly hot nor spicy.

Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

Pan-Fried Meat DumplingsPanda Garden makes its own pork dumplings which are served steamed or fried.  When ordered fried, these large dumplings are cooked pot-sticker style, pan fired one side and then covered to steam through.  The wrappers were moderately thick, but not heavy and stodgy, and fried up to create a nice crunchy base for the dumplings.  The pork filling was a visually off-putting brown color, that made me think initially that the dumplings were actually stuffed with beef, but they had a deep, robust pork flavor.  I don’t know if it was the cut of meat, the breed of pig or the seasoning that gave the filling its dark color.  This was a good plate of fried dumplings.

The Dipping Sauce:  The dipping sauce for the pan fried dumplings was unimaginative, your basic mix of soy and sesame oil.

The Location:  Williamsburg is one of the “Hill Towns” on the edge of the Berkshire mountains, about 15 minutes minutes West of Northampton, MA.  Route 9 is the main drag through Williamsburg and Panda Garden is located on Roue 9 at the Colonial Shoppes Plaza.

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Woorijip, New York NY

Mini steamed pork buns

Woorijip, which means “our house” in Korean, is a buffet/prepared foods joint in Manhattan’s Korea Town.  The buffet has both hot and cold dishes, with some Korean-Chinese options, including Korean-style Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork, which I love.  There are also a series of heated cabinets that have full meals packaged up in to-go containers, and shelves of to-go packages of Jeon, Kimbap, and Banchan.   There are a hand-full of tables and a counter to eat at.  I really like the food here, the Kimchi Jeon and the white fish Jeon are always great, and it is a great place to grab food to-go before catching trains at the nearby Amtrak station.

Pork bun filling

Last time I stopped in at Woorijip I noticed that they had started selling mini steamed pork buns.  These golf ball sized buns are filled with ground pork, glass noodles, scallions and carrots, and heavier on the noodle and vegetables components than the pork.  I thought the buns were really tasty, with the fluffy bun bread and carrots providing a sweet flavor that complemented the savory pork.  The buns are sold at room temperature and I didn’t heat them up (no micro-wave on Amtrak), but I think if they were heated up the pork flavor would have been more dominant.  It will now be a hard choice to make between Woorijip and Mama for Korean style buns.

The buns come three to an order, with a thimble sized contained of sauce.  The best way to add the sauce is to bite a small piece of the bun and then poor some of the sauce into the bun. There is no way that you can dip the bun into the sauce contained.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Korean, New York City | Leave a comment