Pork Pot Sticker
Each table top at Szechuan Garden has a built in hot plate to power the restaurant’s signature Sichuan hot pots. For the hot pots you choose a stock, including the option of a vegetarian broth, selections from the list of meats, selections from the list of vegetables, various tofu options, noodles and dumplings. Szechuan Garden also sells typical American-Chinese dishes and a lot of options I am assuming are more traditional Sichuan style dishes such as, Snow Pea Pig Feet Soup, Ox Tongue & Tripe with roasted chili-peanuts vinaigrette, Stir Fried Diced Fish Fillet with pickled chili cucumber and Braised Sea Cucumber With Chili Minced Pork.
Pork Pot Stickers
The Dumplings: Szechuan Garden serves Szechuan pork dumpling with roasted chili soy, pan seared pot stickers and steamed vegetable dumplings. The pot stickers were stuffed with a juicy mixture of savory pork and cabbage and were served seared to a golden crisp on two sides. The pot stickers were really uniform in size, shape and pleating so I think they may be a frozen commercial dumpling rather than homemade. But they were well cooked, tasty and very enjoyable.
Szechuan Dumpling in chili oil
The Szechuan pork dumpling with roasted chili soy were a steamed or boiled pork dumpling served in a sauce of chili oil and soy garnished with scallions and sesame seeds. Typically this dish uses a wonton style dumpling that has a lot of excess wrapper that serves as a noodle at the end of the dumpling. The dumplings were good but I missed the noodle aspect that provides a greater surface area for sauce to cling to. The sauce was pretty spicy but not overwhelming, there was a slow build up of the burn so that my lips were tingling by the time I finished eating them, but it wasn’t challenging.
The Dipping Sauce: The pot stickers came with a typical soy based dipping sauce that had a lot of sweetness to it and a fruity undertone. The chili soy sauce for the Szechuan pork dumplings was soy sauce with a layer of chili oil floating on top, with red chili paste and mashed raw garlic added to the oil. The ingredients of the sauce were not well integrated together, at one point I ended up eating a wad of raw garlic mash. Overall the sauce lacked complexity and depth of flavor.
The Location: Szechuan Garden is in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood on Broadway at 98th Street. They have another location at 105th street and Broadway.
A deflated giant soup dumpling after the soup was sucked out of it. At Nan Xiang Xiolong Mantou.
Drunken Dumpling has been getting a lot of positive press since it opened a several weeks ago, particularly for its giant soup dumpling (see the NY Times piece). I had my first giant soup dumpling about 5 years ago at Nan Xiang Xiolong Mantou in Shanghai. After I had eaten there, my Shanghainese colleagues told me that giant soup dumplings were a PR ploy to bring in tourists to the restaurant and no self-respecting resident of Shanghai would eat a giant soup dumpling.
I’ve gone to Drunken Dumpling twice and have not been able to get in because of the crowds. The first time I showed up with my dumpling eating posse, but Drunken Dumpling is really too small to accommodate four large guys hoping to eat piles of dumplings. The tables are small and can fit one steamer or a tower of several steamers, and really can only handle parties of two. The second time I went alone, but on a Thursday night and the line was down the block. I had concert tickets and couldn’t wait out the line. Now that I know the score, I will go back on a weekday afternoon and try and finally eat some of their dumplings.
Bibinbap Burger at Mokja
Mokja Korean Cuisine opened recently on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and is a spin-off of Mokja Korean Eatery in Astoria. Mokja serves traditional Korean dishes and also some mash-up fusion dishes – for instance, the gochujang aioli, kimchi, beef bulgogi and melted sharp cheddar and the urger topped with bibimbap vegetables, a runny fried egg and bibimbap sauce on a brioche bun. Mokja has a small main dining room that seats maybe 20 people and also has a party room available that seats 15 people.
Fried Pork Dumplings
The Dumplings: Mokja serves homemade pork with vegetable dumplings that come either fried or steamed and in orders of four or nine pieces. I tried the fried dumplings which are deep fried cooked and are crispy and crunchy on the outside. I liked these dumplings a lot; inside the wrapper the pork is densely packed into a tight meatball that is savory and juicy. This is not a bland factory made frozen dumpling, the filling has a robust, well seasoned pork flavor.
The Dipping Sauce: Mandoo dipping sauces in Korea tend to be loaded with scallion slivers and sesame seeds, and often ginger and/or garlic too. Sometimes the sauces are so dense with pieces they are like a slurry (see the sauce at Myeongdong Gyoza here) and this is the route Mokja has gone with adding scallion and sesame seeds to their sauce. I like this approach because there was enough scallion to add aromatic and pepper notes and the sesame seeds added a hint of smokey flavor and crunch to the dumpling. The sauce itself appeared to be a mix of soy, sesame and rice vinegar. Mokja’s strong work with the dipping sauce really elevated their dumplings.
The Location: Mokja is on Amsterdam Ave between 101st and 102nd streets which is the southern end of Manhattan’s Manhattan Valley neighborhood. This might be the Northern most Korean restaurant in Manhattan.
Dumpling Hunter is celebrating the beginning of its fifth year in existence, having uploaded 245 posts and received over 48,000 page views. The first post on 9/30/12 was a review of Nan Xiang Xiolong Mantou in Shanghai. Dumplings have been eaten in countless cities and towns, in ten countries – USA, China, Korea, Italy, Netherlands, England, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Turks and Caicos – across four continents.
Top dumplings have been had at Yang’s Fried Dumplings in Shanghai, Myeongdong Gyoza in Seoul, Nishida Sho-Ten, Kung Fu Steamed Little Buns Ramen, and Xi’an Famous Foods in New York City, Shanghai Garden in Seattle and Leoung’s Legends Continue in London. The most over rated dumplings were at Din Tai Fung and the worst were from Chopsticks on Turks and Caicos. A highlight was when Beyond Meat sent me coupons for free product after seeing my recipe for vegan beef dumplings.
Despite comments to the contrary I still maintain that Pasties, Samosa, Empadana and Piroshkies count as dumplings.
The Richmond British Columbia tourism office has noticed that their city has a lot of fine dumpling establishments and have put together a Dumpling Trail for visitors to their city.
You can visit the Dumpling Trail page here and the site has good descriptions and pictures of many of the dumpling varieties available. It is not as comprehensive as the list on “Dumpling Around the World” here at Dumpling Hunter (see menu bar) but still worth a read.
Back in 2001 Max SoHa, short for South of Harlem, was one of the first restaurants in the ongoing transformation of the food scene in the adjoining Morningside Heights and South Harlem. Like its older sister restaurant Max in the East Village, Max SoHa is a small, rustic, unpretentious, neighborhood Italian restaurant. It has a small, modestly priced menu, a good wine list, some outdoor cafe seating and overall a friendly low key vibe. This is a great restaurant for a casual mid-week dinner out. The main menu does not include any ravioli, but Max SoHa has a daily, homemade ravioli listed on the chalk board.
Eggplant and Ricotta Ravioli
The Dumplings: The night I was there the ravioli special was a ricotta and eggplant ravioli with red sauce. I was hoping that the eggplant was grilled and would provide some smokey flavor to the ricotta cheese, but I couldn’t really taste the eggplant contributing to the filling. So these ravioli were essentially just ricotta filled. The ravioli were cooked absolutely perfectly al dente, some of the most expertly cooked pasta I have eaten out in a restaurant. For my taste, the red sauce was a little too sweet.
The Location: Max SoHa is on the corner of Amsterdam Ave and 123rd Street which is on the northern edge of Columbia University in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, just south of Harlem.
People have started to send me links to weird ass dumpling videos they find around the internet.
I have seen several examples of Rube-Goldberg contraptions to shoot foods through the air and 3-second speed cook them, and Myth Busters did a test of a system to cook shrimp. Here is the flying dumpling cooking system version of the video.
I got this GIF forwarded me as a dumpling eating video, but I think it is actually a guy speed eating Peking Duck.
This last one is not weird ass, but is in fact a very important safety video on how to eat Xiao Long Bao without burning your face off or ruining your shirt. See it here at Food & Wine’s web site.
Wow Bao Steamers
Steamed Green Vegetable Dumpling in its cardboard serving box
Its all about context, when I originally reviewed Wow Bao in Chicago I gave them a mediocre review, but I was positively psyched to see a Wow Bao at the American Airlines gates at Reagan National Airport. I travel a lot and, despite some improvements in recent years, the food served at U.S. airports is terrible. This is especially true if you are vegan or vegetarian, it is a wasteland out there. Why can’t the U.S. produce an airport like Inchon Airport in Korea?
Previously I tried the BBQ Pork Bao, the Edamame Bao and the Pork and Cabbage pot stickers, this time I tried the steamed Green Vegetable Dumplings. These dumplings appeared to be filled with greens, peanuts, edamame and mushrooms and were objectively pretty good. But given my rock bottom expectations for food that evening at the airport (I was expecting fried carbs covered in cheese) I was positively giddy to be eating steamed veggie dumplings. The wrappers for these dumplings contain egg and so are vegetarian, but not vegan.
You can get orders of 5 or 8 dumplings served in a Chinese restaurant cardboard box to-go container and the Wow Bao kiosk at Reagan Airport has a small counter you can eat at.
I reviewed La Salle Dumpling Room a few months ago and raved about their pork and kimchee soup dumplings. I have seen some negative blog posts and Yelp! reviews for this spot, but since I quite enjoyed my last visit to the Dumpling Room I decided to return and try some of their other varieties of dumplings. Maybe my happy posts about this place will counteract some of the hater’s reviews out there.
Pan Fried Pork Dumplings
Steamed White Fish Dumplings
The Dumplings: For a place that calls itself a Dumpling Room they have a relatively modest selection of dumplings. This time around I tried the fried pork dumplings and the steamed white fish dumplings. The wrapper of the fired pork dumplings was folded over the meat and not pinched closed along the entire seam but rather the wrapper was just pressed together in the middle and the ends of the dumpling were left open. The dumplings were panned fried to a crispy golden brown. I liked these dumplings a lot and with their open ends they were reminiscent of cannoli stuffed with tasty savory pork.
The steamed white fish dumplings are filled with, of course, white fish and scallion, ginger and celery. These were basically a solidly executed mild-tasting seafood dumpling. I was expecting the celery would give the filling some crunch, but the celery was chopped very finely and didn’t contribute much texture. These dumplings do serve as an excellent conveyance for the chef’s amazing dipping sauce.
The Dipping Sauce: the wait staff are still refusing to give up the secret of the chef’s excellent dipping sauce. The sauce is certainly soy based and probably flavored with vinegar and oil, but there is some secret ingredient or proportion of ingredients in there that takes it to the next level.
The Location: La Salle Dumpling Room is on the border between the Morningside Heights and Manhattanville neighborhoods, on Broadway a block and a half south of 125th street, on the corner of La Salle Street. This area is fast becoming a destination for Asian food, with La Salle Dumpling Room, Jin Ramen (DH Review here) , Kissaten Jin and Chapati House all within a block of each other.
Dumpling making station at Ollie’s
Ollie’s has been a fixture on the Upper Westside of Manhattan for 27 years, doing a huge business in dine-in, take-out and delivery of Americanized-Chinese food. Over the last couple of years they have closed a couple of locations and then recently opened a new one on Broadway and 103rd Street. At the new, Ollie’s To Go, there is an open kitchen visible from the street with a dumpling making station right up front, separated from the pedestrians by only a pane of glass.
Soup dumplings in the steamer
The Dumplings: Given how Americanized the food at Ollie’s is, I was pretty skeptical two years ago when I saw that the old 116th street location had added soup dumplings to their menu. At that time the waitress told me they were serving frozen dumplings and my review of them was that they were pretty weak and that they were probably commercially sourced. But recently I walked by the 103rd street location and saw a woman at the dumpling station churning out fresh soup dumplings that looked really legit, so I headed in and placed an order.
As I opened the steamer and a cloud of pork infused steam wafted out, the host rushed over and to make sure I knew how to eat the dumplings and wouldn’t burn my face off. I assured him I was no newbie. These soups dumplings were vastly better than the ones I tried two years ago. The soup was deeply flavorful and unctuous and the meat ball was savory and porky – the sweetness that I criticized them for last time was not present in these dumplings. The wrappers were good, they were supple but mostly strong enough to hold in the soup and meat, only one dumpling arrived in the steamer with a tear in the wrapper and I was able to lift all but that one out of the steamer without the soup spilling out.
The Dipping Sauce: Ollie’s serves the traditional black vinegar flavored Xiao Long Bao dipping sauce with fairly thick matchsticks of ginger floating in the sauce. I don’t really like this style of dipping sauce and Ollie’s To Go presented a typical version of it, so as usual I did not enjoy it.
The Location: Ollie’s new location is on Broadway at 103rd Street in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood just south of Columbia University. It is on the same block as Sun Chan, one of Dumpling Hunter’s favorite spots. Unfortunately Sun Chan has been closed for months due to gas main issues, anyone know what is going on there?