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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Posted in Philadelphia, Potsticker, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Korean, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Bao, Chicago, Chinese | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Chinese, Pan Fried, Pork, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wontons | Leave a comment

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

Return to Great Wall Restaurant, Florence MA,

I first reviewed Great Wall Chinese Restaurant in Florence, MA in the summer of 2016.  Their vegetable dumplings are house made and filled with whatever vegetables are available seasonally in the local farm community.  They were really good last summer, so I wanted to see what they were doing for veggie dumplings in the fall season.  They pride themselves on using locally grown and purchased produce and list their sourcing on the wall of the restaurant – Asian greens from Jiang Farm in Montague, sweet corn from Golonka Farm in Whately, and fish and lobster from Bekshore at the Tuesday Farmers’ Market in Northampton, MA.

Veggie Dumplings

Last time I was there the green spinach dough wrappers were filled with carrots, onions, cabbage, peas and greens.  Perhaps reflecting the late season and scarcity of greens in the local farm stands and farmer’s markets, this time the dumplings had a simpler filling; minced cabbage, carrots, onion and scallions.  But the filling was well seasoned and I could taste each of the different filling components, so it was another successful veggie dumpling.

Fried Har Gow

I also tried the fried shrimp Har Gow, which is a preparation of these dumplings that I have never seen before.  When I saw these listed on the menu, the thought crossed my mind that this might be how they move left over steamed Har Gow from their morning dim sum.  But I think these were freshly made, the standard rice flower dough wrapped shrimp dumplings had been deep fried (without first steaming them) until the wrapper had turned into a hard crispy shell.  The shrimp filling was juicy and tasted fresh and sweet, and the mouth feel of crunching through the crispy shell into the shrimp worked well.  It was like eating a shrimp chip wrapped around shrimp – genius.

Great Wall has a “Standard Menu” menu for the punters – heavy on American Chinese food, fried rice and Lo Mein –, but the good stuff is on their “Gourmet Menu”.

Posted in Har Gou, Shrimp, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | 1 Comment

Korean Garden, North Adams, MA

Fried Vegetable Mandoo

North Adams is home to Williams College and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) which is one of the cultural gems of Western MA.  After a day taking in the art at MASS MoCA I recommend you fill up on Korean food at the nearby Korean Garden.  The restaurant is in a squat bunker-like building that previously hosted a red-sauce Italian restaurant and then a Mexican restaurant.  The decor from the Mexican Restaurant is still partially in place, so Korean Garden has an odd look going on.  In addition to classics from Korean cuisine, they have the usual pan-Asian menu options; sushi, tempura, pad thai, udon, fried rice and teriyaki.  I tried the Oshitashi, cooked spinach with sesame dressing, but it was ultra salty and I couldn’t eat more than a bite or two.

Fried hollow puffs.

The Dumplings:  Korean Garden has Shumai and meat or vegetable filled mandoo that are prepared either steamed or fried.  We tried the fried vegetable ones which are filled with tofu, onions, scallions and Korean leeks.  The mandoo were deep fried and had puffed up like balloons so there was a lot of air inside the dumpling wrapper.  The effect was like simultaneously eating a potato chip (the crispy wrapper that had ballooned out and was not in contact with the filling) and a dumpling.  As you would expect the filling had slightly sweet, sauteed onion/leek flavor that I enjoyed a lot.  The full order has 10 mandoo and these dumplings are vegan.

The Dipping Sauce:  The mandoo come with a slightly spicy Korean style dipping sauce flavored with sesame oil.

The Location:  Korean Garden is at 139 Ashland St in North Adams right next to the campus of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts about a 5 minute drive from MASS MoCA.

Posted in Korean, Mandoo, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Nix, New York, NY

Pea Dumplings  radish, ginger & scallion oil

Nix is a Michelin starred vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving dishes drawing upon cuisines from across the globe. The separate vegan menu is essentially a sub-set of the overall vegetarian menu and includes about 75% of the dishes on the main menu.  The overall concept is tasty cocktails and shared small plates, with the menu split into “lighter” and “bolder” sections, which seemed to be distinguished by portion size and price, rather than flavor profiles or adventurousness.   Nix has gotten strong write-ups from the NY Times and New York Magazine, and is clearly in the vanguard of a new generation of sleek and sexy vegetable forward restaurants that are becoming prominent in New York City.  This is not some hippy-dippy, seared Seitan, bad ultra-firm tofu and brown rice vegetarian restaurant.

The Tandoor bread with a variety of dipping sauces was excellent, we tried the hummus with zaatar and spiced eggplant, essentially Baba ghanoush, with pine nuts.  After the Indian Mediterranean mash-up starter we had the roasted potato gnocchi served in what I think was a corn puree sauce, which was also really good.  The gnocchi were light puffs that were crispy seared on the outside and creamy and fluffy on the inside, they reminded me of Takoyaki without the octopus pieces.  However, the  cauliflower tempura with steamed Chinese buns was a bust.  The cauliflower was covered in a gloppy red sauce described by the Times as “spicy ketchup”, which based on what I was served seems like a generous description.  The whole affair was then thickly coated with a layer of black poppy seeds, which added a gritty crunch texture.

The service is highly attentive, almost oppressively so, at one point my dining companion remarked that it seemed like the waiter was going to pull up a chair and sit with us.

Pea Dumpling

The Dumplings:  among the handful for Asian inspired items on the menu, Nix serves Pea Dumplings with radish, ginger and scallion oil, which were a show stopper.  The wonton style dumplings stuffed with pureed peas flavored with mint seemed to wink at a classic English flavor profile and were delicious.   The dumplings were dressed with thin slices of radish, thin slices of what I think were beets, and leafy green shoots.  The dumplings and dressings were served sitting in a light sauce that packed amazing flavor.  The sauce had a pronounced Chinese vinegar flavor and some spice heat from the deeply flavored scallion oil.  The sauce was absolutely stunning and once the dumplings had been consumed my dining companion and I actually spooned up and slurped down the remaining sauce.  I should have order several rounds of this dish and I will go back for more soon.

The Location:  Nix is on University Place in Greenwich Village just north of New York University, and appropriately, just south of Union Square with its extensive farmer’s market.

Posted in New York City, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons | Leave a comment

Fifth Anniversary of Dumpling Hunter

Sheng Jian Bao

This, the 300th post at Dumpling Hunter, marks the 5th anniversary of the launch of this blog!  In this time the blog has accrued 69,351 page views from 42,441 visitors, with vegetarian and vegan being the most viewed topics.  The United States is home to the largest number of readers, bu the blog is big in South Korea and Singapore.

Highlights from the past year are:

Best Dumpling in the past year was the Lamb and Pickled vegetable dumpling at Dumpling Galaxy, and if you don’t like that dish they have 99 other styles of dumpling.

Best Vegan Dumpling was the limited edition wastED veggie dumpling at Mimi Cheng’s which were filled with ingredients that typically get composted during the prep process for Mimi Cheng’s other dumplings.  Brilliant idea and super tasty.

Biggest Disappointment was Drunken Dumpling which got a lot of love from the NY Times and foodie pages for its giant soup dumpling, but when I went there the flavors were bland and the pork buns were under cooked.

Dim Sum of the Year is awarded to Yank Sing in San Francisco, make sure you get the shrimp Har Gow.

Best Steamed Bao goes to Trans World Market in Hadley MA.  Get these giant pork, Chinese sausage and egg filled bao while you can, the word is that the lady who makes the Bao is retiring from the Bao-making game.

Best New Comer is awarded to Coffee Break is a french pastry/coffee shop that suddenly decided to add Shanghainese dishes to the menu.  Their Sheng Jian Bao just keep getting better and  better.

Biggest Surprise was Mi Lah’s vegan Vietnamese at Philadelphia’s Amtrak station, their BBQ-Seitan “Pork” Bao was really good.

Best Frozen Dumpling in the past year was Assi Brand Host Cooked vegetable Dumpling which are vegan.

Welcome Back! In December 2016 Yakitori Sun Chan re-opened after being knocked out of commission for six months by a ConEd gas mains problems.

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Rising Moon, Organic White Bean and Kale Ravioli

Rating:  

I was originally looking for vegan ravioli in my local food co-op and these caught eye.  It turns out that they are not vegan but they sounded really good and I was thus detoured from my original mission.  Rising Moon has been offering pastas that are certified organic and Non-GMO, with some vegan and gluten free options for over 20 years.  The company began with a ravioli subscription service, delivered by bicycle, and then expanded to include foccaccia breads and sauces.

White Bean and Kale ravioli with home made sauce.

While the labeling focuses on the white beans and kale, these ravioli also contain garlic, breadcrumbs, spices and four kinds of cheese; white cheddar, ricotta, romano and asiago.  Despite all this cheese the filling has a rich creamy texture from the white beans and they do not eat like a cheese ravioli. But the flavor of the cheese, particularly the romano and asiago, is there and balance out the cruciferous notes of the kale.  I really enjoyed these ravioli and at 12 pieces per pack this is a filling, tasty and quick dinner option.

Rising Moon’s vegan options are: Garlic Roasted Veggie Ravioli, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Classic Potato Gnocchi, and the Spinach Florentine Ravioli.

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