O’Food Brand Hot Pepper Japchae Dumplings

Rating:

I hit Philadelphia’s H-Mart for the first time to stock up on groceries and was blown away by the expansiveness of this H-Mart.  It has the largest wall of freezer cabinets dedicated to dumplings I have ever seen, with the bags and boxes organized by country.  For some reason the O’Foods Hot Pepper Japchae Dumplings caught my eye.  O’Food is the global brand representing Korea’s Chung Jung One food brand, which was founded on 1956 in Sunchang province as a fermenter making Gochujang and Doenjang paste.    

As suggested by their name, these dumplings are primarily filled with glass noodles with a smattering of very finely chopped vegetables, which the package lists as: chives, radish, carrot, soy protein, mushroom and garlic.  These dumplings don’t have a lot of flavor except for spicy heat from the green paprika, chili, and black pepper in the filling, and have a mushy texture. Overall these dumplings were not great, but can be cooked in a microwave in their package in about three minutes, so they are very convenient. If you eat them with a strong soy and vinegar dipping sauce, these packages of six dumplings make an OK snack.  

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Korea, Korean | 1 Comment

Unit Su Vege, Philadelphia PA

Unit Su Vege is a vegetarian Chinese restaurant with lots of vegan options, that is the sister restaurant  to Su Xing House on Samson Street which I previously reviewed.  Unit Su Vege has an extensive Dim Sum menu, with more dumplings options than I could sample in one outing, and a full menu of classic American-Chinese dishes and some traditional Chinese dishes and a menu of vegan smoothies, shakes and milk teas.  The restaurant claims to be Kosher, but it is unclear which organization, if any, is overseeing the Kosher status.  There is a lot to try at this restaurant so I am planning on doing a few trips back to really explore the menu.

The Dumplings:  The menu lists 15 dumpling and bun options, of which we tried three.  The waitress did not initially bring us any dumpling sauce and when we requested some, we were brought only a small dish of sauce.

The Veg Soup Dumplings came painfully overcooked with half of the dumplings having ruptured wrappers and the other three dumplings tore apart as we tried to pick them up.  The filling was made of minced vegetables and, except for the obvious carrot content, it was hard to tell what vegetables made up the filling, but the filling was tasty.  I was only able to get a little of the soup, but it tasted good. These dumplings did not come with any of the traditional black vinegar dipping sauce. I think these dumplings would have been great if they had of been cooked well. 

We also tried the steamed veggie dumplings, which were filled with Chinese cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, celery, and dried tofu.  The taste of the cabbage dominated with these dumplings, which is fine if you like that flavor, but I thought they needed more seasoning.  Overall, these dumplings tasted seriously healthy.

The last dish we dried was the Kung Pao Chicken Buns, which were amazing.  The bun was perfectly light and fluffy with a slight sweet flavor.  The flavor of the filling began sweet, and tasted a lot like a BBQ pork bun, but on the second bite the spice heat of red chili peppers started to kicked in.  There were actually pieces of red chili pepper in the filling, like you would find in a Kung Pao dish.  This was a sensational steamed bun.    

The Location:  Unit Su Vege is on Hamilton between 20th and 21st streets in Philadelphia’s museum district. It is very close to the Rodin Museum and near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rocky Steps. This is a great place to go for a late afternoon snack or dinner after a day at the museums.

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Paprica Modern Mediterranean Grill

Back in 2019 I posted about a PhillyMag.com article on the ascendance of manti dumplings in Philadelphia. Manti are small dumplings found in Turkish, Armenian, Uzbek, and other Middle Eastern and central Asian cuisines.  Wikipedia has an extensive discussion on the many forms of manti, their origins and possible links to Korean mandu, Chinese mantou, and Japanese manjū.  I recently hit Paprica Modern Mediterranean Grill, one of the restaurants featured in the PhillyMag article. 

Paprica serves lamb and spinach manti and I tried the spinach variety.  Even though I am fully vaccinated, with the delta variant spreading quickly I am wary of indoor dining.  So I got the manti to go and happily they stood up to a little extra steaming in their container on my trip home.  The spinach filling had a discernable spinach, health giving, flavor and had a good texture, and wasn’t just mush inside the wrapper.  The manti came doused with a mild, too timid, chili sauce and with a side of yogurt sauce.  The yogurt sauce was an excellent accompaniment drizzled on top the of the manti, it had a light consistency and a mild sourness that I liked, but it fully quenched the heat of the chili sauce.  I think a spicier chili sauce would have played well with the yogurt.  Paprica serves a large portion of manti that covered dinner and a left-overs lunch the next day, so they are a bargain.  Re-heating the manti in a micro-wave works well.

Paprica is on Samson Street between 8th and 9th in Center City Philadelphia.      

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Singaporean Rice Dumplings

Singapore’s Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth shared a graphic to its Facebook feed showing the six types of popular Zong Zi (rice dumplings) from various dialect and ethnic groups in Singapore.  Zong Zi are made of glutinous rice stuffed with a variety of fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves, or other large flat leaves, and are cooked via steaming or boiling. In the U.S. you will see them on Chinese menus listed as sticky rice dumplings or steamed sticky rice with Chinese Sausage. Zong Zi are most commonly eaten during the Duanwu Festival, or Dumpling Festival or Dragon Boat Festival, which occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, but this dish was also a form of “fast food” for many farmers working in the fields (much like the Pasty for Cornish miners).  These rice dumplings can range from sweet and desert like with red bean filling, to savory and salty with pork belly and salted duck egg filling, to spicy and numbing with Sichuan peppercorn, chili powder, and preserved pork filling.

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New Dumpling Hunter Home Base

Dumpling Hunter is changing its home base of New York City and Western Massachusetts to NYC and Philadelphia. After exhaustively chronicling dumpling options in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts the blog will be focusing on the amazing options in Philadelphia, the larger mid-Atlantic region and of course NYC. Philadelphia hosts a Chinatown, a Koreatown, the Little Saigon neighborhood, fresh ravioli in the Italian Market, a bunch of Polish restaurants, lots of options for Middle Eastern Manti and a couple of places to get Cornish Pasties. Philadelphia restaurant reviews will begin this summer.

On past business trips and excursions to Philly we reviewed a hand full of restaurant, but now with a permanent base in Philly we will be covering a lot more places. The prior Philly posts are…

Bao Nine, Maggiano’s Little Italy, Jane G’s Dim Sum House, coZara, Danlu, Sangkee Noodle House, Mi Lah (since closed), Ocean City, The Real Le Anh Chinese Food Cart, New Harmony, Sammy Chon’s K-Town BBQ, and Su Xing Vegetarian.

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T Roots Revisited

I reviewed T Roots back in September 2020 and gave them a poor rating. But they had just opened and it was full on pandemic times and that could knock anyone off their game. So I gave them another try and the dumplings were much better than last time. The menu has the expected hits of Taiwanese cuisine – oyster omelet, scallion pancakes wrapped around beef, congee and stewed pork over rice – and several Japanese dishes – various types of curry rice and Omurice.  T Roots supposedly has a strong pedigree, the owner previously ran Taiwanese restaurants in NYC before moving to Western MA.

The first time I tried T Roots the soup dumplings were completely overcooked and disintegrated but this time they came out close to perfectly cooked with the wrappers maintaining their integrity and the soup held inside the dumpling. The soup dumpling’s flavor was good, probably the best I have had in the Pioneer valley, but the soup needed to be richer and fattier. The sauce for the dumplings was served in a thimble sized container which was too small to dip the dumplings in. I had to dribble the sauce over the dumplings as I ate each one.

I also re-tried the spicy wontons, which last time came still cold and dressed in a soy based sauce with not heat or spice at all. This time they were served hot and doused in a mild chili oil that provided a modicum of spicy. They also had a really tasty dipping sauce that also had a little spice to it. The wontons themselves had ample crinkled wonton surface area to carry the sauce and were well seasoned. These wontons were good, but not up to the standard of the Wontons in Red Oil at Panda Garden in Williamsburg.

T Roots is located in Northampton MA at the corner of Main Street and Masonic St. around the corner from the excellent Packard’s Pub.

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Janik’s Pierogi Cafe, Westfield, MA

Janik’s has been serving up classic Polish dishes since 2015. You can get Borsch, Lecho, Bigos, Golabki, Zapiekanka, Kielbasa and Pierogi, all made from old fashioned recipes that have been in the family for generations. They also serve classic breakfast cafe/dinner food and Panini and they sell traditional Polish ceramics like tea cups and bowls. Fully cooked cold or frozen to-go pierogi are also available to be pan-fried at home. Under COVID spacing requirements they have table seating for about a dozen people.

The Dumplings: The Pierogis come boiled or boiled and then fried, in orders of 6, 9 or 12, with sour cream added for $1, bacon bits added for $1 or loaded with sour cream, bacon bits, and caramelized onions for $2. It is not listed on the menu, but you can also get a side of blue cheese dressing. The choices of filling are: Traditional Farmer’s Cheese & Potato; Sauerkraut & Mushroom; Sauerkraut & Kielbasa; Veggie with Spinach, Red Peppers, Mushrooms, Onions and Cabbage; Spinach & Cheese; Buffalo Chicken; and Fruit which are made as ordered. On the breakfast menu they have breakfast pierogi which are described as 3 pierogi drowned in eggs & bacon on a pan, served with rye bread.

I got an order of six Pierogi, three of the traditional and three of sauerkraut and mushroom. The Pierogis were fat and well stuffed with filling and came smothered in butter and sweet sautéed onions. I also got the bacon bits and the side of blue cheese. After I took the pictures below I poured the blue cheese dressing on top of everything. The dish was delicious, but to be honest a little too rich and I probably did not need the blue cheese on top of the butter. The slight sourness of the excellent sauerkraut pierogi cut the richness and was a welcome contrast to the dairy topping I had created. The traditional pierogi was well seasoned but I found the farmer’s cheese to be a little bland, I would have preferred a sharper cheese. Next time I am going to get the 9 pierogi order, hold the blue cheese.

The Location: Janik’s Pierogi Cafe is in the heart of Westfield, MA on Main Street about a block from Elm Street. It is about a 5 minute drive from the Mass Turnpike (Exit 41) and well worth getting off the highway and visiting for lunch or dinner.

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5-year Aged Korean Soy Sauce

3- and 5-year aged soy sauce

I recently received bottles of Korean three- and five-year aged soy sauce from Gotham Grove and immediately cracked open the five-year bottle.  The company’s web-page describes the five-year aged soy sauce as having a Stiltonesque smell, a deep and complex flavor with a hint of sweetness and less saltiness than regular soy sauce.  Most of this description is correct, but I would describe the sauce as having a strong Stilton or blue-cheese smell with a lot of umami flavor.  For my palate it tasted saltier than the regular store bought soy sauce and does have a thicker, velvetier texture than store bought sauces.  I used a table spoon to make a dumpling dipping sauce and it was excellent, I was sipping the dipping sauce from a spoon.

The back-story on this sauce is that it is made using a 600-year old recipe at a family owned business, Artisan Fermentary, in Cheongju South Korea, led by a matriarch named Jonghee Kim. The soy sauce is made simply from soybeans, sea salt and water and fermented for 5-years in traditional Korean earthenware urns.  I tried to find out more about Jonghee Kim and Artisan Fermentary, but the only mentions of her or the business on the English speaking web are on Grove Garden and another similar importer’s website.

 

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More text messages on Trader Joe’s Soup Dumplings

The text message discussion amongst my friends on Trader Joe’s Soup Dumplings has kept coming.

 

 

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Delicious Rendezvous: Dumpling Making Lesson

The Korean food show Delicious Rendezvous has become our pandemic lock-down viewing obsession.  Of all the cooking shows I have watched, this series has yielded the most dishes that are now in my regular cooking repertoire.  A recent recipe we keep making is the rolled spinach dish called “Baek Jong-won’s spinach recipe with love“.  The most recent available episodes on the Viki streaming service focus on finding new markets and recipes for pork hind leg and included a master class on dumpling making.  The host, Baek Jong-won, made boiled pork mandoo and pork gyoza and showed his technique for making the pork filling extra juicy and for folding and pinching the gyoza.  The video clip is here on the Delicious Rendezvous home page.

Posted in Gyoza, Korea, Mandoo, Pan Fried, Pork, Potsticker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment