Fulgreen Kimchi Mandoo and BCD Home Soon Dubu Kit Review


This week’s frozen dumpling review is a twofer – Fulgreen Frozen Kimchi Dumplings and BCD Tofu House Home Soon Dubu Kit.   Both are are excellent products and get five stars.

Fulgreen has changed the logo on its frozen Kimchi dumplings and so I didn’t realize that I had already reviewed these dumplings until I got home from the store.  Fulgreen is definitely consistent in the quality of its Frozen Kimchi dumplings and with their off the radar corporate presence.  The dumplings were still packed with crispy crunchy, very tasty and very spicy kimchi and there is still practically nothing about the company on the web.

I paired these dumplings with Soon Dubu made with BCD Tofu House’s Home Soon Dubu Kit.  Soon Dubu is a Korean, soft tofu stew that is served so blazing hot, it is still boiling when it gets to your table.  Soon Dubu is also crazy spicy, so between the temperature heat and the spice heat, Soon Dubu feels like a dish that fights you back as you eat it.

Beginning in 1996 with a single restaurant in Los Angeles solely focused on this dish, BCD Tofu House popularized Soon Dubu in the U.S. and then re-popularized it in Korea.  BCD Tofu House now has locations across the U.S. and in Korea and Tokyo and sets the standard for Soon Dubu.  They recently released their Home Soon Dubu Kit which can be found in the refrigerator section of Asian markets and comes in Plain, Medium, Hot and Extra Hot varieties.  What you get in the package, is a block of soft tofu and a packet of powdered soup stock and the secret blend of BCD Tofu House spices.  As expected the home version is not as good as the restaurant version, but it is very good.  It is closer to the restaurant version of Soon Dubu than any dried ramen packet or gourmet home ramen kit gets to restaurant ramen.

I made the Soon Dubu following the instructions on the package and added some enoki mushrooms as the stock started boiling and then once the broth hit a full boil, I added a raw egg and poached it.  As the broth cooked, I pan-fried the frozen mandoo and added them to the  Soon Dubu when the broth finished cooking.  This combination of Fulgreen Frozen Mandoo and BCD Tofu House Home Soon Dubu Kit turned out great and makes an quick and easy flavorful meal.

The Fulgreen Frozen Mandoo are vegan but the BCD Tofu House Soon Home Dubu Kit lists oyster and beef extract on the ingredient list.

* Bowls in the photos made by Dumpling Hunter

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

Return to Yu Kitchen, New York, NY

Pan Fried Fish Dumplings

Pan Fried Veggie Dumplings

I really enjoyed the house made pork dumplings I had during my first visit to the Upper West Side’s Yu Kitchen. For my return visit I decided to branch out a little on their extensive dumpling menu and try the fish dumplings and the veggie dumplings.  I got both orders pan fried, pot sticker style for which they charge an extra buck each, which seems a little lame to me.

The fish dumplings were filled with Sole that had been mixed with a small amount of slivered scallions.  Usually when you fry or saute sole it is quite light and flaky, but when used as a filling in these dumpling that had been steamed and then pan fried, it took on a little bit of a chewier texture.  It had a light fresh, fish taste that I initially thought the scallions would overwhelm, but the chef had balanced the proportions perfectly.

The veggie dumplings have green spinach juice colored wrappers and are filled with tofu, finely minced carrot and a type of Chinese green that the waiter could not translate into English for me.  They also contain egg, so they are not vegan.  These dumplings did not have a strong flavor identity, but made an excellent dipping sauce delivery vehicle.  There were a lot of greens in the dumpling and the tofu and egg contributed some protein, so I felt pretty healthy about eating them.

Yu Kitchen is on Broadway between 100th and 101st streets, on the East side of Broadway.

Posted in Chinese, Fish, New York City, Pan Fried, Potsticker, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Jane G’s Dim Sum House, Philadelphia PA

I went to a large group lunch at Jane G’s Dim Sum House where many dishes were ordered.  I didn’t get to try all the dishes that came to our tables, so this review will be just a sample of what we were served.   Jane G’s is on the second floor of an apartment building and has a bar/lounge with street views and a pool table, two dining rooms and a private dining space.

We got all four soup dumpling options on the menu, Pork, Pork and Crab and Spicy Pork Xiao Long Bao and the Fried Soup Dumplings (Sheng Jian Bao).  My overall critique is that the Xiao Long Bao were both overcooked, the wrappers of several dumplings in each basket had ruptured and lost their soup, and then had been allowed to sit too long before they were brought to our table, so that the dumplings had cooled and the wrappers had become rubbery.  The flavor of the soup and meat was really good and the spicy ones kicked my ass, but the dumplings suffered from poor execution and service.  The Sheng Jian Bao were also really tasty but had also been allowed to cool and didn’t contain any liquid soup; I assume the soup had all been absorbed by the dough wrapper.   It is clear from the Xiao Long Bao and Sheng Jian Bao that Jane G’s knows how to source and season tasty pork for their dumplings, but they need to work on their cooking and food running technique.

The Shrimp Shu Mai were large and packed with coarsely chopped, exquisitely fresh tasting shrimp.  These were probably the best of the dumplings we had and I wish we had ordered more of them.  The BBQ Pork Buns were also standouts.  Generally I avoid the BBQ Pork Buns at dim sum, they are usually so large they fill me up, but these were small, golf ball sized buns, filled with deliciously seasoned, sweet Chinese BBQ Pork.  These were some of the best BBQ Pork Buns I have had in a long time.

Location:  Jane G’s Dim Sum House is in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, near Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. It is on Chestnut street between South 39th and South 40th streets.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Crystal Shrimp, Dim Sum, Har Gou, Philadelphia, Pork, Sheng Jian Bao, Shumai, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

coZara, Philadelphia, PA

During the day Philly’s University City neighborhood is a smorgasbord of food trucks selling food from across the world, but by about 9pm most of the local restaurants, at least near my hotel, were closing down.  I found coZara, an Izakaya and sushi bar, right before last call for food.  Apparently coZara’s menu has gone through several re-vamps since it opened in 2014 with a 60+ item Izakaya menu.  But according to a Philly Mag article this diversity of options seemed to intimidate patrons and the locals wanted sushi, so it rebooted by adding a sushi bar and whittling the Izakaya menu down to a single page.

Pan Seared Pork Gyoza

The small plate style Okonomiyaki they served was really good, although I would have preferred a little more cabbage in the pancake batter, and the Shishito peppers were also great.  However, their pork katsu skewer, about 2 ounces of pork on a skewer, encrusted with panko, deep fried then covered in brown sauce and kewpie mayo, lacked any pork flavor and underwhelmed.

The Dumplings:  coZara serves pork gyoza that can be ordered, steamed, fried or pan seared.  The pan seared option produced a really nice crispy wrapper, that had caramelized notes in the flavor.  The gyoza filling had a great crunch texture from pieces of water chestnut that had been mixed into the pork.  Between this crunch and the crispy wrapper, I really enjoyed the mouth feel of these dumplings.  But the pork filling was bland, bordering on tasteless, and while water chestnuts provide great texture, they don’t bring any flavor.  I don’t know where they are sourcing their pork or why they are not seasoning it, but coZara doesn’t seem to do pork well.

The Dipping Sauce: When a dumpling is bland I hope for a great dipping sauce that I can use the dumpling as a delivery vehicle for.  Unfortunately, coZara didn’t really produce on this front either, it seemed like straight soy sauce mixed with some chili oil.

The Location:  coZara is in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood, near Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. It is on Chestnut street between South 33rd and South 32nd streets.

Posted in Gyoza, Philadelphia, Pork | Leave a comment

Excellent Dumpling House, New York, NY

Hot and Spicy Wonons

Excellent Dumpling House opened in 1983 on the corner of Canal Street and Lafayette Street and served up dumplings there for 35 years, making CNN Travel’s list of 50 best Chinese restaurants in America.  In 2017 it moved to its current location Chelsea.  The restaurant has limited ambiance and very brusque service and you get the message that you shouldn’t linger at the table.  But the food at Excellent Dumpling House is stellar.

The Dumplings:  As you might expect there is an extensive list of dumpling options at Excellent Dumpling House: Steamed Crabmeat & Pork Xiao Long Bao, Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao, Seafood Dumpling Soup, Seafood Dumpling, Chicken Dumpling Soup, Chicken Dumpling, Steamed Pork Dumpling, Fried Pork Dumpling, Steamed Mushroom & Vegetable Dumpling, Steamed Spinach Dumpling, Vegetable Dumpling, Hot & Spicy Wonton, Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, Shumai, and Steamed Roasted Pork Bun, Steamed Mushroom & Vegetable Bun.

Pork and Shrimp Xiao Long Bao

Pork Xiao Long Bao and Pork and Crab Xiao Long Bao – The two orders of Xiao Long Bao we ordered came out the kitchen really quickly which is a sign they are constantly cooking soup dumplings and moving a lot of them.  These dumplings were cooked to perfection, steaming hot with wrappers that stretched when I picked them up, but didn’t rupture.  The dumplings had generous amounts of fatty, flavorful soup and well seasoned minced pork filling.  My one critique is that I couldn’t taste any difference between the Pork and the Pork and Crab varieties, but both were indeed excellent.

Hot and Spicy Wontons – The wontons were stuffed with pork and large chunks of sweet shrimp that had the slight crunch or pop texture that indicates they are using fresh shrimp.  The wontons were served sitting in a spicy sauce that had a great creamy nutty flavor and a pretty good spice kick. The sauce was made from Szechuan pepper hot oil, sweetened soy sauce and either tahini or peanut sauce, I couldn’t tell which, maybe it was a blend of both.  The wrappers were slippery but had a crinkled texture that provided lots of surface area for the spicy sauce to cling to, so each bite had the full spectrum of pork, shrimp, sesame/nutty and spicy flavors.

Steamed Pork Dumplings

Pork Dumplings – We got orders of both the steamed and pan fried pork dumplings.  Both preparations of the pork dumplings were great, Excellent Dumpling House does a really good job seasoning their pork filling, and the pork they use is really flavorful.  Both sets of dumplings were juicy, but the steamed ones had a lot more juice and tended to squirt when I bit into them.  My friend managed to spray her shirt sleeve with the juice from one of the steamed dumplings.  The fried dumplings were cooked pot-sticker style, with the bottom side fried crispy and golden and the top cooked with steam.  If you are only going to get one order of the pork dumplings, I recommend the steamed ones.

The Location:  Excellent Dumpling House is in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on 23rd street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

Posted in Chinese, Dim Sum, New York City, Pork, Sesame Sauce, Shrimp, Soup Dumpling, Steamed, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | 1 Comment

Sixth Anniversary

A few weeks belated, but after 349 posts and 54,625 visitors this is the sixth anniversary of Dumpling Hunter.  The very first post was was about my visit to Nan Xiang Xiolong Mantou in Shanghai.  My trip to that restaurant to get soup dumplings was inspired by an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and in many ways this blog was inspired by his shows.  His passing this year was a great loss.

Some highlights from the year:

Even though they have ended their Dim Sum Happy Hour, which I thought was a brilliant idea, New York’s Jing Fong gets Best Dim Sum of the Year.

The Most Successful Recipe of the Year was the Vegan Beef Tips and Leak Gyoza. Gardein’s meat substitutes are excellent.

Best Trend of the Year was Chinese restaurants serving home style regional dishes opening up near Columbia University to cater to Columbia’s international students. See the link to Grain House below.

The Best Frozen Dumpling of the year was Bertagni’s Girasoli with Basil Pesto and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Best Wontons in Spicy Oil goes to Grain House which opened this past year near Columbia University.

Sad Departure of the Year was Himalaya Friends Corner, whose Lamb Momos and sauces were stellar.  This location seems to be unlucky for dumpling houses, before it was Himalaya Friends it was Mom’s Dumplings and Noodles.

The Biggest Disappointment was the vegan Japanese restaurant Arata. The vegan pizza joint next door to Arata is run by the same restaurant group and great, so I had high hopes for Arata.  But the only thing I enjoyed there was the Yuzu flavored beer.Runners up in this category were  Han Dynasty and Lucky Pickle on the Upper West Side.

Posted in Amherst, Best of, Chinese, Dim Sum, Frozen Dumpling Review, Girasoli, Japanese, Lamb, New York City, Shanghai, Soup Dumpling, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | 1 Comment

Third try: Vegan Kimchi Takoyaki

Vegan Kimchi Takoyaki

After my first attempt to make Takoyaki which was an epic fail, I tried a second time which was a moderate fail and then a third time which was a modest success.

On my third attempt I used 1.33 cups of Otafuku Takoyaki flour with 12 ounces of water to make the batter and a lot more oil in each of the pan’s wells than I used last time.  I essentially deep fried the batter I poured into each of the pan’s wells. The other tricks I learned were to get the filling, scallions and kimchi pieces, into the cooking batter as quickly as possible and as soon as the batter starts to cook to start peeling the edges of the batter away from the walls of the wells.  I also found that to prevent burning I needed to continuously rotate the Takoyaki in their wells.

I think it will take me a few more attempts before I am turning out high quality Takoyaki, but these were a tasty snack.

Posted in Japanese, Takoyaki, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Arata, New York, NY

Arata is the new-ish Japanese vegan restaurant from Matthew Kenny, the famed vegan restaurateur, who is opening multiple vegan restaurants in major cities across the globe. In New York City’s East Village he has a lock on 2nd avenue between 3rd and 4th street with Bar Verde (Mexican), Double Zero (Pizza) and Arata all in a row. I have eaten at Double Zero several times and loved it, so I was psyched to try his Japanese concept. Unfortunately, Arata is not his finest work, in fact it was mediocre to poor. With over 20 restaurants spread out around the world maybe he has overextended himself.

Shitake Summer Vegetable Gyoza

We tried the Maitake Mushroom and Kabocha Tempura which was disappointing, the tempura was overcooked and slightly burned and I don’t think we got a single piece of Maitake Mushroom. The kabocha was just sweet flavored mush inside a hard casing of burned tempura. The cold Soba entree did not redeem Arata. It supposedly came with peanut sauce, shisho, pickled green onions, dried kumquat, wasabi peas, barbecued king oyster mushrooms, sticky rice, chili-soy glaze, and lotus chips, but I don’t think my bowl came with half of these items. The noodles were closer to overcooked spaghetti than classic soba noodles, and tasted mainly of peanut sauce, with no acid component from the pickles or chili-soy that was supposed to be in the dish.

Arata did have some interesting beers, I really enjoyed the Yuzu Lager

Dumplings: At $16 for five gyoza, the Shitake Summer Vegetable Gyoza Arata should be turning out an amazing dumpling, but instead they were weak – that was three strikes for Arata. I am not sure what the summer vegetables were supposed to be, but the filling was a soft mush with the consistency of overcooked sweet potato. The filling had a sweet, mildly nutty flavor with no umami you would expect from Shitake mushrooms, in fact the Shitake had no discernible presence in the filling. I think the dumplings had been sitting for a while before they brought the out to us. The fried bottom of the gyoza were a golden color but were leathery rather than crispy and the steamed top part the dumplings wrappers were stiff rather then supple.

Dipping Sauce: The gyoza came with a ginger soy dipping sauce which provided a little bit of acid to the dumplings but also added more sweetness. The sauce was not really built to complement or balance the dumplings.

Location: Arata is on 2nd avenue on the corner of 4th street in New York’s East Village neighborhood. I recommend going next door to Double Zero and getting awesome vegan pizza.

Posted in Gyoza, New York City, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Potala Restaurant, Jackson Heights, Queens

I flew into LaGuardia airport a couple of weeks ago when Trump was speaking to the UN General Assembly and the traffic and gridlock that day in Manhattan were supposed to be murder.  So I decided to have a cab drop me in Jackson Heights at the 7 train stop and subway it onto Manhattan.  I had been out to Jackson Heights a couple of years ago to eat momos, (here and here) but I was surprised by the explosion of momo restaurants that has happened since then.  After looking at menus at over a dozen places around the intersection of Broadway and Roosevelt Ave, I more or less randomly picked Potala Restaurant to try a serving of momos.  Tashi D. Lama, the owner of Potala, was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal where he became a monk, but since June 2017 has been cooking up laphing and momo in a tiny store front with counter space for about 10 diners.

Chive momos

The Dumplings:  The momos at Potala Restaurant are round precisely pleated buns, that look similar to Xiao Long Bao, and come filled with beef, chicken or vegetable.  The momos are steamed to order and so it takes 10 to 12 minutes for the bamboo steamer to be served up.  The vegetable momos are vegan and were filled solely with chives, which tasted like mild scallions.  It was a bit of a singular flavor for an entire meal but after a couple of days of food at a conference in Texas, it felt good to eat something green and healthy.  Some of the momo I got had wrappers that were split and a little damaged, so I think they had been over-steamed, but I enjoyed these momos.

The Dipping Sauces:  There were bottles of soy sauce and a yellow achar sauce and tubs of red chili paste on the dining counter.  Unlike some of the other Himalayan restaurants I have tried, the yellow achar they serve is not spicy but instead is mild and creamy.

The Location:  Potala Restaurant is in Jackson Heights on 37th Road between 74th and 75th Streets around the corner from the 74th Street-Broadway Station entrance for the 7 train.  This area is center for Himalayan restaurants in New York City.


Posted in Momo, New York City, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe Fail – Homemade Vegan Kimchi Takoyaki

Takoyaki batter, scallions and kimchi

Takoyaki batter failing to set up

After mastering making Okonomiyaki at home I decided that I would learn to make Takoyaki.  I ordered a Tako pan and Otafuku Takoyaki flour and sauce from Amazon and watched a bunch of YouTube videos on making Takoyaki.  The Otafuku recipe calls for 4 oz of Takoyaki flour, 2 eggs and scallions and I decide to put kimchi in the middle instead of octopus pieces.  Unfortunately the batter did not set up, it stubbornly stayed liquid except the outer layer which burned and stuck to my Tako pan.

I used a lot of oil in the cups of the pan so I don’t think this was the problem.  Since I was trying to make vegan Takoyaki I used an egg replacement which has worked perfectly for the Okonomiyaki, so I don’t think that was the problem either.  I don’t have a kitchen scale, so I Googled “how many cups is 4 oz of flour” and got back an answer of 2/3 of a cup; my guess is I should have used a lot more flour than this.  If I can ever get my Tako pan clean again I will try making the batter with a full cup of flour.

Posted in Recipe, Takoyaki | Leave a comment