Just off Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus you can find a string of food carts selling Chinese food. These are not hip new food trucks, but old school NYC coffee and falafel carts refurbished to sell Chinese food. They appear to cater to Columbia’s Chinese student community; there is no General Tso’s Chicken style American-Chinese food for sale here and the owners of the carts I sampled did not speak English, and I had to have one of the other customers translate for me. Each cart has a menu of about ten options, including a couple of dumpling choices.
The Dumplings: The cart at the uptown end of the string of carts sells steamed or pan-seared pork buns and home made pork wontons. I tried the pan-seared pork buns which come five to an order and are about the size of a small lemon. These buns were excellent, the bun dough was light and fluffy with crispy sear marks all over and the pork filling was juicy and ginger accented. The buns came served in a styrofoam container and were doused with a squirt of sauce from a squeeze bottle with the option of getting a dollop of red chili paste on top of the buns.
The Dipping Sauce: I think the sauce is the magic ingredient here, it adds a sweet soy and vinegar flavor to the outside of the bun which balances with the savory pork filling inside. The sauce gets absorbed by the bun dough pretty quickly and you will want to shake the buns in their styrofoam container a bit to make sure the sauce is evenly distributed across the buns.
The Location: This string of four carts is on the East side of Broadway between 116th and 18th street, right next to Columbia’s Arts and Science campus. Take the 1 train to 116th street and walk uptown on Broadway for half a block.