A lot of digital ink has a been dedicated to talking up the University of Pennsylvania’s food cart/truck scene, including favorable reviews of some Chinese food trucks. My walking tour of the carts and trucks found that most of the Chinese carts sold Americanized versions of Chinese food, very different from the strip of more traditionally minded Chinese food carts that have sprung up near Columbia University. One truck stood out for its name, “Real Le Anh Chinese Food” and its daily special, the Crab and Cheese dumpling. I had assumed that the prefix of “Real” meant that there was some sort of rivalry with another Le Anh cart or maybe a restaurant. But apparently the story is that Le Anh used to own two carts and sold one to a friend, adding “Real” to the name of her remaining cart in the process. The “Le Anh Chinese Food” cart is usually located just across the street. Real Le Anh Chinese Food cart sells a huge range of dishes, including a smattering of Vietnamese and Malaysian dishes.
The Dumplings: the typical pork, shrimp and vegetable dumplings are available, either boiled or fried, but what caught my eye was the Crab and Cheese dumplings. Perhaps as a nod to Philly the cheese turned out to be cream cheese and I am almost certain that the crab was imitation crab, but somehow the combination of the two made the imitation crab have a flavor and texture that more closely approximates real lump crab – the first couple of bites had me fooled. The filling is wrapped in two layers of thick wonton wrappers which are folded in half around the filling to make a triangle shape. The dumplings are served fried, but not greasy, and I found that the double layering produced a crispy outer layer of wonton and chewy inner layer of wonton. I think these dumplings are really successful, the crab and cheese combination was tasty and the double layered wonton produced an interesting result that was pretty innovative. My only complaint is that these dumplings could more filing packed into them, but at $3 for six I can’t really complain. Le Anh says that all of here dumplings are home made and that none of them are factory made frozen dumplings.
The Dipping Sauce: The dumplings are served doused in a ladle full of thick brown sauce/gravy that has a sweet ginger flavor. The sauce has slivered scallions in it and slices of ginger. I thought the sauce was quite good and in a way made up for the modest amount of filling in the dumpling, the excess fried wonton around the filling served as a chip like implement to eat the sauce with.
The Location: the Real Anh Le Chinese Food cart can be found near the Steinberg Conference Center on the Campus of the University of Pennsylvania. It is on Spruce Street near the 37th Street Trolley Station.