Located around the corner from each other Tasty Dumpling and Fried Dumpling are two stalwarts of the Chinatown cheap dumpling scene. Recently I had a work meeting on the edge of Chinatown and decided to do a post meeting, head-to-head comparison.
Fried Dumpling: At Fried Dumpling a buck gets you five pan fried pork and chive dumplings, or four pan fried pork buns and either order gets you unique NYC experience. As you enter the tiny ATM vestibule sized restaurant the woman behind the counter yells at you “One dollar? Two dollar?” and then “You stay, You go?” And you had better be ready to answer. Since the place has counter space for about four people the odds are your answer to the second question will be “Go”, but Columbus Park around the corner is a pleasant place to sit and eat. The dumplings are home made; right next to the fry top there is usually a woman making fresh dumplings at full speed, re-supplying the fry top as orders go out the door. Fried Dumpling is on Mosco Street, a one block long alley that connects Mott and Mulberry Streets.
Tasty Dumpling: of the two, this is the larger restaurant and has a counter and several tables and a view out to Columbus Park. Tasty Dumpling sells a wide range of dumplings (Fried Chives & Pork, Fried Cabbage & Pork, Boiled Chives & Pork, Boiled Cabbage & Pork, Boiled Mushroom & Chicken, Boiled Shrimp & Chives, Boiled Vegetable, and Special Shrimp Pork & Watercress Wonton Soup), an assortment of scallion pancakes, several noodle soups and a couple of kimchi dishes. At Tasty Dumpling a buck-twenty five gets you five Fried Pork and Chive dumplings, but no yelling. This spot has won several top 10 lists for dumplings so it tends to get a lot of clueless tourists.
Head-to-Head: both of these spots cook jiaozi (pot stickers) style Pork and Chive dumplings the same way, pan fried on the bottom on a large flat fry top and cooked covered so the top part of the dumplings get steamed. They are also similar in that the dumplings are cooked in large batches, packed together on the fry top so that when they are served the dumplings are stuck together and the wrappers tend to tear when you try to eat them. Both places sell frozen dumplings to-go, in wholesale quantities and at wholesale prices. Both spots serve their dumplings on styrofoam plates and provide a similar soy and vinegar sauce in used Huy Fong sriracha squirt bottles and also provide separate bottles of Huy Fong sriracha. The dumplings are very similar in flavor – both are great – but Tasty Dumpling packs a bigger dumpling, two bites per dumpling as compared to Fried Dumpling’s single mouthful per dumpling. So Tasty Dumpling wins on value, if there is even such a concept when comparing one dollar dumplings to dollar twenty five dumplings.
But I give top pick to Fried Dumpling – its a unique NYC experience – its on a back alley, the counter woman is a character, there is yelling and there are fewer tourists -, plus the dumplings are made right in front of you and taste great.