Pho Shop, New York, NY

Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings

With the notable exception of Saiguette, Vietnamese restaurants in NYC don’t really serve dumplings, so I had gone to Pho Shop planning to try their Banh Mi sandwich.  But I discovered they sell steamed dumplings, so I ended up having a much larger dinner than I planned.  The classic Banh Mi with Vietnamese ham, house bacon and pate with lots of pickled daikon and carrot was quite good, but they didn’t seem to be using the classic Banh Mi roll, which was a disappointment.

Steamed dumplings

The Dumplings:  Pho Shop serves steamed dumplings filled with chicken, pork and shrimp or vegetables.  I got the pork and shrimp variety, which come six large dumplings to an order, and were filled with minced pork, scallions and big pieces of shrimp.  The shrimp brought a slight sweet and saline flavor to the savory pork and mild pepper flavor from the scallions.  The wrappers were slightly sweet and cooked al dente so they had a good mouth chew.  The addition of the slightly sweetened soy dipping sauce Pho Shop serves took these dumpling to 11 – these dumplings were very good.  One thing to know is that the dumplings take a long time to steam and so do not work well as an appetizer before a main course.

The Location: Pho Shop took over the space that was previously Izakaya Ida and they did a pretty thorough re-model, so the interior is now very warm and inviting.  They are located on the Northern side of 72nd street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Posted in New York City, Pork, Shrimp, Vietnamese | Leave a comment

Kaju, Boston, MA

Yogurt flavored soft drink

Usually when I am in Boston for the Mighty Mighty BosstonesHometown Throwdown shows, I also go to Boston’s Chinatown for dim sum.  This trip however, I went to Kaju, a small Korean restaurant, in Kenmore Square, conveniently near the show venue. Although the smells coming out of the kitchen instantly made me hungry and the stews and grilled meats being eaten at other tables looked great, unfortunately from a dumpling perspective going to Kaju instead of dim sum was a mistake. The only redeeming part of the meal was the mini bottle of “yogurt flavored soft drink” that they hand out with the check. This is a uniquely Korean thing and I love these little bottles of drinkable yogurt.

Undercooked shrimp shumai

Overcooked veggie mandoo

The Dumplings: kaju serves shrimp shumai that you can order either steamed or fried and mandoo filled with beef or veggies that can be ordered steamed or fried. The veggie mandoo are vegan.

The “steamed” shumai that I was served were under cooked and still cold in places, which suggested to me that they were microwaved rather than actually cooked in a steamer. The veggie Mandoo were filled with minced cabbage, carrots, and edamame and I think they would have tasted pretty good, except the order I was served was completely over cooked. These dumplings were distended and floppy and on the edge of falling apart. Probably they were left in the microwave too long.  Another problem with this meal was that the dipping sauce was very cold, instead of room temperature. This meant the shumai just got colder when I dipped them in the sauce.

Granted this was a Sunday lunch, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break and maybe they did not have their A-Team working this shift, but the meal was completely disappointing. Except of course, for the “yogurt flavored soft drink” dessert.

The Location: Kaju is a small basement joint in Kenmore Square, right across from the Green T – line stop.

Posted in Boston, Korean, Mandoo, Shumai, Vegan, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Dumpling Making Montage

For New Year’s Day we made two styles of dumplings for dinner; the first batch was filled with tofu, kimchi and shiitake mushrooms, the second was filled with spinach, shiitake mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts and Just Egg.  We steamed all the dumplings and then pan-fried about half of them. Here is a montage of the process of making the dumplings.

 

Posted in Kimchi, Korean, Mandoo, Pan Fried, Steamed, Vegan, Vegan Recipe, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | 1 Comment

Ramen at Moshi Moshi, Northampton, MA

I have blogged about and ‘gram’d Moshi Moshi’s dumplings a lot, but now in response to the dearth for good ramen in the Pioneer Valley, Moshi Moshi has gotten into the ramen game.  I know that ramen is off brand for this blog, but it is so good I had to write about it, plus I threw in a picture of their Bento Box which includes some of their vegan dumplings.  Sam, the chef at Moshi Moshi, is making his own broths, currently pork tonkotsu and chicken curry broths.  His pork tonkotsu is rich, creamy and thick with a deep pork flavor, it is ridiculously good.  The ramen comes with a whole egg cut in half, and lots of vegetables, and he is also torching the pork belly which gives the meat a char and smokey flavor that diffuses into the broth.  His ramen is the best I have tried in the Pioneer Valley and better than many I have tried in New York and LA.

I also love his spicy, crunchy tuna hand roll, I could make an entire meal of these hand rolls.

Posted in Best of, Japanese, Ramen Bar, Soup | Leave a comment

NY Times Article on the declining market share of Chinese restaurants

The NY Times published an interesting article on Chinese restaurant’s declining share of the restaurant market.  The article frames the decline in terms of the immigrant journey of Chinese immigrants taking whatever jobs were available in the U.S., commonly in restaurants, and striving for better opportunities for the next generation.  As a result, the second and third generations are often not continuing the family restaurant business.

There are a few examples in New York though, of the second and third generation expanding or re-opening restaurants and food businesses.  Xi’an Famous Foods, Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Fong Inn Too have each been expanded or re-opened by the younger generations of the family that established the businesses.  There is also the example of Mimi Cheng’s, which was opened by a pair of sisters inspired to sell dumplings using their mother’s recipes.

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Dim Sum Palace, New York, NY

To round out 2019 we at Dumpling Hunter had a blow out feast at Dim Sum Palace, a NYC mini-chain of family run dim sum restaurants.  Dim Sum Palace has large dim sum menu and a large menu of American-Chinese dishes with a smattering of traditional Chinese dishes mixed in.  Like a lot of dim sum restaurants outside of Chinatown, there are no carts piled high with steamers and plates of food cruising the dining room at Dim Sum Palace, instead you order by checking boxes on form you hand to the wait staff.

A couple of the non-dumpling dishes really stood out.  The sticky rice with pork wrapped in lotus leaves was excellent, and one of the best versions of this dish I have tried.  An order of sticky rice comes with two lotus leaf wrapped bundles of rice infused with savory pork flavor and umami from the lotus leaves.  The salt and pepper baked shrimp were also really good, there were only four shrimp in the order, but they were large and succulent.  My only gripe with the shrimp was that they didn’t come with their heads on, which is how this dish is optimally prepared.

The Dumplings:  Combined, the dim sum and main menus present 26 dumpling options.  I didn’t get to try any of the steamed BBQ Pork Buns we ordered, apparently they were very good and my friend doubled down on them and grabbed mine.  The Wontons, Szechuan Style, were filled with pork and served in a thick sauce rather than the chili oil and soy sauce mix often served with this dish.  The sauce was delicious and had the spice, pepper corn and complex fermented bean funk flavor of a true Szechuan style sauce, I recommend trying this dish.  The pan-fried tiny buns were a solid effort but not great.  The bun was sweet and light and the pork was flavorful, but there was no soup or juice inside the buns, so they were a little dry.  But the buns were great for soaking up the Wonton Szechuan sauce and then were juicy and super tasty.  The Pan Fried Pork and Chive dumplings and the Pan Fried Shrimp and Chives dumplings were both chock full of chive flavor and fried crispy and crunchy, but I think the Shrimp version was the better of the two.  The sweet shrimp provided a better flavor balance to the chives than the savory of the pork.  We also tried the Pork Soup Dumplings which checked all the boxes: well cooked so the wrappers were supple but maintained their soup holding integrity; copious amounts of flavorful soup; and a tasty pork meat ball inside.  Lastly, almost stuffed to the gills, we ordered the Seafood Peashoot Dumplings which turned out to be the star of the meal.  Granted I am a sucker for sauteed peashoots, but these were really good.  The seafood was shrimp and the sweet and salty they brought to the filling worked with the slight bitterness and cruciferous flavor of the peashoots.

The Location:  Dim Sum Palace has several locations in Manhattan, we hit the location on Restaurant Row which is 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Chive, Dim Sum, New York City, Pan Fried, Pea vine, Pork, Shrimp, Sichuan Dumplings, Soup Dumpling, Steamed, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Bryant Park Winter Garden, part 2.

I revisited the Bryant Park Winter Garden to check out the two dumpling kiosks that I missed on my last visit.

Fried Tofu Bao

Bao by Kaya is a pop-up version of the larger Bao by Kaya at the Urbanspace on Lexington Ave.  They specialize in Taiwanese cuisine and the signature Gua Bao, which is a steamed flat, white fluffy bun that is folded over the filling.  The Bryant Park pop-up serves Bao with Pork Belly, Red Curry Chicken, Peking Duck, Shrimp Tempura, Szechuan braised Beef Shank or Fried Tofu.  I tried the Fried Tofu Bao which is filled with a roughly 1.5 by 3 inch block of batter dipped and fried tofu, with red cabbage, red onion, cilantro, black sesame seeds and sweet chili sauce.  The tofu had a really great crispy/crunchy coating that balanced the softness of the tofu within and of the bao and I enjoyed the sweet chili sauce a lot.  But I thought that the bao could have used more cabbage for texture and more onion to round out the flavors.  Overall I enjoyed this bun and I would recommend it over the dishes being served by the three kiosks I tried on my prior visit.

Pork Bao

One more bao

The last of the dumpling options is Destination Dumplings, which was by far the best of the five places I tried.  Chef Tristan Chin-Fatt and Deon Whiskey, the two owners, describe themselves as two kids from Queens, and were both born in Flushing, the Asian food mecca of Queens.  Destination Dumplings doesn’t have a permanent location yet and instead does pop-ups and catered events. I got to Bryant Park at around 7 and it looked like Destination Dumplings had been slammed with customers, they were out of almost everything.  Dishes I wasn’t able to try include – dumplings stuffed with Pork and Chive, Korean Beef, Peking Duck, or Edamame and steamed Bao filled with Spicy Pork.  They did have regular pork bao, which were a revelation and the best dumpling that I tried at Bryant Park.  The pork filling was incredibly well seasoned, flavorful and juicy, like eating pork that had been slow braised in a soy based marinade for hours.  I ordered two bao and then went back for a third one.  The bao were served with slivered scallion and sesame seeds and were doused with soy sauce.

Destination Dumplings has also figured out how to over-come the space constraints of the Winter Garden kiosks in a way that Bun Ramen has not.  They have stacked, multi-tiered steamers cooking their dumplings and bao and a flat top grill for searing the dumplings.  As a result everything they were serving was freshly cooked and they were not relying on a micro-wave like Bun Ramen was.  I am going to return to Destination Dumplings earlier in the day and try some of their other dumpling offerings.

Posted in Bao, Buns, New York City, Pork | Leave a comment

Sake Bar Hagi 46, New York, NY

Seared pork gyoza

Sake Bar Hagi on 49th street in Mid-town New York City was one of my favorite Izakaya in the City and I was quite sad when it closed in early 2018.  Somehow it took me a long time to visit its sister restaurant, Sake Bar Hagi 46 on Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen, but I finally made it over there.  Hagi 46 doesn’t have the subterranean allure of the original location but the interior decor is quite interesting.  The walls are lined with Japanese movie posters for Hollywood films from the eighties and in the back there are several record players that play records in the vertical position.  The menu is as extensive as I recall from the original and their Mentai Fried Rice tasted just as excellent as I remember it being in Mid-town.

Takoyaki

The Dumplings:  Hagi 46 serves shrimp shumai, pork gyoza and Takoyaki, the latter two of which we tried.  The Takoyaki came fully adorned with Japanese Kewpie mayo, brown sauce, slivered scallion, and bonito flakes with a side of Japanese pickles.  The roux inside of the Takoyaki was incredibly smooth and creamy with a nugget of crunchy octopus embedded in the middle.  They were better than the ones I recall from the Mid-town location and were so delicious we skipped ordering the Shumai and got a second order of Takoyaki.  The pork gyoza are house made and came served on a sizzling cast iron skillet.  The finely minced pork and scallion filling was very flavorful and the bottoms of the gyzoa had been seared nicely.  They did not look at all burned, but I found them to have a slight acrid burned taste, I am not sure if this was from the gyoza ingredients or contact with the sizzling skillet.  This was not my favorite dish of the night.

The Location:  Sake Bar Hagi 46 is on Hell’s Kitchen’s restaurant row which is 46th street between 8th and 9th avenues. This strip of restaurants gets really crowded with tourists coming to see Broadway shows, so plan your meal for 5pm when the restaurant opens and enjoy their happy hour or come after the first curtain call.

Posted in Gyoza, Izakaya, Japanese, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Takoyaki | Leave a comment

Winter Market at Bryant Park, New York, NY

The European market inspired Winter Market has returned to New York’s Bryant Park, bringing a skating rink and 170 shopping kiosks and food vendors to support the holiday shopping season.   This year’s line-up of vendors provides multiple dumpling dining options.

The Bun Ramen kiosk serves Sheng Jian Bao, pan fried beef, pork, chicken or vegan dumplings, steamed mixed vegetable or chicken dumplings and steamed shrimp shumai.  A major problem with Bun Ramen is that they only have two small fry pans in which to cook the dumplings.  As a result they pre-cook the pan-fried dumplings and stock-pile them in to-go containers, then when a customer places an order they micro-wave the dumplings before serving them.  My order of pan-fried and then micro-waved vegan dumplings looked like they had exploded in the to-go container, it was a mess of over-cooked dumpling wrapper and steaming vegetables.  After I saw the dumpling disaster they had served me, I went back to the kiosk and asked for a fresh serving of dumplings straight from the fry pan.  It turns out, that when fresh, their vegan pan-fried dumplings were quite good.  If you decide to try Bun Ramen, make sure you get the fresh cooked, pan-fried dumplings straight from the fry-pan; if they try to give you some micro-waved dumplings refuse them.

Wonton Tiva was founded on National Dumpling Day, 2018 with the tag line “Hawaiian Handmade Wontons”.  The owner’s family is from Hawaii and he claims to be making wontons using his grandma’s recipe.  Wonton Tiva serves three styles of deep fried wonton: Tiva’s Pork & Scallion which are filled with pork, scallion, garlic, and ginger; Papu’s Tofu & Veggie which are filled with tofu, cabbage, carrot, scallion and ginger; and Chicken and Mushroom filled with marinated chicken, mushroom, garlic and spices.  The wontons come with two sauce options: Hot Soy Mustard made with soy, hot Asian mustard, rice vinegar, honey and toasted sesame; and Sweet Pineapple Chili made with pineapple juice with apple cider vinegar, garlic and red chili.  The Papu’s wonton had a really enjoyable crispy fried crunch, but not a lot of inherent flavor.  However, when dipped in the Hot Soy Mustard and used as a sauce delivery vehicle they were excellent.

The Pierogi Boys kiosk is in the covered Lodge market space near the skating rink. They sell Potato & Cheese pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream, Sauerkraut & Mushroom pierogi with mushroom gravy and herbs and Meat pierogi with meat gravy and herbs.  While I was dealing with Bun Ramen’s micro-waved mess of veggie dumplings, my friend grabbed some meat pierogi which are filled with braised beef cheeks and pork butt.  As I don’t eat beef all I have to pass along are his comments – he said the blend of beef and pork was really tasty, the gravy was creamy and the thickness of the dough wrapper was just how he liked it.

In addition to these three options at the Winter Market you can get dumplings and bao at Bao by Kaya and Destination Dumplings.

Posted in Bao, Beef, Buns, Chinese, Dipping Sauce, New York City, Pan Fried, Pierogi, Pork, Shumai, Steamed, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Moonrise Izakaya, New York, NY

Moonrise Izakaya is a new “Japanese Pub” on the Upper-West Side that is trying too hard on the aesthetics and décor and not paying enough attention to the food.   The interior and exterior were painted in an anime style by the Japanese graffiti artist Shiro and inside, many of the surfaces that aren’t sprayed painted are covered with pop stickers.  The stickers on pillars and tables are layered to give the impression they organically accreted over time, like the show flyers on the walls of CBGBs, but they were actually slapped onto the walls just two weeks ago.  The overall affect was distracting and had me thinking that there must be some online store that will drop-ship a pallet of Mc-Japanese, generic anime-ish stickers.  Up-front there is coat room/DJ booth that was pumping out the worst of 80’s pop music.

The chef who designed the menu is Korean so the Pancake with Shrimp and Squid is not Okonomiyaki but instead is a Korean Haemul Pajeon.  The Pork Tonkatsu with Curry was related to the actual Japanese dish in name only.  Pork Tonkatsu is a lean pork cutlet that has been breaded in Panko, deep fried and then sliced into strips.   Moonrise Izakaya’s version was big chunks of fatty mystery meat that had been dipped into batter and then deep fried.  The taste was mainly of fry oil and I left two of the chunks on my plate because they were too fatty and gristly.

Unless it steps up its game a lot, Moonrise Izakaya will not present any competition to the nearby Yakitori Sun Chan or Naruto Ramen.  The most interesting thing about this place was Shiro’s spray painted exterior and the Sailor Moon mural in the bathroom.

The Dumplings:  Moonrise Izakaya serves pork gyoza, vegetable gyoza, shrimp shumai and pork buns.  I tried the vegetable gyoza, which were the run of the mill green colored wrapper gyoza that you find at any low- to mid-tier sushi bar or ramen bar.  Inexplicably the gyoza looked like they had been cooked by crushing them in a panini press, it was weird, visually unappealing and not very tasty.  I also tried the shrimp shumai, which, similar to the gyoza, were frozen generic mini-shumai; they tasted fine, but were nothing special. The shumai were served as a jumbled pile in a bamboo steamer, like someone had shaken the steamer before bringing it to the table.

Sorry the photos are pretty bad, but it is quite dark inside the restaurant.

Location:  Moonrise Izakaya is on the corner of 98th street and Amsterdam in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood.  If you are looking for Japanese Izakaya food in that neighborhood head over instead to Yakitori Sun Chan on Broadway between 103rd and 104th.

Posted in Izakaya, Japanese, Korean, New York City, Potsticker, Shrimp, Shumai, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment