News Round-Up

Spicy and Sour Vegetable Dumplings

The vegetable dumplings at Xi’an Famous Foods are now listed on the menu as being vegan. Previously they were not listed as such and when I first visited the Upper West Side location the cashier told me they contained eggs and thus were vegetarian but not vegan.  The new vegan versions taste just as good as the prior vegetarian versions.  Each year Xi’an Famous Foods wins Dumpling Hunter’s Best Vegetarian Dumpling category, unless a miracle happens I expect this year they will win Best Vegetarian and Best Vegan Dumplings.


David Chang just released a thoroughly binge-able food/travel series on NetFlix called “Ugly Delicious”.  The show co-stars Peter Meehan, Chang’s partner in the sadly departed Lucky Peach magazine.  These two are clearly old friends and have a great chemistry on screen that flirts with being bro-tastic without being grating.  The show features Chang’s commitment to rejecting purity and piety within food culture. “I view authenticity like a totalitarian state,” Chang declares, in the show’s first episode, adding, “It’s not that I hate authenticity, it’s that I hate that people want this singular thing that is authentic.”

Episode 8 of the series stages a mock debate about the virtues of dumplings verses Italian stuffed pastas, the blurb for the episode reads “Time for the ultimate showdown: Italian stuffed pasta vs. Asian dumplings. Will xiaolongbao or tortellini carry the day?”.  There is a scene I love, of Chang eating dumplings in Shanghai and his dining companion negs on Din Tai Fun, which is a famed dumpling spot that I think is way over rated.


Shen Jian Bao

This past week the NY Times published a great article on Shanghai, “Conquering High-Priced Shanghai, from Dumplings to Modern Art“.  The author, Lucas Peterson, describes an epic dumpling eating tour and calls out the greatness of the Sheng Jian Bao, which he describes as the “intersection of steamed bun, fried pot sticker and soup dumpling”.  Shanghai’s Xiao Long Bao gets all the foodie love, but I think the Shen Jian Bao is just a superior dumpling.  In New York City you can get excellent Shen Jian Bao at China Blue and really good ones at Coffee Break, and Shanghai Asian Cuisine.

I have been to, and loved, Yang’s which is a Shanghai Shen Jian Bao institution and gets a mention in the article (my review here).  Daniel Food Diary has a good article about Yang’s, which indicates that they have been upgrading their restaurant outlets and giving them a fast food joint feel.  When I went to one of their original locations on Wujiang Road in 2012 it had a very low rent, street food vibe, which I prefer to the newer sleeker look shown in Daniel’s article.

Posted in Bao, Beef, News, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Return to Jing Fong, Upper West Side, Manhattan

On my first trip to Jing Fong I intended to focus on vegetable dumplings but wasn’t particularly successful, it turns out they have stopped serving steamed vegetable buns and only have one vegetable dumpling.  Meat filled dumplings seem to be their strength, so I decided to return and indulge.

Pork & Vegetable Dumplings

– Pork & Vegetable Dumpling. This was one of the best plates of pan fried pork dumplings I have eaten in a long time.  The wrappers were thin and delicate, like Japanese gyozas, and crispy golden fried on two sides.  The pork filling was immaculately seasoned, so it was salty, savory and pork flavor-full.  The dumplings are served with threads of carrots which are really besides the point.  These dumplings, in servings of two, are on the happy hour menu, and I ended up getting three orders.  Although they are listed as Pork & Vegetable on the happy hour menu, they also have shrimp mixed into the filling.

Roast Duck and Asparagus Dumplings

Roast Duck and Asparagus Dumplings.  These are steamed, triangular, rice flour wrapped dumplings adorned with fish roe.  The duck had a deep, rich, sweet and smokey flavor and meaty chew that I really enjoyed.  The dollop of fish roe on top of the dumplings provided a salty, brine punch, but I didn’t really see what the asparagus in the filling added. These dumplings were pretty big and the rice flour wrapper made them a little hard to pick up with chop-sticks.  Despite my rave in my last post about Jing Fong’s rice flour wrappers, the wrappers on these dumplings were a little problematic.

Pork Shumai.  The pork shumai are tightly wrapped and filled with pork and water chestnuts and are topped with fish roe.  This was another excellent steamer of dumplings, the chopped water chestnuts provided a crunch that balanced the soft chewiness of the steamed pork filling.  The pork was well seasoned with a deep savory porky flavor and the roe provided a hit of salty brine.

I used a mix of Chinese mustard and Hoisin BBQ sauce as a dipping sauce for the Pork and Vegetable Dumplings and the Shumai, the hit of mustard to the back of the palate went really well with their pork.  For the Duck and Asparagus dumplings I mixed some Sambal chili paste with soy sauce.

Posted in Duck, New York City, Pan Fried, Pork, Shumai | Leave a comment

One more stop at Great Wall, Florence, MA

Its a busy time at the day job, so this will be a quick post.

Pan fried wontons.

Chili sesame sauce.

I have been to Great Wall twice before (here and here), but I was looking at the menu recently and realized there was still one dumpling left on the menu that I hadn’t yet tried, the Wonton with Hot Sesame Sauce.  Typically this dish is made with boiled wontons that are served doused in spicy sesame sauce.  Great Wall doesn’t take this approach; their wontons are pan-fried and served with sesame seeds scattered on top of them, with the sauce served in a side dish.

The wontons were under-stuffed with pork, perhaps the smallest amount of stuffing I have ever seen in a wonton.  At first glance the sauce looked like it was just chili paste suspended in oil, but the oil was actually floating on top of a layer of sesame sauce. Once I mixed the layers together the sauce was really tasty, full of smoke, spice and nut flavor.  Unfortunately the sauce dish was too small to dunk the wontons into, instead I had to pour the sauce out of the dish onto the wontons.

If Great Wall stuffed a plumper wonton and served then doused in their sauce, I think they would have a really great dish.

Posted in Chinese, Sesame Sauce, Wontons | Leave a comment

Whole Foods gets into the Chinese veggie bun game

Whole Foods to-go platter of veggie buns and dumplings.

In New York City at least, Whole Foods’ Sushi counters recently unveiled to-go platters of Chinese veggie buns and dumplings. Thank you Jeff Bezos.

The platters come with six dumplings, two veggie buns, two egg custard buns and a small packet of dumpling sauce.  The dumplings are filled with seasoned soy protein and shiitake mushrooms and have a fake meat dumpling texture.  The steamed veggie buns are tangerine sized fluffy bread buns, filled with shredded napa cabbage, carrots, and mushrooms, chopped water chestnuts and vermicelli noodles.  The egg custard buns have a slightly crispy outer shell around a layer of fluffy white Chinese bread, which is stuffed with egg custard.   I expected the egg custard to be creamy in texture, but instead it is like mashed sweet potato in consistency.  Neither of the buns nor the dumplings are vegan, but are vegetarian.

Dumplings and buns micro-waved and then pan-fired.

To heat them up, I put the buns and dumplings around the edge of a plate and put a teaspoon or so of water in the middle of the plate and then microwaved them.  Once the buns and dumplings were fully heated in the microwave, I pan-fried the bottoms of the buns and dumplings until they were crispy brown.  Both the dumplings and the veggie buns tasted fine with a generic soy and sesame oil seasoned savory flavor, with the buns having an additional mild cruciferous cabbage note.  The egg custard buns were mildly sweet, without much of an egg custard flavor.  The sauce packet was really too small for the amount of food in this platter and was too heavy on the sesame oil for my taste.  So overall the platter of dumplings and buns makes a decent lunch for two and is a solid Whole Foods to-go option.

 

Posted in Bao, Buns, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Jing Fong, Upper West Side, Manhattan

Founded in 1978, Jing Fong in Chinatown is the largest dim sum restaurant in New York City, with 20,000-square-feet of space and 800 seats.  It began at 24 Elizabeth Street with 150 seats and then in 1993 it moved to the giant space at 20 Elizabeth.  In July, Jing Fong completed its first expansion since 1993 by opening a branch on the Upper West Side.  The new location is still in soft opening mode with a reduced menu that is about a quarter of the size of one at the Chinatown location.  The other difference is that at the Upper West Side location there are no carts circulating the floor distributing dim sum, instead you order from a menu.  But the Upper West Side Jing Wong has a dim sum happy until 7pm and they are launching Saturday and Sunday brunch.

Vegetable Dumplings and Har Gow

The Dumplings:  Jing Fong has a steamed dim sum bar staffed with two or three guys continuously stuffing filling into wrappers and steaming dumplings, while the fried dumplings are made in the back kitchen. The menu includes steamed dumplings; Shrimp Har Gow, Pork Siu Mai topped with roe, Shrimp and Watercress Dumplings, Vegetable Dumplings, Minced Pork, Shrimp, and Peanut Dumplings, Crab, Shrimp & Spinach Dumplings, Roast Duck and Asparagus Dumplings, BBQ Roast Pork Buns, and Vegetable Buns, and fried dumplings; Pork, Shrimp & Vegetable Dumpling, Shrimp & Chive Dumplings, Ham Sui Gok and Shrimp Wontons.     

For my first visit there I wanted to go vegetarian, but it turns out that this is not Jing Fong’s strength.  They list steamed vegetable buns on the menu, which I really wanted to try, but they actually no longer serve them.

Crab, Shrimp and Spinach Dumplings

The happy hour menu has a combo dish of two Steamed Vegetable Dumplings and two How Gar, so I started there and progressively moved away from my vegetarian dinner plan.  The steamed vegetable dumplings are rice flour wrapper purses filled with a pretty bland mix of chopped vegetables.  These vegetable dumplings are best as a means of mopping up sauce.  However, the How Gar were excellent, the shrimp tasted sweet and fresh and had a juicy pop when I bit into them.

Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings

Next I tried the Crab, Shrimp and Spinach Dumplings which are open pockets made with rice flour dough wrappers stuffed with spinach and shrimp and topped with flakes of crab meat.  The same excellent shrimp that are in the How Gar went really well with the spinach in these dumplings. The flaked crab sitting on top of the filling didn’t add much flavor, but overall the flavor and texture of these dumplings said fresh and healthy.  Jing Fong does rice flour wrappers really well, at a lot of places these wrappers are gummy and chewy and yet somehow don’t hold the dumpling filling together.  But at the Jing Fong the rice flour wrappers had a slight stretch and chew with a great mouth feel and held the filling together.

The last dumplings I tried were the Fried Pork and Chive dumplings which were excellent.  These were deep fried and excellently crispy and largely packed with chives, which have a mild onion flavor.  There was just enough pork mixed in with the chives to add salty and savory flavor and silky texture to the filling.

Chinese mustard swirled in Hoisin sauce

The Dipping Sauce:  Jing Fong serves four sauces; soy sauce, a Hoisin BBQ sauce, Chinese mustard and sambal chili paste.  This allows you to mix and create your own dipping sauce; I swirled some Chinese mustard into the Hoisin BBQ sauce, a mix which I highly recommend.

The Location:  Jing Fong is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Amsterdam Avenue at 78th Street.  It is in space that used to house Planet Sushi, which had an almost 20 year run slinging mid-range priced nigiri, sashimi, maki and futomaki.

 

 

 

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Dim Sum, Har Gou, How Gar, New York City, Shrimp, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe: Vegan Beef Tips and Leek Dumplings

I think Gardein has been hitting it out of the park with their meatless products, their Meatless Meatballs are excellent with pasta or on a hoagie with red sauce and cheese.  This recipe uses Gardein’s Meatless Beef Tips product with sauteed leeks to make a dumpling with a beef and onion flavor.  The Meatless Beef Tips are vegan with 170 calories per serving, only 60 calories from fat, with 17 grams of protein. These dumplings are perfect for Meatless Mondays.

Vegan Beef and Leek Pan-Fried Dumplings

Ingredients:

  • Beefless Tips – one piece of beef tip for each dumpling.
  • White-to-light green part of a Leek – one leak is enough for ~6-8 dumplings
  • Dumpling wrappers

Instructions:

  1. Clean the leek and cut the leek into very thin slices across the length of the leek.
  2. Saute the leeks until wilted and just starting to brown.
  3. Microwave frozen Beefless Tips for 2 minutes to defrost them.
  4. Cut each Beeefless Tip in half into two pieces.
  5. Pan fry the Beefless Tips in the pan you used to saute the leeks, until the outsides are crispy and a little caramelized.
  6. Place two pieces of Beefless Tip onto a dumpling wrapper with some sauteed leek.
  7. Pinch the wrapper closed around the filling.
  8. Pan fry the dumplings in oil.
Posted in Beef, Recipe, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | 1 Comment

Return to Panda Garden, Williamsburg, MA

Good Asian restaurants are in short supply in Western MA, so when the Chinese food cravings hit me on Boxing Day, I headed back out to Panda Garden.  I had a couple of really good dishes at my last visit (my prior review is here) but I am learning that Panda Garden’s kitchen is really inconsistent, eating there is like playing Chinese meal roulette.  Their vegan moo shu pork and kung po chicken are excellent, but they have also served me an abysmal, inedible Singapore Chow Mai Fun.

Terribly overcooked soup dumplings

This time around I tried the salt baked shrimp, which are on their “Gourmet Menu” which we were not given a copy of on our prior visit.  The shrimp were fantastic, this is the only place in Western MA where I have been able to find traditional head-on, shell-on salt baked shrimp.  The delight in eating the shrimp did not continue on with their Xiao Long Bao, which were overcooked to the extreme.  The dumpling wrappers had all ruptured during steaming and then further fell apart in the steamer at slightest touch of my chopsticks.  Trying to eat them just yielded a steamer full of torn wrappers and six pork meatballs.

Wontons in Red Chili Oil

I sent the soup dumplings back and got the Wontons in Red Oil instead (on the Gourmet Menu) and this time I won the roulette wheel spin.  This dish is basically the same as the Wontons in Hot Sesame Sauce, except the sauce is spicier and not sesame based.  Their version of the sauce is quite different from the Red Oil I have had elsewhere, which is often literally a red chili oil.  This sauce was a medium thick brown sauce, with some red chili oil, but also with a sediment or paste component that had an delicious umami funk to it.  Neither the waiter nor the host knew what was in the sauce and seemed reluctant to ask the chef, but I think it was a fermented bean of some kind.  I really enjoyed these wontons and recommend them over the wontons in sesame sauce from their regular menu.

If you go to Panda Gourmet, good luck on the roulette wheel and make sure you ask for the Gourmet Menu.

 

Posted in Bao, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Manhattan Valley Dumpling Tour

The Manhattan Valley neighborhood is situated between the Upper West Side and Columbia University’s Morningside Heights neighborhoods.  The neighborhood has perennially been on the edge of booming or gentrifying or becoming at hot residential neighborhood, with articles going back to at least 1990 talking about its pending real estate renaissance.  What has boomed in the last four or five years is the available options for eating dumplings.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Gyoza, Japanese, Korean, Map, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Shanghai, Sheng Jian Bao, Shumai, Sichuan Dumplings, Soup Dumpling, Takoyaki, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | 1 Comment

Saki Bar Hagi and Iroha Closing

GrubStreet is reporting that two of DumplingHunter’s favorite izakaya, Sake Bar Hagi and Iroha both housed in the same building on 49th street, are closing this coming weekend.  The review of Hagi is here and the review of Iroha is here.  I loved the house made pork gyoza at Hagi, as well as their broiled, dried skate wing.  These two places produced some of the best food in the Times Square area; in my view, if you had to do afterwork drinks with colleagues or a business meet-up near Times Square (no other reason to be in Times Square) these were the go-to places.  After about 5:30 at night Hagi always had a line out the door, I imagine for the remaining few days of business the line will be crazy.  Thankfully there is a sister Saki Bar Hagi on 46th street in Hell’s Kitchen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Soy Boy Verde Ravioli

Rating:  

I previously reviewed Soy Boy’s Original Ravioli back in May 2017 and I just tried their Verde Ravioli which are filled with “garden herb-seasoned tofu”.  These green silver dollar sized ravioli are filled with tofu and okara which is the byproduct of making tofu. So essentially the filling is soy beans that have been processed into two fractions – tofu and okara – and then both processed products have been put into the ravioli.  The filling mix has a convincing ricotta cheese texture and has an orange color from tomato powder, and also contains dried onions, granulated garlic and herbs and spices. When eating them it is totally unclear which garden herbs are supposed to be seasoning the tofu, so my critique of the Verde ravioli is the same as for the Original ravioli; the filling is just a little bland.  I think Soy Boy needs to add some nutritional yeast to their ravioli filling to give them some cheese and umami flavor.

The ravioli are vegan and low in fat, a serving of six ravioli has 3 grams of fat, or only 30% of calories from fat, and no cholesterol.  Each serving also has 11 grams of protein, so a little over half of the protein found in a typical quarter pound burger.  So with a strong, flavorful sauce these ravioli make a good, healthy meal.

Soy Boy Verde ravioli, boiled and then pan fried, with home made sauce.

 

 

 

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Ravioli, Vegan, Vegetarian | 1 Comment