Dumpling News: May 2019

According to Eater and other sources, one of the top destination restaurants for Xiao Long Bao, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, in Flushing Queens is closing.  The reports say that rising rents in downtown Flushing are chasing out small restaurants like Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao.   An article in Patch quotes John Choe of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, pining the blame on the recent increase in the minimum wage.   Choe claims that the restaurant was losing workers because they were now making too much money to qualify for the public benefits they received under the old minimum wage.  Obviously one expects Chambers of Commerce to find arguments against raising the minimum wage and of course against food, worker and environmental safety regulations.

I ate at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao 7 or 8 years ago, before I began this blog, and I remember it being excellent.  This closing is a blow to the general NYC foodie scene and the dumpling eating scene.

The NY Times posted a beautiful slide show of dishes from Mama’s Noodle House in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn where the chefs wrap 1,000 dumplings a night.

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Rising Moon, Frozen Mushroom Ravioli

Rising Moon ravioli

Rating: 

Wild Mushroom Ravioli

In previous reviews I had given Rising Moon’s frozen White Bean and Kale ravioli and Spinach Florentine Ravioli five star rating, but their Wild Mushroom Ravioli are not up to the same standards.  The ravioli were quite bland and didn’t have the “savory, earthy flavor ” that the Rising Moon web site promises.  I got a hint of mushroom flavor in only a few bites.  The ingredient lists on the packaging and online include “organic mushrooms” without specifying which type of mushrooms, but given the mild flavor I am guessing they are white button mushrooms.  The ravioli also contain mozzarella and asiago cheese but the expected sharp bite of asiago is missing.

I boiled the ravioli as directed and then sauteed them in olive oil until they were slightly browned and crispy.  I plated them with Gardein’s vegan meatballs, which are awesome, and some home made red sauce.

These ravioli are vegetarian, but Rising Moon sells several vegan ravioli varieties which are Garlic Roasted Veggie Ravioli, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Classic Potato Gnocchi, and the Spinach Florentine Ravioli.

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Atlas Kitchen, New York, NY

I’ve written a couple of times (here, here) about the influx of great Chinese restaurants in the Manhattan Valley and Morningside Heights neighborhoods of New York’s Upper West Side.  Unfortunately, the stylish and modern designed Atlas Kitchen, which opened late last year in the old Legend Upper West Side location, isn’t in the premier league with some of the other local Chinese restaurants.  Atlas Kitchen focuses on Hunan and Sichuan style dishes but also serves Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Chinese-American dishes.

Crab and Pork Dumplings

The Dumplings:  The online menu lists pork soup dumplings, crab and pork soup dumplings, and pan-seared dumplings with filling options of pork, chicken, fish, three delicacies and vegetable.

The crab and pork soup dumplings were really poorly cooked.  The dumplings were placed in the bamboo steamer right next to the steamer walls and also touching each other.  The result of this poor dumpling placement was that the cooked dumplings were either welded together or stuck to the side of the steamer.  It was impossible to pick up the dumplings without the wrappers ripping open and the soup spilling out.  The dumplings also had no discernible crab flavor and didn’t have the little crowns of crab roe that are usually placed on the tops of these dumplings.

Pan-Seared Pork Dumplings

On the in-store menu the options for the chicken, fish, three delicacies and vegetable pan-seared dumplings were all crossed out and only available option was the pan-seared pork dumplings.  The long cigar shaped pan-seared dumplings weren’t exactly seared and could be more accurately described as lightly fried.  Taste-wise the pork filling was very mild and insipid.  The dipping sauce that came with these dumplings seemed like it was 100% black vinegar and was pretty harsh tasting.

The Location:  Atlas Kitchen is on 109th street between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood, just south of Columbia University.

Posted in Chinese, Crab, Dipping Sauce, New York City, Pan Fried, Pork, Soup Dumpling, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Tipsy Shanghai, New York, NY

Housed in a basement storefront, Tipsy Shanghai is a quiet, classically decorated, oasis on New York University’s bustling campus.  The restaurant’s sign says “Since 1905”, suggesting that it has been in business for over 100 years, but I can find little to nothing about the restaurant online.

Sheng Jian Bao

The Dumpling:   Tipsy Shanghai’s menu includes pork soup dumplings, crab soup dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao, pan-fried pork dumplings, and pork wontons.  The Sheng Jian Bao – pan-fried soup dumplings – are my favorite style of dumpling and these were the best I have tried in the U.S.  The key element that distinguishes these bao from the rest is that they had lots of liquid soup inside of them.  In my experience eating these in the U.S. the soup is either missing or has been absorbed into the bun wrapper by the time the buns are served.  But the ones at Tipsy Shanghai each had a Chinese soup spoon and more of delicious, slightly sweet, ginger pork soup in each bun.  The buns themselves were light and fluffy and only a couple of millimeters thick around the pork filling.  The bottoms of the buns were perfectly browned/blackened which gives the burns a slight caramelized flavor.

I also tried the pan-fried pork dumplings, which were also really tasty and juicy.  It is best to approach these dumplings like soup dumplings; if you just bite down into them juice will explode out, instead bite a small whole in the wrapper and suck the juice out before biting down.  While the dumplings tasted great, they were very under fried, the bottoms of the dumplings were were only slightly golden and not crispy.  They could have used another couple of minutes being seared on the fry pan.

The Location:  Tipsy Shanghai is on Thompson Street between 3rd street and Bleecker street, just below Washington Square Park.  This is part of NYU’s Greenwich Village college campus.

Posted in Bao, Chinese, New York City, Pan Fried, Pork, Sheng Jian Bao, Soup Dumpling, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

HanSang Pork and Vegetable Dumplings & Mizkan Goma Shabu Sauce

Rating: 

HanSang is HMart’s house brand for frozen foods and they sell a variety of dumplings under this brand.  Their Pork and Vegetable Dumplings look like frozen soup dumplings and have enough juice in them that they could almost pass as Xiao Long Bao.

Because of their tall shape, these dumplings are a little tricky to cook all the way through, and the directions on the bag for pan-frying them don’t really work well.  When I pan-fried them from frozen as directed, by the time the bottom of the buns were crispy going on burned, the filling in the top of the dumpling was still cold.  On my third attempt at cooking these bao, I went with micro-waving them first and then pan-frying them, which worked well.  Once I figured out how to cook the bao all the way through they were pretty good. They had a mild savory pork flavor and enough juice that you should consider eating them soup dumpling style.

I have been on a sesame sauce kick of late, so I paired these bao with Mizkan Goma Shabu sauce which is a sesame sauce for Shabu Shabu.  Unfortunately the sauce was sugary and insipid with very little sesame flavor and did not complement the pork in the bao at all.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Dipping Sauce, Frozen Dumpling Review, Pork, Sesame Sauce, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Izakaya Ida Closed

After a roughly one and half year run it appears that Izakaya Ida has closed.  I discovered Ida a year ago and really enjoyed there entrees, but at that first visit their dumplings offerings were restricted to Takoyaki, but man those Takoyaki were good.  Their tofu dish and their sesame broth ramen were so good.  I tried it again a few months ago and again their food was excellent and they had expanded their dumpling offerings, including their fabulous grilled Shumai. The truth is though the restaurant was usually pretty empty and for some reason never seemed to get a lot traction, which I assume is the reason for its closure.  I’ll miss you Izakaya Ida.

 

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Big Wong, New York City

Big Wong (sometimes referred to as Big Wong King) has been a fixture in New York City’s Chinatown for decades (a picture here from 1978) and has been racking up good reviews the whole time (GrubStreet, SeriousEats, NY Times, Eater).  Big Wong has two bare bones, communal dining rooms separated by a wall with a big round hole cut in it.  By communal dining, I mean if you come in with a small party you are likely to be seated at a large table with another party.  The BBQ Roast Pork and BBQ Pork Ribs at Big Wong are juicy and flavorful and are some of the best I have eaten.

Wonton Noodle Soup

Steamed Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Oyster Sauce and Chinese Broccoli

The Dumplings: We tried the pork and shrimp wontons in soup with noodles and the steamed pork and shrimp dumplings with oyster sauce.  Their wonton soup was awarded “Best Chinese-American Style Runner Up” in Serious Eat’s 2013 round-up of wonton soup.  The soup comes with five big wontons and a lot of noodles and easily serves two.  The broth has a well balanced pork and chicken flavor with some roasted pork notes.  The shrimp in the wontons were sweet and crunchy, signs they are using good, fresh ingredients.  The dough wrappers were slightly chewy and had deep wrinkles that the soup and oil clung to.  I really enjoyed these wontons.

The filling in the steamed pork and shrimp dumpling was identical to that in the wontons and similarly flavorful.  The dumplings were served sitting on top of a layer of Chinese broccoli and were doused with oyster sauce, so you essentially get a small portion of traditional Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce with dumplings.  Ordering this dish is a great way to get your greens.

The Location:  Big Wong is on Mott Street midway between Canal and Bayard Streets in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Posted in Chinese, New York City, Noodles, Pork, Shrimp, Soup, Steamed, Wontons | Leave a comment

Return to Shanghai Asian Cuisine, NYC

In a prior review (5 years ago) I harshed on Chinatown’s Shanghai Asian Cuisine for shorting us on our change, but I did point out that their dumplings were amazing.  When it was operating under a prior name, this was the place where I was first introduced to Soup Dumplings, probably in September or October of 1991.  I have been back several times since the visit I blogged about and after a recent feasting there I thought that Shanghai Asian Cuisine deserved to be highlighted again.

  • The Fried tiny buns with pork don’t contain the soup that traditional Shanghai Shen Jian Bao are known for, but the ones served here are light, fluffy, bready buns filled with perfectly seasoned pork.
  • The sauce that comes with the Szechuan Wontons is loaded with Szechuan flavors, chili heat and numbing pepper corns.  It was so good that after we finished the wontons, we ate the rest of the sauce with a spoon.
  • Shanghai Asian Cuisine is one of the few places where you can taste the flavor contribution made by the crab and crab roe in the crab and pork soup dumplings.  They also manage to pack lots of soup into the dumplings, which are always perfectly cooked.
  • The pan-fried pork dumplings were masterfully cooked to a crispy golden color and were so juicy they could pass as soup dumplings at a lesser restaurant.
  • We finished up with the steamed pea vine and shrimp dumplings, which were lite and refreshing after four rounds of pork.  The fresh green-ness and mild bitterness of the pea vines paired perfectly with the sweet and slight brine of the shrimp.

Shanghai Asian Cuisine is on Elizabeth street between Canal and Bayard streets in New York City’s Chinatown.  It is next to the Chinatown arcade which is a covered ally that connects Elizabeth Street to the Bowery.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Crab, New York City, Pan Fried, Pea vine, Pork, Potsticker, Sheng Jian Bao, Shrimp, Sichuan Dumplings, Soup Dumpling, Steamed, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Arata Vegan Japanese Closed

Shitake Summer Vegetable Gyoza

I just found out that Matthew Kenny’s Japanese vegan concept, Arata, closed in late 2018, coming and going in less than a year.  While I like Kenney’s nearby vegan restaurants, I was not impressed with Arata.  We tried three or four dishes and I didn’t really like any of them, and the overpriced Shitake Summer Vegetable Gyoza were terrible.

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Vegan Dumpling Update

Spicy and Sour Vegetable Dumplings

I noticed recently that my local Xi’an Famous Foods no longer lists its sensational Spinach Dumplings in Hot and Sour Sauce as being vegan.  The staff confirmed that they haven’t added added egg or shrimp to the fillings but told me they boil the vegetable dumplings in the same water as the lamb dumplings and so took away the vegan indicator on the menu.  So I would term these dumplings as “vegan adjacent”.

Nearby at Grain House the vegetable dumplings are vegan and delicious.  I reviewed Grain House about a year ago, shortly after it opened, and gave its Spicy and Numbing Pork Wontons and Pork Potstickers lots of love.  The steamed vegetable dumplings, which appear to be house made, are as good or even better than the Pork Potstickers.  The wrappers are just thick enough to be chewy without being doughy and envelope a tasty mix of tofu, cabbage, carrot, glass noodles and maybe mushroom.

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings at Grain House

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings

 

Posted in Chinese, Lamb, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Sichuan Dumplings, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment