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.

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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

Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai, New York NY

Kitakata Ramen

Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai recently opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side serving Kitakata style ramen.  They have 57 locations in Japan but can trace their history back to 1958 and Ban Nai Shokudo in Kitakata city.  Kitakata style ramen noodles are thick, flat, and curly, with a high water content and, along with Sapporo ramen and Hakata ramen, are one of Japan’s three major ramen noodle styles. Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai serves miso and shio pork bone broths which are very light in color and flavor.   Since it was my first time, I tried the Kitakata Ramen with added boiled Napa cabbage, which I enjoyed but I prefer the richer, thicker Tonkutsu broths.  Next time, I will need to try the Chashu Ramen, which is a pork bomb that comes with 13 pieces of Chashu pork.

Awesome pork gyoza

The Dumplings:  Pork gyoza are an obligatory item on a NYC ramen bar’s menu, but are usually frozen corporate food service dumplings that are an after thought for the Chef.  However, Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai seems to take it’s gyoza seriously.  The pork filling actually tasted like pork, really good, well seasoned pork, and the gyoza were expertly seared on the bottom and then finished with steam.  Then taking it to 11, the gyoza came with a small dab of Yuzu paste to be mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil, to make a customized dipping sauce.  I love the flavor of Yuzu paste, which is made of chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which is then allowed to ferment, and has a spicy, citrus grapefruit flavor with a layer of salty anchovy or fish sauce flavor funk.  I will return to Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai purely on the strength of its gyoza.

Location: Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai is located on Amsterdam ave between 72nd and 73rd streets in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood.

 

Posted in Gyoza, Japanese, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Ramen Bar | Leave a comment

Return to XO Taste

XO Taste and its sister restaurant XO Kitchen are two of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown (reviewed here and here).  I am not sure is XO refers directly to XO Cognac or to XO Sauce, which itself refers to the Cognac.  XO sauce is made of roughly chopped dried seafood, including scallops, fish and shrimp, which have been cooked with chili peppers, onions and garlic.  Their menus are truly enormous and seem to continuously expand, especially when you take into account all of the 8.5 x 11 pieces of laminated paper wallpapering the restaurant and advising on off-menu items. The range of dishes at XO Taste includes some of the funkier items in Chinese cuisine (Diced pork with pickles and spicy tofu or Jelly fish with preserved duck egg and ginger), lots of Hong Kong restaurant classics, some Japanese dishes (curry rice) and some items from the canon of American Chinese food (General Tso’s Chicken).   Almost all of the menu items are dim sum dishes or served as small plates, so dinner usually involves many different items.  I recently returned to XO Taste to see what was new on the menu.

The wall advertisement for pan fried buns with shrimp immediately caught my eye and was our first order. These buns have the pleated twisted tops of soup dumplings and look like soup dumplings that have been fried while being pressed in a panini press.  The wrappers appeared to be made of rice dough but they were very much fried so it was difficult to tell, but they were crispy crunchy good.  The filling was comprised of shrimp, which had a fresh shrimp sweet saline taste, and chives which added a mildly garlic note. These buns are served doused in a sweetened soy sauce.

We also ordered the soup dumplings, which were also on the wall menu.  These soup dumplings were weirdly served in soup, a fact I somehow did not notice from the picture on the wall.  The soup was pretty good, but I did not enjoy soup dumplings in soup, because the dumpling wrappers quickly got waterlogged and started to disintegrate.  The dumplings were adorned with crispy fried garlic chips which tasted great in the soup.

The pork wontons in noodle soup was a much more successful and flavorful dumplings in soup dish.  These pork meatballs covered in wrinkled sheets of noodle were big and dense with a lot of flavor from the well seasoned filling and the soup.  The noodles were cooked al dente and initially had a good chew to them, but they absorb the soup quite fast so do not let them sit. The dish is pretty big, and with so many menu options you don’t want to fill up on only noodles, so it is best to share this dish.  However, it was really hard to serve the noodles into smaller individual serving bowls.  The noodles were very long and just kept coming and coming as I tried to scoop them into individual serving bowls.

The last dumpling dish we tried was the steamed pork and shrimp shumai.  The shumai wrappers were stuffed with pork, with a shrimp sitting on top that had been adorned with fish roe.  With this dish XO Taste once again showed its prowess in making tasty, well seasoned pork filling, and the shrimp tasted fresh and had a nice pop to them when I took a bite.  Across the range of dishes at XO Taste these shumai were further on the American Chinese food side of the spectrum, but they were very tasty.

XO Taste is on Elizabeth street between Canal Street and Hester Street.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Chive, Dim Sum, New York City, Noodles, Pan Fried, Pork, Shrimp, Shumai, Soup, Soup Dumpling, Wontons, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Return to Bund Shanghai Restaurant and a Shout Out to Yuet Lee

Bund’s Xio Long Bao

Bund’s Rice Shumai

The Bund is one of the few restaurants in San Francisco’s old Chinatown neighborhood specializing in Shanghainese food. Most of the city’s Shanghainese restaurants are in the newer Chinatowns in the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods.  I previously reviewed their Steamed Shrimp and Chive dumplings and the Pan-Fried Pork Buns.

This visit I tried their Xiao Long Bao and their Shanghai style rice shumai, both of which I thought were under seasoned.  The Xiao Long Bao were perfectly steamed and contained a generous amount of soup but the pork and soup were on the bland side and needed salt.  Xiao Long Bao filling also often has a hint of ginger flavor, which I like, but was not present in these dumplings.  But on the plus side, the buns were well made and perfectly steamed so the wrappers maintained their integrity and didn’t leek soup.

Shanghai style shumai are usually stuffed with seasoned, umami filled sticky rice, that has been cooked with pork and Chinese sausage, which is akin to a “dirty rice” from New Orleans.  The rice in Bund’s Shanghai rice shumai was brown sticky rice, but there was no discernible pork or sausage in the rice. The rice was also under salted and didn’t have the level of umami flavor I associate with this style of dumpling.

Bund is on Jackson street between Kearny Street and Grant Avenue

Also when you are in San Francisco you should visit Yuet Lee on the corner of Broadway and Stockton streets.  Yuet Lee’s only dumpling dish is wonton soup, but they have amazing seafood including salted baked head on shrimp, that I love.  Yuet Lee is a classic old-school joint that is open late and perfect for a late night meal after a night of drinking.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Dipping Sauce, Pork, San Francisco, Shanghai, Shrimp, Shumai, Soup Dumpling, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Giant Veggie Dumpling Recipe

Egg roll style giant dumplings

Nasoya finally reformulated its wonton and egg roll wrappers to be vegan, so you can now easily find the basics for homemade vegan dumplings in your local super market.  This recipe calls for Asian chives also known as garlic chives, which as the name suggests have a strong garlicky flavor.  We recently discovered Just Egg, which is an amazing vegan egg replacer that can make very convincing scrambles and omelets and can be used as a binder in dumplings.  We made these dumplings on the fly so the ingredient measurements for this recipe are not precise.

 

  • Nasoya Wonton or Eggroll Wrappers
  • Equal parts Asian chives, spinach and shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/3 as much of the green and yellow leafy parts of a Napa cabbage, but not the harder white stalk.
  • Enough tofu to bind the vegetables together.
  • Just Egg
  • Sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper

Veggie filling

Chop the Asian chives, spinach and Napa cabbage and mix together in a bowl with sesame oil, salt, pepper and some Just Egg.  Mix in some tofu and keep adding tofu until the filling starts to bind together.

Chop the shiitake mushrooms and saute in a little oil.  You want to dry saute the mushrooms, so do not add salt, which will release more water from the mushrooms.  Cook until any water that has been released has evaporated.   Mix the mushrooms into the filling mix.

Stuff the wonton wrappers or egg roll wrappers with the filling, and fill the wrappers quite full as the ingredients will shrink as they cook.  We used the egg roll wrappers and made sort of dumpling sausages.  Steam the dumplings and serve.  The leftover cooked dumplings or egg rolls can be refrigerated and then pan-fried the next day, as you see in the photos here.

Posted in Recipe, Steamed, Vegan Recipe, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons | Leave a comment