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

Tampopo Ramen, NY, NY

Washington Height’s Tampopo Ramen is Manhattan’s northern most ramen bar.  The place is named for, and decorated in reference to, the classic 1985 Japanese cult film about creating the perfect bowl of ramen.  The restaurant is small, with an open kitchen behind the main ramen bar, and has a few small tables inside and a few more outside. All of their ramen soups use a chicken stock, and since I am a Pork-aterian, I skipped the soup and went for the Yaki Ramen Hakata Style dry ramen dish.  This large plate of stir fried ramen noodles was mixed with slow-cooked pork chashu, kikurage mushroom, corn, bean sprouts, cabbage, carrot, scallions, and was topped with marinated egg.  This Yaki ramen, and their Okonomiyaki, was really flavorful and I really enjoyed eating these two dishes.

Pork Gyoza

Veggie Gyoza

The Dumplings:  Tampopo Ramen was not as successful with its gyoza as it was with its noodles and Okonomiyaki.  They serve the standard ramen joint looking pork gyoza and green dough wrapped veggie gyoza.  Both plates of dumplings were very wet and floppy.  The plates the gyoza were served on had built in wells or dimples to hold sauce, but in the transfer of the plates from the kitchen to our table, the sauce spilled into the plate and the dumplings were served sitting in sauce. I am not sure if this accounts for the wetness of the gyoza or if they were also over steamed.  Basically these were the food service gyoza supplied to most ramen or sushi joints in NYC, just most places prepare them better than this effort from Tampopo.  My suggestion is, that if you want an appetizer before your ramen, get the Okonomiyaki.  You don’t often see Okonomiyaki available in NYC and Tampopo Ramen does it well.

The Location:  Tampopo Ramen is in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, a little north of the George Washington Bridge.  It is on Bennett Ave, just off of 181st street.  Take the A train to 181st street and walk east on 181st street for about a block and Bennett Ave is on your left.

Posted in Gyoza, Japanese, New York City, Pan Fried, Pork, Ramen Bar, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Seventh Anniversary of Dumpling Hunter

Vegan Dumplings in Soy and Garlic dressing

Seven years ago today, Dumpling Hunter launched with a review of Shanghai’s Nan Xiang Xiolong Mantou, a meal that was inspired by the much missed Anthony Bourdain and his trip there on the Shanghai episode of No Reservations.  Since then there have been another 394 posts and over 65,000 visitors.  The top restaurants this year were:

Dumpling Shack in the Kitchen section of London’s Old Spitalfields Market.  Their Sheng Jian Bao get all the press and media attention, but the Boiled Vegan Dumplings in Soy Garlic Dressing should not be overlooked.

Tipsy Shanghai, near New York University, made the list for its Sheng Jian Bao and Wonton soup.

Excellent Dumpling House has been around for 37+ years, first in Chinatown and now on 23rd street, and made the list for its Pork Xiao Long Bao and Hot and Spicy Wontons.

The top prepared, super-market dumplings for the home cook were Rising Moon’s, Organic Garlic and Roasted Veggie Ravioli

The lowlight for the year was Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant, which is somehow getting reviews on par with Vegetarian Dim Sum Restaurant, but is nowhere near as good, and was frankly bad.

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Spicy Moon, NY, NY

Spicy Moon is a relatively new, vegan Sichuan style Chinese restaurant in New York’s East Village neighborhood, that is sensational.  It is a small, ex-ramen joint that has seating for maybe a dozen people and modern interior design sense. You order from Dim Sum style menus that list the menu items with check-boxes next to each item that you mark to indicate your order.  While we were there, there was a mix-up in the kitchen and a nearby table received an extra order of Dan Dan Noodles they didn’t want and we were the lucky beneficiaries.  The noodles were cooked perfectly al dente with a slight chew and were sauced with a smoky, mildly spicy chili oil.  But the master stroke was the use of Beyond Meat’s ground “beef” which almost perfectly imitated the texture and flavor of the minced meat commonly served in Dan Dan Noodles.  After eating these Dan Dan Noodles I see no reason to go back to eating non-vegan versions of this dish.

The Dumplings:  We tried three plates of dumplings and they ranged from great to excellent.  The Steamed Vegetable Dumplings once again showed Spicy Moons’s deft handling of noodle dough.  The dumpling wrappers were on the slightly thicker side and the dumplings were steamed so the dough was cooked just al dente, giving the wrappers a really enjoyable chew.

We also tried the Rice Shumai, which are a vegan version of traditional Shanghai style Shumai, which are classically filled with dirty rice cooked with pork and Chinese sausage.  Somehow Spicy Moon has figured out how to make a vegetable based dirty rice that has the same savory umami flavor as the traditional meat-based dirty rice.  The only indication that the filling was vegetable based was the single pea, corn kernel and piece of carrot decorating the top of each shumai.

The Wontons in Chili Oil was our last selection and I really enjoyed them, but their chili oil cold be spicier and the wontons could have used a little larger portion of filling.  The chili oil had a deep smoky flavor that was great but overshadowed the tofu, Chinese greens and mushroom that filled the wontons. I think that if there was more filling in the wontons the balance between the sauce and the wontons would have been better.

The Location:  Spicy Moon is on 6th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, on a block that used to be known as Manhattan’s Curry Alley.  The restaurant scene on sixth street has evolved since it became known for Indian restaurants over 30 years ago and now the block has Japanese, Chinese and Ethiopian restaurants.  You will know Spicy Moon from its bright kaleidoscopic window design and a sign requesting that you not wear fur in the restaurant.

Posted in New York City, Shumai, Sichuan Dumplings, Steamed, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons | Leave a comment

Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant, NY, NY

Bodhi’s Banner

Vegetarian Dim Sum House in New York’s Chinatown is my usual go-to for vegan dim sum, but recently I have noticed that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is getting as good or better reviews online.  So to satisfy my recent dim sum cravings I hit Mulberry Street for some Kosher dim sum. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant has a more extensive list of dumplings (for instance, Curry Dumplings) than Veggie Dim Sum House, so my plan was to have a couple of meals at Bodhi and then do an extensive write-up.  But Bodhi was pretty bad and I decided it was one and done.  In addition to some dumplings, we tried the Buddha’s Delight on Pan Fried Noodles which was a big disappointment.  It had a bland, over corn-starched brown sauce that got increasingly gloppy as the sauce cooled.

Vegetable Soup Dumplings

Pan-Fired Buns

The Dumplings:  I don’t think I have ever seen a vegan soup dumpling on a menu before, so I was excited to try them out.  The dumplings arrived completely over steamed, so the wrappers were water logged and on the verge of disintegration.  The filling was like a thick stew with little pieces of textured soy protein in it, and it had an overall phlegmy texture.  The flavor was overwhelmingly of raw ginger.  These dumplings were really bad.

The Pan Fried Buns came three to an order and looked really good. The golden fried buns were perhaps the lightest and fluffiest Chinese bread product I have eaten and the bun was really enjoyable.  But the filling was made of shredded vegetables, without any noticeable seasoning, and really had no flavor.  Overall, these buns were disappointing.

The Location: I don’t advise going, but if you must, Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is in New York’s Chinatown on Mulberry Street between Canal and Bayard Streets.

Epilogue:  We didn’t eat much at Bodhi and were hungrily wandering through Chinatown when we stumbled upon Mimi Cheng’s Broome Street location.  We got an order of their amazing pan-fried Super V dumplings, which are filled with carrots, chives, napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, and were just incredibly flavorful.  Plus their secret dipping sauce is amazing.

Mimi Cheng’s Supper V Dumplings served pan-fried.
Posted in Bao, Dim Sum, New York City, Soup Dumpling, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Great British Baking Show Alumni at Din Tai Fung

We at Dumpling Hunter are big fans of the Great British Baking Show and are psyched that season 10 is streaming on NetFlix.  Although they are only releasing one show a week, so it is not yet binge-able.  Because The Google knows about my fandom, an article from the Daily Mail popped up on my news feed about a Baking Show alumni reunion that took place at Din Tai Fung’s Covent Garden location.  Apparently contestants from multiple seasons gathered at the restaurant for a meal of Xiao Long Bao and took dumpling making lessons with the restaurant’s chefs.  Video from the event is HERE and you can see that some of the bakers are more successful at making dumplings than others.

Posted in News, Soup Dumpling, Xiao Long Bao | Leave a comment

Bitterballen

Curry Bitterballen at Bar Bitterbal

The Netherlands doesn’t seem to have an indigenous dumpling but they do have Bitterballen, which is the country’s national bar snack. They are similar to Japanese Takoyaki in that a batter or roux with a meat filling is shaped into a ball and then fried so that the outside is crispy and the inside is soft and creamy.  Bitterballen usually contain minced or chopped beef or veal and the roux is made from broth, butter, flour, parsley, salt and pepper.  Most recipes also include nutmeg and some variants also add in curry powder, and there are vegetarian varieties as well.  The roux is mixed and cooked and then refrigerated so that it firms up.  Once the roux is firm, it is rolled into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter which are then battered with egg wash and breadcrumbs and deep-fried.  Because the outside coating is made of breadcrumbs Bitterballen could reasonably be classified as croquettes, but the creaminess of the interior feels closer to a takoyaki.

Bitterballen at Cafe De Groene Vlinder

Cafe De Groene Vlinder (Green Butterfly Cafe) – I tried this place out while walking the amazing Albert Cuyp street market in the Nieuwe Pijp district and selected it mainly because of its location on a small lively square looking out on the market.  These were my first Bittenball of my trip and I see why they are Holland’s favorite bar snack, the fried coating and savory, slightly meaty flavored interior went so well with beer.  The interior roux had grey color which I found a little aesthetically off-putting but the flavor was really good. The Bittenball come with a little boat of yellow mustard. Cafe De Groene Vlinder has lots of outdoor seating and is at the corner of Albert Cuypstraat and Eerste van der Helststraat (https://cafe-de-groene-vlinder.nl/)

Curry Bittenbllen

Bar Bitterbal –  This bar, just south of Amsterdam’s Old Town, serves 25 varieties of Bitterballen – grouped into Meat, Cheese, Seafood and Vegetable – with some interesting filling choices, including Wild Boar, Pulled Pork, Lobster, Oyster Mushroom and Dark Beer and Black Truffle.  I tried the very enjoyable vegan Indian Curry Bitterballen which had a strong curry flavor and a moderate level of spice heat.  The Indian Curry Bitterballen come with a sambal chili dipping sauce and some pickles and chutney. Bar Bitterbal has two other vegan options, the Humus and Roasted Chili Pepper varieties.  This is definitely the place to go to conduct a wide survey of Bitterballen and they have some great Dutch and Belgium beers on tap. Bar Bitterbal is on Utrechtsestraat just north of Herengracht. (https://barbitterbal.nl/en/home/)

Bitterballen Gewaeght Cafe

Gewaeght Cafe – I hit this spot because it made the list of top 5 bitterballen on the BITTERBALLENBRUID blog although it mainly made the list for its ambiance, interior design – paintings, records and memorabilia celebrating music from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s –  and  “gezellig” atmosphere.  Gezellig is a Dutch term that has no literal translation into English, but seems to reflect the feeling of being a regular at one’s local pub, bar or cafe.  The bitterballen were good but not out standing and the decor was pretty cool, but I really liked its location looking out onto Nieuwmarkt Square.  The bitterballen come in orders of six or nine and are served with the usual yellow mustard dpping sauce.  If you are spending a day wandering through the Old Town section of Amsterdam this is a good place to take a break and get a beer and a snack. Gewaeght Cafe is at the corner where Bloedstraat hits Nieuwmarkt Square (http://gewaeght.nl/en/).

Posted in Bitterballen, Travel, Vegan Recipe, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

STEAM Noodle Cafe, Great Barrington, MA

Vegan Gyoza

STEAM Noodle Cafe is a tiny joint with one small round table for 3, counter space for another 8-10 people and two small tables out back in the parking lot.  The Thai chef serves up a pan-Asian menu that includes a really great vegan ramen with house made kimchi and a tasty classic sausage and pate Banh Mi, on a not so classic wheat grinder roll.  The chef’s husband mans the dumpling station, hand rolling out and stuffing dumplings and fried curry puffs.  They have fine selection of Fish, Hoisin, Sambal and yellow and red Sriracha sauces and a refrigerated cooler that stocks to-go containers of dumplings, Curry Puffs, and buns.  I really enjoyed STEAM Noodle Cafe and ended up having lunch and dinner there.  There is little in the way of vegan food in Great Barrington, but STEAM provides a lot of vegan options and the prices are very reasonable.

The Dumplings:  STEAM serves the Thai street food classic, Kaow Grieap Bak Mua which is a rice flour dumpling wrapper folded around sweet radish, peanuts, and sauteed shallots and served in coconut milk and garnished with more peanuts and fried shallots.  This dumplings gives you sweet, nutty, savory and crunchy in each bite.  This the first time I have had this delicious dumpling and I am surprised I haven’t seen it on more menus.

The vegan gyoza use a wheat flour wrapper and are stuffed with cabbage, shiitake mushroom, scallion, ginger and garlic.  They are cooked with a batter, that when fried, links the gyoza together with a crispy lacy crust.  The gyoza pie is an order of 12 gyoza, fried together into a large sheet of lace batter.  I really enjoyed these gyoza but I found the ginger in the dipping sauce to be harsh and overpowering.    

Finally, I tried the fist sized, steamed pork bun, which had beautifully sweat BBQ pork encased in a light fluffy Chinese bun.  Their bun selection also includes salted egg yolk custard buns and chicken and mushroom buns.  Like several of the other items on the menu, this dish also uses a wheat flour; this is not a good place for those with Celiac disease.

Location: STEAM Noodle Cafe is located on the main commercial strip in Great Barrington, in the Barrington Place and Atrium Shops.  The Atrium has a half-dozen small, locally owned restaurants and STEAM is in the back, furthest from the Main street entrance.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Gyoza, Pork, Potsticker, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment