Vegan Beef and Leek Dumplings in Lemongrass Consumme

Vegan beef and leek dumplings in lemongrass consumme

For this dish I used the consumme recipe from Tal Ronnen’s cook book The Conscious Cook and used my recipe for vegan beef and leek dumplings, which uses Gardein beef-less tips.  Ronnen is the founder and chef of the high end plant-based, Crossroads restaurant in LA, which gets rave reviews and his cook book is a best seller.

The consumme is quite spicy, driven by the chilis, ginger and pepper corns, and works really well with the beef and leek filling in the wontons.  Get the consumme going and then as it simmers make the dumplings following my recipe.  Once you have completed the simmering of the consumme and strained the solids from the liquid, bring the consumme back to a boil and add in the dumplings.  Cook the dumplings for about ten minutes until they are floating in the consumme.  I poured the consumme over some cubes of semi-firm tofu for added protein and then added slivers of scallions for garnish.

The consumme recipe is

— sea salt
— 2 tablespoons canola oil
— 4 stalks lemongrass
— 2 stalks celery, diced
— 1 leek, thinly sliced
— 2 shallots, minced
— 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced
— 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
— 1 kaffir lime leaf
— 2 small dried red chilies
— 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
— 2 tablespoons sugar
— 2 quarts vegetable or faux-chicken stock

Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and all of the ingredients except for the sugar and stock and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sugar and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Pour the consomme through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids, and return to the pot.

Posted in Recipe, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings, Wontons | 1 Comment

Grain House, New York, NY

Last month the weird and excellent Coffee Break (aka Ten Ming Gong Zhe) closed and was replaced by an outpost of Queens’ Grain HouseCoffee Break served some of the best Sheng Jian Bao in the City and also had a spectacular Chinese sausage and cabbage fried rice.  But with the transition of Coffee Break to Grain House, the Upper West Side of Manhattan has gained some excellent Szechuan food.  The owner got his start operating a take-out restaurant catering to international students from China attending SUNY Stony Brook.  The take-out business did well enough that he brought on another chef from China and opened a full restaurant in Queens serving the Chinese immigrant community.  They decided to expand to the area just south of Columbia University because so many Columbia international students were traveling to eat at their restaurant in Queens.

Spicy and Numbing Wontons

The menu has a few American-Chinese dishes (see Sesame Chicken and General Tso’s Chicken), but also has a lot of traditional and regional Chinese dishes, doubtlessly for the international students.  I tried the Hot Spicy Jumbo Shrimp with Red Pepper, which were actually medium size shrimp served on an intimidating bed of red chili peppers with slices of garlic, onion, red and green bell peppers mixed in.  The shrimp tasted amazing with a complex flavor from the onion and garlic and I suspect cumin, and had a ton of spice that made my face sweat.

The Dumplings:  Once I got over my grief that I could no longer get Jian Bao at this location, I settled down and checked out their dumplings menu – Pot Stickers, Pork and Vegetable Dumplings, Pork Soup Dumplings, Chicken Dumpling, Pan Fried Pork Dumplings, Vegetable Dumplings, Pork Wonton in Spicy Sweet-Chili Oil, Crystal Shrimp Dumplings, and Spicy and Numbing Pork Wonton.


Pot StickersGrain House’s Pot Stickers are a pork dumpling that is first steamed and then pan fried on the bottom side. These dumplings were really juicy and tend to explode when you bite into them, I managed to spray my shirt sleeve with juice.  So treat these pot stickers like soup dumplings, bite a small hole in the wrapper and slurp the tasty juice out before you fully bite into the dumpling.  The filling had a really good salty, savory pork flavor.

Crystal Shrimp Dumplings

Crystal Shrimp Dumplings – as much as I enjoyed the Pot Stickers, the Crystal Shrimp dumplings were a disappointment.  The wrappers were well done – translucent, sticky, stretchy and slightly sweet – but the shrimp were flavorless.  Thankfully the shrimp and wrapper were absorbent so they served as a good sauce delivery vehicle.

Wonton covered in chili oil

Spicy and Numbing Pork Wonton – This wonton in red oil dish is served in a deep bowl with the wontons laying just below the surface of impressively/intimidatingly volcanic looking red chili oil.  When the waiter puts this dish in front of you it is like looking down into the lava filled crater at the top of Mount Doom in Mordor.  The wonton skins hugged the pork filling, forming crinkly, cauliflower head like shapes with lots of surface area for the sauce to cling to.  The filling was well seasoned and tasty but after one or two of these wontons all I could feel was spice heat.  This is a dish that fights back, but you keep wanting to go back for another sweaty round.  Based on the name of the dish I was expecting the oil to be seasoned with tingle and numbness inducing Szechuan pepper corns, which are usually used in Szechuan cuisine to balance out the spice.  But these pepper corns were not noticeably present in the bowl I was given.  Despite the lack of “numbing” this was a great bowl of wontons.

The Location:  Grain House is on Amsterdam Avenue between 105th and 106th street.  This area is experiencing a Chinese restaurant renaissance fueled by the international students at Columbia. Grain House only seats about 20 people, so if it is packed, as it was the last two times I tried to go, there are plenty of great options nearby (Happy Hunan Hotpot, Xi’an Famous Foods, Lava Kitchen, and see this map of all the nearby dumpling spots).

Posted in Crystal Shrimp, New York City, Pork, Potsticker, Wontons | Leave a comment

Rising Moon Frozen Spinach Florentine Ravioli

Rising Moon Spinach Florentine Ravioli

Spinach Florentine with red sauce.


I previously reviewed (here) Rising Moon’s frozen White Bean and Kale ravioli and also gave them five stars.  Rising Moon has been in business for 20 years beginning with a bicycle delivered ravioli subscription service, and then expanding to include frozen raviolis, foccaccia breads and sauces.

This time around I tried their Spinach Florentine Ravioli, which is kind of a redundant name as dishes prepared a la Florentine almost always include spinach and are often accompanied by cheese.  The link between spinach and Florence is thought to be related to  Catherine de Medicis, who was from Florence and introduced spinach into Gallic cuisine with her marriage to France’s Prince Henry in 1533 (thanks to Saveur for that nugget).

Rising Moon’s frozen Spinach Ravioli are vegan and are excellent.  Each package comes with 12 ravioli, which is a hearty meal for one or a good opening course for two.  They use soy milk to make a ricotta cheese like filling that the spinach is mixed into.  The filling has a pretty convincing ricotta cheese flavor and there is quite a lot of spinach in these ravioli, enough that you can taste the healthy green goodness. I boiled and then pan-fried the ravioli so they were crispy on the bottom, I highly recommend this approach for ravioli.

Posted in Frozen Dumpling Review, Ravioli | Leave a comment

Wontons in Red Chili Oil Battle

Suanla Chaoshou, aka Wontons in Red Chili oil or Szechuan (or Sichuan) Wontons, are fast becoming my favorite dumpling preparation.  This dish is pork wontons served with a chili oil dressing, as J. Kenji López-Alt on SeriousEats aptly put it, “Sweet and savory. Slippery and slick. Juicy and tender. Hot and sour. Garlicky. So. Freaking. Good.”  There are some variations to the sauce that include crushed peanuts or sesame paste, but the essentials to the aromatic sauce are sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, and roasted chili oil. I tried Suanla Chaoshou recently at Shanghai Asian Cuisine and Ollies Sichuan.

I mainly know Ollies from their prior Manhattan Upper West Side locations near Columbia University and near Lincoln Center, which were locally known as Oil-lies and sold American-Chinese food.  But my Chinese colleague told me that Ollies Sichuan in midtown was serving legit Sichuan dishes and that he would do the ordering to make sure I tasted the good stuff.  Some of the dishes he ordered are not on the official menu, Fuqi Feipian 夫妻肺片 (beef tendon and offal in chili sauce) and Suan Cai Yu 酸菜鱼 (hot and sour fish soup with pickled mustard greens), but can be ordered by talking to the waiter.  The beef dish was not to my taste, but the fish dish was amazing, as were the Sauteed Green Pea Stems.

Pork Dumplings in Red Chili Oil at Ollies Sichuan

The menu has Wonton in Red Sesame Oil with one chili emoji next to it and Pork Dumplings in Red Chili Oil with three chili emojis next to it.  I went for the three chili version and was pretty disappointed.  The dumplings were large and plump and the sauce was spicy, but the sauce lacked any other flavor, no sweet, sour or garlic and the pork filling was bland.  The spice level was also a lot lower than the other dishes we ordered, so eating them isn’t even really a challenge you can brag about.

Wonton Szechuan Style at Shanghai Asian Cuisine

Shanghai Asian Cuisine is known for its soup dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao and Shanghai Wonton Soup, but also sells Wonton Szechuan Style.  The sauce was comprised of red chili oil floating on a red paste, which I think was fermented bean or mashed red peppers and garlic.  The sauce was excellent, it had a full on spicy kick, sweet and sour notes and an umami and earthy funk from the paste.  The wontons had crinkly skins with excess noodle and lots of surface area that the sauce could cling to.

The Shanghai-ese restaurant won this battle of Sichuan Wontons.  Go to Ollies Sichuan for the amazing hot and sour fish soup and skip the Pork Dumplings with Red Chili Oil.

Shanghai Asian Cuisine is on Elizabeth Street between Canal and Bayard Streets in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  Ollies Sichuan is on 42nd street near 9th Avenue in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Posted in New York City, Sichuan Dumplings, Wontons | Leave a comment

Dim Sum VIP, New York, NY

Football Dumplings

The chefs at Dim Sum VIP have over 30 years of dim sum making experience in restaurants from Hong Kong to New York. Their restaurant is a narrow, bare bones storefront joint, seating maybe 50 people at small tables and a counter. The dining room has none of the typical red and gold decor of the large dim sum palaces and is too narrow for the dim sum to be served from carts.  You order from among 37 choices by marking your dishes in check boxes on a paper menu.   Dim Sum VIP doesn’t serve beer, but features freshly brewed house Puer tea, which is a type of fermented tea.

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns

Pork Pot Stickers

Crystal Shrimp Dumplings

Vegetable Buns

The Dumplings:  The menu has too many dumpling options to fully list here, but we tried the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings, the Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, the Pork Pot Stickers, the Football Dumplings and the Vegetable Buns.  Overall I thought Dim Sum VIP’s dumplings were serviceable but not great.

The Football Dumplings were probably my crew of dumpling eaters least favorite dish.  They were air filled, deep fried, football shaped puffs with a few scrawny pieces of mildly seasoned pork rattling around inside.  The Pork Pot Stickers fell a little flat; I thought they tasted fine and were well fried, but they were not really memorable.  The Steamed BBQ Pork Buns were an improvement on the Football Dumplings and Pot Stickers, they had a really light fluffy Chinese bread bun which I liked.  But my dining companions thought the bun bread was too soft and sticky and made the buns hard to eat.

On the better end of the spectrum, the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings had thin, slick rice flour wrappers and firm, fresh, slightly sweet shrimp inside.   These crystal dumplings were good. We also enjoyed the vegetable buns, which were steamed and then crispy pan fried on both sides, sort of like a veggie Shen Jian Bao. Other than pieces of water chestnut that gave the bun filling a great crunch, I am not really sure what the filling was made of and the waitresses weren’t forthcoming. Other foodie blogs suggest there is a mushroom based filling in these buns.  But whatever was in these buns, I enjoyed them quite a lot.

Dipping Sauces:  Dim Sum VIP doesn’t provide much in the way of dipping sauces, there is just a bottle of soy sauce on each table.  The lack of sauce options was a disappointment.

The Location:  Dim Sum VIP is in NYC’s Chinatown on Mott Street between Canal and Bayard Streets.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Dim Sum, New York City, Pan Fried, Pork, Potsticker, Shrimp, Sichuan Dumplings, Vegetarian, Veggie Dumplings | Leave a comment

Bun Battle: Kimchi Edition

The competitors for this bout are Mama Bunns at Gallery32 and Tour Les Jours just down the street on 32nd Street.

Tour Les Jours is one of several Korean-French pastry-coffee shop chains (see also Paris Baguette) that sell huge selections of buns, pastries, breads and cakes that mash-up French and Korean influences (see Red Bean Cream Pastry). Their kimchi croquette is a fried donut like pastry with a thin crispy crust around a light savory bun bread.  The filling was finely minced nappa kimchi, onion, sweet pepper, and sweet potato noodle and had a thick sauce texture.  The experience was very much like eating a jelly filled donut that had a Korean flavor profile.  I thought the filling had a very mild kimchi flavor with low heat. The outside of the croquette was greasy, so you will need several napkins.  These buns were decent, not great, but are a good gateway to kimchi.

Mama Bunns sells fist sized, more traditional, Chinese style steamed buns with a variety of filling choices.  Their kimchi bun is filled with roughly chopped cabbage kimchi, onion, scallion, vermicelli noodle and sesame oil.  Because the cabbage kimchi is roughly chopped, the filling had crunch and texture, it also had a full bodied, fermented kimchi flavor with a strong spice kick.  The buns are served right out of the steamer and are really hot, so you have to let them cool a little before you bite into them.  I think these kimchi buns are excellent, but eating one is dive into the deep end of the kimchi pool.

The winner of this battle was Mama Bunns, by a wide margin.

Posted in Bao, Bao Battle, Kimchi, Korean, New York City, Steamed, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Izakaya Ida, New York NY

Takoyaki at Izakaya Ida

Izakaya Ida is a casual Japanese pub that opened about six months ago in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood.  I went in without checking the menu and it turned out that the only dumplings they serve are Takoyaki.  I tried a few other dishes and their Matcha Onsen Tofu (boiled tofu with tea and sesame sauce) was fantastic, it was probably the best tofu dish I have had since Cho Dang Gol changed management and their tofu lost a step.

Izayaki Ida’s Takoyaki are also excellent. They were perfectly cooked with a crispy fried outer layer and creamy batter on the inside with a tender piece of octopus.  While their Takoyaki were expertly prepared and really tasty, a minor critique is that they were a bit under dressed.  They had copious drizzles of Japanese mayo and flakes of seaweed, but too little Takoyaki sauce and no bonito flakes. I prefer my Takoyaki fully dressed with lots of Takoyaki sauce, mayo, seaweed and a thick layer of bonito flakes.

I will definitely be heading back to Izakaya Ida for more boiled tofu and Takoyaki.  It is on 72nd street between Columbus and Amsterdam.

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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