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

Atlas Obscura article on Crab Rangoon

I just recently discovered Atlas Obscura and have been reading the articles like crazy.  My Google news feed originally clued me in when the algorithm suggested an article entitled  “What the Heck Is Crab Rangoon Anyway?” and from there I was sucked down the rabbit hole.  The article on Crab Rangoon is excellent and traces the origin of Crab Rangoon back to Trader Vic’s, and the post-war Tiki craze.  Crab Rangoon is a deep fried wonton wrapper stuffed with cream cheese and crab meat and served with a syrupy, neon colored sweet-and-sour dipping sauce.  The dish appears to have been invented from whole cloth by the owner of Trader Vic’s as a imagined Polynesian appetizer.  My favorite Crab Rangoon are from The Real Le Anh Chinese Food cart on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania

The article also places Crab Rangoon within American-Chinese cuisine. The article describes American-Chinese cuisine as resulting from the exclusionary immigration laws that sought to keep Chinese immigrants out of the U.S. but that had a loop-hole that allowed for “merchant visas”.  In 1915 a court ruled that restaurant owners qualified for merchant visas providing a route for Chinese immigration to the U.S.  American-Chinese cuisine took on its familiar form, in part, because many ingredients that were expensive in China were cheap in America, and vice versa. Oil for deep frying, sugar and chicken were cheap while ingredients like Szechuan peppercorns were hard to source.

Atlas Obscura also has a really good article on Kimchi and the practice of families putting aside a weekend or two in November or December to make industrial quantities of kimchi.

Posted in Amherst, Crab Rangoon, News, Philadelphia | Leave a comment

Tim Ho Wan, New York, NY

Har Gow

Billing itself as the world’s cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant, Tim Ho Wan is an international chain of dim sum restaurants.  The first location in Hong Kong earned a star in 2010 and has kept it for the pas 9 years, three of the subsequent locations in Hong Kong also earned Michelin stars.  However, I don’t think the location in New York’s East Village is going to earn a star, it was really good, but the restaurant had not even earned an A rating on New York City’s restaurant inspection grading report card.  I don’t usually eat at B graded restaurants, but I didn’t see the grade card until I left the restaurant.  There are now 47 locations worldwide and in 2018 the chain was bought out by a venture capital fund, so I expect the expansion will accelerate.

Pork and Shrimp Shumai

At the East Village location the dim sum is not served from roving cards pushed around the restaurant.  Instead the place mats are covered with pictures of the food which are labelled with letters and numbers and serve as the menu. You order by reading the place mat and then filling out a card indicating how many servings of each dish you want.

There were a few specials available and we tried the fish ball and quid in curry sauce, usually one of my favorite dishes.  The version at Tim Ho Wan was not great, the curry sauce was thin and very mild, the squid was over cooked beyond rubbery and body pieces were not edible and the dish came with large pieces of tripe, which was not mentioned in the description of the dish.  Thankfully the dumplings were really good.

BBQ Pork Buns

BBQ Pork

The Dumplings:  While I thought the menu was a little sparse compared to other dim sum places I frequent (XO Taste, XO Kitchen, Veggie Dim Sum), Tim Ho Wan has a good selection of dumplings and buns.  Their BBQ Pork buns are not the traditional steamed white bread buns with pink pork breaking through the top, but rather, look like a baked desert bun.  They are also not the gut filling size of a traditional steamed bun, they are smaller and come three to an order.  But most importantly the buns were delicious, and were packed with sweat BBQ pork and lots of tangy BBQ sauce.

Probably though, the standout for the night were the shrimp Har Gow, they were so good we ended getting four orders of them.  The rice dough wrappers were tightly wrapped around coarsely chopped, super fresh, sweet tasting shrimp.  One of the things I appreciated about the service was the speed with which they were getting food from the steamers to the table.   When Haw Gow sit for even a little while after coming out of the steam the rice dough gets sticky and gummy, these ones still had all their steamed heat and were slippery and supple.  My dining companions with weaker chop stick skills had a hard time holding onto the Har Gow.

Fried Pork Dumplings

I was warned by a friend that the Shumai are not the strongest option at Tim Ho Wan, but I thought they were quite good, in fact we got two orders of them.  They were filled with more of the sweet tasty shrimp mixed with savory pork, and once again got to our table immediately out of the steam.  The last dish we tried was the fried pork dumplings, which arrived on the table looking like goose eggs.  These dumplings are deep fried so the rice flour wrapper develops an out layer of crispiness and the dumpling balloons out into an egg shape. I though these dumplings had a really nice balance, the wrappers were slightly sweet and the pork filling was salty and savory and the wrappers were both crispy and chewy.  These dumplings were a contender with the Har Gow for best dumplings of the night.

The Location:  Tim Ho Wan is on the Western edge of New York’s East Village neighborhood, on fourth avenue at the corner of 10th street.  It is conveniently close to Union Square, New York University and the L train stops.

Posted in Bao, Buns, Chinese, Crystal Shrimp, Dim Sum, Har Gou, New York City, Pork, Shrimp, Shumai, Steamed | Leave a comment

Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup

Shiitake wonton soup

I have been meaning to try making Connoisseurus Veg’s Vegan Shiitake Wonton Soup recipe for a while now and finally found time to try it this weekend.  The recipe calls for filling the wontons with raw diced shiitake, ginger, garlic and scallion, but I find that putting raw ginger into a dumpling filling can create a harsh flavor. So I sauteed the ginger and garlic in canola oil, let it cool for a while and then mixed in the diced mushroom and scallions so they were coated with the ginger and garlic. The broth is very straight forward to make but the ginger flavor was too intense for me, I would recommend using half of the ginger the recipe calls for and doubling the rice vinegar.  One key trick for this recipe is to bring the broth to boil so the flavors come together and then turn the burner down so the broth comes to a simmer before you add the wontons; a vigorously boiling broth will cause the wontons to break apart.

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