Manti in Philadelphia

Spinach Manti with Yogurt Sauce

PhillyMag.com has published a round-up of Philadelphia restaurants serving Manti, the small dumplings found in found in Turkish, Armenian, Uzbek, and other Middle Eastern and central Asian cuisines.  Apparently Middle-Eastern cuisine is ascendant as a food trend in Philadelphia and manti in many forms are being embraced.  Manti are usually served with a variety of sauces and garnishes including yogurt, spiced tomato sauce or infused oil, browned butter, a sprinkle of fresh mint or tangy sumac.  Last year I hit  Efes Mediterranean Grill in New Brunswick for their enjoyable spinach mandi which are served with a mild garlic yogurt sauce and melted butter seasoned with red pepper.  Wikipedia has an extensive discussion on the many forms of manti, their origins and possible links to Korean mandu, Chinese mantou, and Japanese manjū.

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Rising Moon, Organic Garlic and Roasted Veggie Ravioli.

Riding Moon Garlic and Roasted Veggie Ravioli

Rating:

I needed to make a quick dinner this weekend and once again turned to Rising Moon’s line of frozen ravioli.  The company began with a ravioli subscription service, delivered by bicycle, and then expanded to include foccaccia breads and sauces and now provides frozen pasta to supermarkets.

I gave their White Bean and Kale Ravioli and Spinach Florentine Ravioli 5 star ratings, but felt their Mushroom Ravioli fell short and only gave them 2.5 stars.  This time I tried Rising Moon’s Organic Garlic & Roasted Veggie Ravioli which are part of their vegan line and are filled with tofu, butternut squash, spinach, garlic, carrots, tomato and onion powder.  With their distinct roast garlic flavor that can complement a strong marinara sauce, these ravioli rate 5 stars.  The other components of the filling don’t really provide much flavor but presumably add some nutrient value.  I boiled the ravioli as instructed on the package and served them with a homemade spicy red sauce that worked with really well with the ravioli’s roasted garlic flavor.  These ravioli make an excellent quick dinner for two.

Ravioli with spicy homemade marinara sauce, served on a homemade plate

 

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Pork Wontons in Szechwan Sauce

The Cottage Restaurant is part of a dying breed of restaurants in Manhattan, an old-school American-Chinese restaurant. As much as I have enjoyed the influx of excellent traditional and regional Chinese restaurants that have been opening on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, sometimes I just crave the American-Chinese classics like Egg Rolls, Crab Rangoon, Chow Mein or some Moo Shoo Pork.  It also helps that The Cottage provides all you can drink wine for free with your meal, its cheap white wine but it is free.

Some of the reviews on Yelp complain that The Cottage is not a traditional or legitimate Chinese restaurant.  But these reviewers miss the point, The Cottage is a classic American-Chinese restaurant that has been in business for 38 years, cooking a distinct style of food.  The Cottage opened back when Chinese restaurants outside of U.S. Chinatowns were primarily catering to American taste palates and using Western ingredients.  American-Chinese cuisine was the gateway that led U.S. diners to embrace traditional Chinese cuisines and arguably prepared the American palate for the Thai and Vietnamese restaurants that expanded across the U.S. in the 90’s.

The Dumplings:  The Cottage serves fried or steamed pork dumplings, vegetable dumplings, pork dumplings in hot oil and shrimp dumplings in Szechuan sauce.  The waiter told me that the hot oil and Szechuan sauce were the same sauce and that really it was a choice between pork or shrimp wontons.

Pork Wonton

Chive Dumplings

The order of pork wontons in hot oil/Szechuan sauce has 14 wontons in a sesame, soy, and chili oil sauce with lots of slivered scallions.  The pork filling in the wontons had very little flavor and mainly provided a textural contrast to the wonton wrappers.  The sauce itself was also quite mild and did not live up to its double billing of hot oil or Szechuan sauce, there were no Szechuan pepper corns in the sauce and no chili heat.  But it was a pretty good sesame sauce, that was thick enough to cling to the wontons so I got a lot of sauce in each bite.  They also use this sauce with the scallion pancakes and I imagine they also use this sauce with the cold noodles in sesame sauce.

I also tried the vegetable dumplings, which are filled with chives and they were either boiled or steamed.  These dumplings had a very clear, clean flavor of chives that I really enjoyed, they were tasty and they screamed healthy.  But I didn’t really enjoy the way the wrappers were folded into a square tab at one end of the dumpling.  This wad of wrapper dough made a convenient handle to grab the dumplings by with chop sticks, but this part of the dumpling was stodgy and chewy to eat.  I ended up just biting the chive filled portion of the dumpling off the tab and leaving a pile of these wads of dough on the plate.

The sauce that the chive dumplings came with was really good, it was a mix of soy and vinegar and was packed with slivered scallions.  The flavor of the scallions had completely suffused into the dipping sauce and elevated it.

The Location:  The Cottage Restaurant is in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood and is on Amsterdam Avenue at the corner of 77th street.

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HMart Veggie Big Gyoza Dumplings With Master Brand Hot Dumpling Sauce

Dumpling Rating:   Sauce Rating: 

I previously reviewed HMart’s Kimchi Big Gyoza Dumplings frozen dumplings aka Hansang Kimchi Gyoza and gave them five stars – they are delicious. I recently tried another of the Big Gyoza Dumpling line of products, the Vegetable version.  Unlike the Kimchi ones, these are vegan and contain tofu, leak, cabbage, onion, vermicelli, spring onion, and garlic.  I am giving these dumplings 3 out of 5 stars because, while the Kimchi ones had a big bold, complex flavor, the vegetable ones were good but had a much milder flavor.  There was a distinct sweet onion flavor over a savory umami background taste, but the flavor was really one note.    I tried these with Master Brand Hot Dumpling Sauce, which was not spicy at all and significantly sweeter than I like.  I prefer a stronger shot of rice vinegar tartness in my dumpling dipping sauce than Master Brand sauce delivers.

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Dumpling News: May 2019

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

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

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

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Rising Moon, Frozen Mushroom Ravioli

Rising Moon ravioli

Rating: 

Wild Mushroom Ravioli

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

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

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

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Atlas Kitchen, New York, NY

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

Crab and Pork Dumplings

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

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

Pan-Seared Pork Dumplings

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

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

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

Tipsy Shanghai, New York, NY

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

Sheng Jian Bao

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

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

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

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

HanSang Pork and Vegetable Dumplings & Mizkan Goma Shabu Sauce

Rating: 

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

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

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

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

Izakaya Ida Closed

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

 

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