Dumpling Magic

Four years ago Chinatown's first dumpling stall appeared on Allen Street. At Fried Dumpling, a dollar got you five pork-and-chive pot stickers, four fluffy pork buns, or a bowl of hot-and-sour soup—you could dine splendidly for two bucks. Others soon followed, and the current census stands at four. While most Chinese eateries serve food from Shanghai and points south, these establishments—which take fine advantage of some exceedingly cramped, low-end real estate—hail from Beijing, offering snacks based on wheat rather than rice, with a few southern Chinese flourishes thrown in.

After a whirlwind visit on my bike to all four, my current favorite is Dumpling House. The other day, I paused to watch the dumpling wrangler work his magic. Instead of a wok, he wields a circular cast-iron vessel with perpendicular sides and a flat bottom, which he tightly formats with six dozen hedgehog-shaped dumplings. Ladling on a rich broth, he claps down the lid and turns up the flame. A sizzling rends the air, and as the top of the dumplings steam, the bottoms fry to a deep brown.

Tender and crisp at the same time, these dumplings are good enough to draw customers back, but even better is the meek-sounding "chives and egg pancake" ($1), which a friend tells me is affectionately dubbed "chive box" in L.A. The three-person crew pause in their labors to generate these half-moon pies to order. Inside a thin curtain of dough is a mix of chopped chives, scrambled eggs, and bean-thread vermicelli. Another northern oddity is a sandwich ($1.50) made on a wedge of sesame bread layered with thin slices of aromatic boiled beef, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and hot sauce. One's a meal.

On the way out, I noticed a big jar of kimchee, and wondered how it got there. Through a translator I asked the countergal, Was it a present from a Korean patron? Her reply: "We have Korean food in North China, too."

Pleasantly plump: the finishing touch at Dumpling House
photo: Jay Muhlin
Pleasantly plump: the finishing touch at Dumpling House

Location Info

Map

Vanessa's Dumpling House

118A Eldridge St.
New York, NY 10002

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Chinatown

Rose & Joe's Italian Bakery

22-40 31 St.
Long Island City, NY 11105

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Long Island City

Cafe Sabarsky

1048 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10028

Category: Restaurant > German

Region: East 80s

Castro's

511 Myrtle Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Brooklyn

Details

Dumpling House
118A Eldridge Street,
625-8008.
Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cash only. Wheelchair accessible.

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BITES

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