Where to Find Vegetarian Chinese Dumplings
Mimi Cheng's Dumplings (179 Second Avenue) has a homey feeling: It's a bright, open space with communal tables, walls lined with the owners' artworks, and a chalkboard showing the day's menu.
That idea of home was key to the owners, sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng, who began the restaurant on the premise of family, naming it after their mother, whose nickname is Mimi. The passion project began when their mom moved to Arizona and could no longer drive into the city from their home in Rockland County, to foist bags of dumplings upon her daughters.
Marian and Hannah decided that they'd have to make the dumplings themselves. They started with the classic Mimi Cheng dumpling — made with chicken and zucchini — which is the dumpling the sisters grew up eating. They then enlisted the help of their mom to create the other recipes, with the goal of serving their patrons healthy dumplings. "We want to use ingredients that have a lot of flavor themselves, and are very vibrant and nutritional," says Marian.
Vegetarian dumplings are few and far between. However, the Cheng sisters didn't decide to create a vegetarian dumpling — what they call the "Mighty Veggie" (6 for $8, 8 for $10) — purely out of necessity.
"We love vegetables...we love eating a very vegetable-centered diet," says Marian. "Growing up, our mom made lots of vegetable plates for us as well. My dad was born in the Year of the Horse — the Chinese zodiac sign — so we always, always had plates of vegetables at each dinner. We wanted something really hearty and the [Mighty Veggie] dumpling is based off ingredients we love."
Mimi Cheng's veggie dumplings, which you can get either fried or boiled, are stuffed with kale, zucchini, egg, and shiitake mushrooms. The fried dumplings become extremely crispy, while the veggies and eggs on the inside remain soft and delicate.
On our most recent visit, herbivores could supplement their dumplings with two side dishes (each $5). The first was a light kale fried rice; the second side dish was broccoli sautéed in garlic.
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