September 20, 2010

Apple Dumplings, Anyone?


Fall is almost here (in 2 days, to be precise!) and I’m starting to get a little bit more excited for fall cooking.  I love how everything seems to have just a few more spices and I love how the cool, crisp, weather inspires me to make warm, comforting meals. But the one recipe that really caught my eye? Warm apple dumplings! Read the rest of this entry »

August 8, 2007

Dropping Elbows for Some Dumplings

How does Dumpling House (of Chinatown fame) do it?! They charge only $1 for 5 huge pork and chive dumplings. AND, they are delicious. The reason must have something to do the continuous dumpling distribution. You can buy 10, 20, even bags of 50 frozen dumplings. I seriously considered the latter option.

J* and I emerged from the Grand St. subway stop on a Sunday afternoon, roughly 3pm. We hoped the odd hour would help with the rumored crowd. We quickly scurried past the pungent odors of several fish markets to Dumpling House. Several people were grouped outside gazing at the menu over the entrance. Dumpling House is tiny, so you need to do your deciding outside. Only a single layer of people, maybe 5-6 people long, will fit up at the counter at one time. The back of the joint has a small counter with a few stools.

You need to be a bit aggressive to get up to the counter, with your money out, and make your order. And you have to pay attention to when your food is ready or you’ll lose it. While I was waiting at the counter for my food, a dumpling house woman was putting together another girl’s order and turned around for a second to retrieve something else, leaving a styrofoam container of dumplings in a plastic bag awaiting other items. A woman pushed her way up to the counter, put a dollar down, and snatched up the dumplings quickly, leaving with the stunned girl’s order despite shouts from the Dumpling House staff. I gave the girl a sympathetic glance and a shake of my head.

When our order came up, 10 pork and chive dumplings and a sesame pancake stuffed with beef, vegetables, and cilantro (paying $2.50 in total for two people), we quickly devoured it at the back of the restaurant. The dumplings were pan-fried (we specified steamed, but we weren’t going to cause trouble at the counter) and deliciously crispy on the bottom. They were large and generously stuffed with the flavorful pork and vegetable mixture. I loved the sesame pancake stuffed with beef even more, never having sampled such a pancake-sandwich (genius!).

I would fear to attempt Dumpling House during rush hours, but I will definitely be back on an odd afternoon for some cheap eats.

May 21, 2007

I’m a Giant in Chinatown

Please forgive me. Several weeks have passed since I took these pictures from the Taste of Chinatown. It’s about time I blogged about the food festival. It was a warm, Saturday afternoon and I was with a motley collection of friends. We zig-zagged through the crowd and fought our way over to the street-side tables, where $1 and $2 tasting portions were offered to the crowd. There were no tables, so overly hungry eyes could mean juggling several Styrofoam containers while eating standing up and walking through the crowd. (Sure, there were a couple chair-less tables scattered down the center of the street, but these were rarely open for occupation.)

Fried rice and pork dumplings were the first selection for which we fought, and for $2, we received quite a respectable portion. I shoveled rice into my mouth straight from the small container as we continued to scope out more food. The Peking Duck place looked amazing, and the line around the block confirmed our suspicions. In the end though, we were not motivated enough to wait (I will be going back for this, mmmm duck).

We visited this table next for a collection of egg rolls, steamed pork bao, fried shrimp, and these little pork burger-things which throughly confused me. The shrimp was quite tasty, but certainly unremarkable, and I really wasn’t a fan of the bao. It seemed a little too gooey on the outside for my taste. At this point, my friends and I were already too full and wanting to get out of the sun. We slipped into a bakery/tea shop/karaoke club for bubble tea. If you are not privy to the magic of bubble tea, it’s basically a fruity frozen drink with little balls of tapioca which you suck up through the straw while drinking and chew. This shop had a really nifty machine that seals the top of frozen bubble tea with a film of plastic, and can be punctured with the over-sized straw. Fun fun.

Visit’s collection of Chinese Food recipes here.

February 5, 2007

You Say Potato, I Say Pel-meni

I’d like to introduce everyone to the little-known love of my life: potato dumplings. If you find it odd that such a plain, unattractive little lump could cause my pulse to race, then you’ve obviously never had a true Russian potato dumpling. You can find dumplings in some form or another in most cultures: the Chinese have wontons or potstickers, the Jews have kreplach, the Indians have samosas and the Polish of pierogis. But my absolute favorite are Russian dumplings called vareniky. You may have heard of pel-meni, which are technically dumplings filled with meat, but the word is often used to refer to both types.

Ironically, it was not my Russian boyfriend who introduced me to these pockets of potato. Instead, I stumbled upon them while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison for undergrad. The glorious State Street, which runs through the center of the downtown area, contains a vast array of ethnic and not so ethnic cuisines. And among them all is a tiny hole in the wall called Pel-meni. Tucked in among the chain restaurants and other local eateries, Pel-meni’s tiny store-front window (often completed fogged up due to the steamy heat inside and the frigid Madison weather outside) boasts its name in Russian and English letters. Though admittedly sketchy-looking from the outside, I don’t think I ever passed by around 2 a.m. when there wasn’t a line out the door (and rarely was I not waiting in line as well). Serving up large plates (or to-go boxes) of meat- or potato-stuffed dumplings with your choice of hot sauce, this foreign staple has become a favorite haunt for many.

Sadly, with my college days behind me, I was at a loss for my potato dumpling cravings until my boyfriend’s mother found the cure for my hunger pains. She found a women who makes dumplings in her house and sells them in bags of 100 for the obscenely cheap price of $10 per bag. The homemade dough wraps around perfectly seasoned potatoes and with just a few minutes in boiling water, they’re ready to eat! After coming out of the water, all they really need is a bit of butter to keep them from sticking. Pel-meni serves their dumplings with a side of sour cream and a slice of dark rye bread and that’s just how I like mine! Some people also like to add hot sauce.

I haven’t found a Russian woman yet who is willing to give up her secret vareniky recipe, so alas, I cannot share one here. The best I can do is point you in the direction of Madison, Wisconsin (or Juneau, Alaska – they have a restaurant there too. Really.) and tell you to get in line.

While Recipe4Living isn’t lucky enough to have stolen any pel-meni or vareniky recipes yet, we do have recipes for some interesting dumplings from other cultures. Want to share you dumpling recipe? Click here.

Cantonese-Style Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
Michaelangelo’s Potato Gnocchi
Polish Lazy Dumplings
Canedereli Tirolesi (Italian Bread Dumplings)

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