The Winners!#1: Tasty Dumpling
54 Mulberry Street, New York NY (map); (212) 349-0070#2: Prosperity Dumpling
46 Eldridge Street, New York NY (map); (212) 343-0683#3: Vanessa's Dumpling House
118 Eldridge Street, New York NY (map); (212) 625-8008;
I'm in love with dumplings of all kinds. From Shanghainese steamed xiao long bao with their liquid center filling to Japanese gyoza (yeah, my mom's are the best). But my desert island dumpling would be the chewy-crispy, pork-filled, Beijing-style guo tie. The name literally translates to "pot stick," a reference to their tendency to get stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pans they're boiled, then fried in.
You'll see them on the menu as fried dumplings or potstickers, or, if you're from the Boston area, "Peking ravioli" (the name was introduced by Joyce Chen's restaurant in Cambridge). Order them in a sit-down restaurant, and you may pay $4-5 for a half dozen, but hit up one of the specialized dumpling shops in Chinatown, and they come in at under a quarter apiece, making them one of the best delicious-to-dollar deals in New York.
There's a half dozen or so dumpling-specific shops in Chinatown that sell them fried, steamed, or frozen, often along with a couple of noodle soups and crisp sesame pancakes (another one of the best deals in the city). Last week, we visited every dumpling shop in Chinatown to see whose were best.
View Serious Eats Dumpling Map of Chinatown in a larger map
We decided to limit our focus (at least in this tasting... stay tuned!) to those shops in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. All of the shops specialize in dumplings, and all of them make their own dough and filling on-premises. We didn't consider any sit-down restaurants in our lineup—cheap, fast, and fresh is our goal here. Almost all of the dumplings cost $1.00 per order, and the upper limit of our price range was $1.25.
Here's our lineup (In alphabetical order)
- China North Dumpling ($1 for 5)
- Fried Dumpling ($1 for 5)
- Inexpensive Delicacies Company ($1 for 4)
- Jin Mei Dumpling ($1 for 5)
- Prosperity Dumpling ($1 for 5)
- Tasty Dumpling ($1.25 for 5)
- Vanessa's Dumpling House ($1 for 4)
Our judging was based on four different factors:
- The Wrapper (10 points): The filling may be the star, but a good wrapper is the foundation. The ideal guo tie should have a wrapper that's moderately thick, but never doughy. Tender, but with a bit of elastic chew and a translucency that just barely reveals what's stuffed inside. Oh, and if the wrappers aren't properly sealed or are torn, that's an instant downgrade.
- The Filling (10 points): Every location visited offered pork and chive fillings, some offered pork and cabbage as well. Whatever the flavor, the filling should be moist and bursting with juice. It should be very savory like a good soup, well seasoned, and just a touch sweet. We like our filling to taste predominantly of pork and chives, but hints of ginger or warm spices don't hurt either.
- The Ratio (5 points): Nobody wants a dumpling that's all wrapper, nor do you want one that's like a meatball with a veil of dough over it.
- Crispness (5 points): That golden brown, crisp crust is what separates the guo tie from just any old jiaozi. Soggy crusts carry a penalty.
The Winner: Tasty Dumpling
Though they lacked the super golden-brown crust of Vanessa's or China North, the filling and wrappers at Tasty Dumpling are superior. They've got a nicely gingery filling with well balanced sweetness, and a supreme savoriness from plenty of pork fat and juices. At $1.25 for five, they're also the only dumplings in our tasting that broke the $1 line, so save those extra quarters!
For a full breakdown of the lineup, click through the slideshow above.
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