There’s something for everyone on this great big food filled globe, from the pickiest of eaters to the double-dog-dare-ya rebel. But when we get right down to it there are some things that everyone likes. Cheap, good food is one, and it doesn’t get much cheaper, or much better, than dumplings.
I can honestly say I’ve never met a person who dislikes dumplings. What’s not to like? Filled pockets of dough are ubiquitous in the global kitchen because a good idea is a good idea in any language. Some would say, however, that one country does dumplings better than all the rest. Some would say that country is China.
Funny enough, these inexpensive and abundant bites weren’t always as accessible as they are today. There was a time when dumplings were primarily a celebratory food in China, only served at special occasions and holidays. They were an auspicious food that came to represent things like wealth and overall happiness, and they still do. These days, however, they’re not only eaten on holidays and special occasions. Dumplings are a beloved staple in everyday eating.
Most dumpling houses sell more than just dumplings. They cook “flour food” or “mian shi”…noodles, dumplings, sesame pancakes. There are dozens of great dumpling houses in NYC but I’ve got three favorites that will fill your belly without emptying your wallet, and do it all deliciously.
First up is Vanessa’s. This place hardly needs an introduction as both locations are always packed with hungry, budget conscious diners. But it deserves to be in my top three because it delivers in taste, consistency and price. For under $10 two people can stuff themselves silly on steamed or fried dumplings, soup and sesame pancakes.
I prefer Vanessa’s pork and cabbage dumplings over her shrimp dumplings but both are good. I also love the dumplings in soup.
Good luck getting a place to sit but don’t let that dissuade you. Takeout is always a viable option. Grab a to-go container and some chop sticks and find yourself a building to lean on while you chow down. You won’t find a better deal on food in the neighborhood, I promise you that.
Second on my list is my original favorite dumpling spot in all of New York. Great Taste Dumpling on 8th Ave in Brooklyn’s Chinatown was, until recently, my number one dumpling addiction. This place used to be called Prosperity Dumpling and still seems to hold that name on various internet sites, but these days it’s sporting a Great Taste sign on the front.
Prices for dumplings are in the $1 – $2 range (4 or 8 to an order). That’s right folks, you could pay with pocket change. Their sesame pancakes are fantastic. Get them filled with pork for under $2. And my favorite dumpling is the pork and chive, boiled, not fried. It is amazing.
Oh, and don’t leave without adding an order of their Pork Fried Bun to your meal. They come 3 for $1 and alone they’re worth the trip.
There’s actually quite a bit of seating at Great Taste Dumpling even though it’s pretty popular with the locals. Cash only, obviously, and there are often specials hand written and posted on the wall.
Last, but most certainly not least on my dumpling list is my new favorite. Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House. It’s located just down the street from Great Taste which makes deciding where to go to lunch awfully hard on me sometimes.
Their wonton noodle soup is to die for. The broth is light but flavorful. The wontons are so delicate they almost melt in your mouth. The noodles are thick, chewy and satisfying. I’m in love.
The pork and shrimp dumplings are actually frozen and they tell you up front that it’s going to take 10 minutes to cook them. Go ahead and wait because they’re worth it. They marry the best of surf and turf and present it in a perfect little dough wrapped package. Get them boiled, not fried.
For under $7 you can feed two very hungry people. $1 – $2 for most dumplings (you get 4 or 8 in an order). There’s decent seating in the front but if it’s full ask to sit in the back and they’ll point you out the front door and around towards the back of the building to a windowless, sign-less door. There’s seating for about 20 in the back and it’s comfortable, although not exactly a fest for the eyes.