Call them what you will: kreplach, manti, ravioli, dumpling, but just about every culture makes some kind of goodie wrapped in a carby skin, stuffed with meat or veggies, boiled or fried. They are warm and comforting, packed full and filling. Here are our five types of favorites, along with where to gobble them. By Jessica Allen
Properly eating soup dumplings requires a little bit of patience and a lot of dexterity: you begin by placing one on your spoon, then gently nibbling a corner to allow the innards (meat and broth) to cool. Then you lap up the liquid and gobble the dumpling itself. If you’re not careful, you’ll burn your tongue, stain your shirt, or both. At the Bao, a stylish East Village outpost of Flushing’s Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao, soup dumplings reign supreme. Some versions feature wasabi, some come kicked up with chile, some have crabmeat, and one very special kind has bananas and chocolate.
Hakata Tonton specializes in “Japanese soul food,” particularly the country’s pork delicacies. Indeed, one of the most popular items on the menu of this West Village restaurant are pig trotters (aka pig feet aka tonsoku.) Tonsoku appears in several incarnations, including grilled and as part of a hot pot (with collagen broth, tofu, vegetables, ramen noodles, and rice bibimbap). Note: tonsoku is best eaten with your hands, so don’t be afraid to dig in. Hakata Tonton’s take on gyoza, or Japanese-style dumplings, are served on a sizzling cast iron platter, which seals in their tremendously addictive crunch.
Lam Zhou gets a lot of love for its hand-pulled noodles, and deservedly so. As you crowd in among other hungry diners at this Chinatown restaurant, you’ll be serenaded with the whap-whap-WHAP of noodles getting made (i.e., being stretched and pulled.) Even as we nosh on platefuls of noodles, slurp up broth and take bites of fish balls stuffed with pork, we always make room for an order or two of their fried pork-and-chive dumplings. The dumpling is a standby of many Chinese restaurants an is excellent here, with a crisp exterior yielding to a savory, spicy, meaty interior.
Some of the city’s best Himalayan and Nepalese food comes from the tiny kitchen of a tiny restaurant in Jackson Heights. At Phayul, you’ll find yak butter tea, shak trak (beef fried with red onions, tomatoes, and green peppers), and shoko sil sil ngoe ma (eminently craveable shredded potatoes with green peppers and Sichuan peppercorns). But this is a list about dumplings, and the dumplings at Phayul — known as momos — are outstanding. The momos come stuffed with chicken, beef, or vegetables. Add a few squirts of hot sauce and you’re in for a real treat.
At Vanessa’s Dumpling House, you’ll find Beijing-style comfort food, namely dumplings. Lots and lots and lots of dumplings — all of which have one thing in common: a very low price point. So grab a table, grab a menu, and order away. Options range from steamed, whole wheat veggie dumplings, to fried basil and chicken dumplings, to boiled cabbage and pork dumplings. You can get most dumplings either on a plate or swimming in soup (they’re also available frozen, if you want to re-create the magic at home). Order some sesame pancake sandwiches too, with tofu or kimchi.
For a tangy treat, try the Sichuan dumplings at White Bear, located smack in the center of Flushing’s Chinatown. While the restaurant is pretty small and ho-hum, the wontons in hot oil are anything but. The dumplings — chock full of pork and greens — are doused in chili oil and smothered in pickled veggies and chopped scallions.
Samosas might be the world’s most perfect food: these triangular pastries are portable, packed with potatoes, peas, cumin, among other ingredients, and are utterly pacifying. You can eat a samosa between meals or as a starter. You can nibble one while standing on a street corner, as they do in India, or dunk this hefty pyramid into a chutney, likely mint or tamarind, as they’re served at Chennai Garden. You can gnaw tiny bites off each corner or crack the whole thing open, the fried shell breaking audibly, to reveal the steaming interior. There’s no wrong way to enjoy them!
This basement space doesn’t offer much by way of atmosphere or charm. What it does offer are bowls of broth, hand-pulled noodles, and fish balls. Inside the soft, white shell is a moist ball of seasoned pork. Take a wee bite, then dip the ball back into the soup, letting the juices intermingle.