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.
Pork and Chive Dumplings at Vanessa’s Dumpling
Say “dumplings,” and most people will likely conjure what comes out of the kitchen at Vanessa’s Dumplings in the East Village. Here, the tasty Beijing-style packets get scooped from huge vats that are constantly being restocked by a bustling staff. Healthy options include steamed vegetable dumplings, wrapped in a whole wheat shell, but we prefer the pork and chive, fried, then doused with soy sauce and Sriracha. For a complete meal, we order the sesame pancakes too, thick, greasy wedges that you can get with duck, pork, or veggies.
Mandoo at Mandoo Bar
As you might gather from the name, Mandoo Bar specializes in mandoo, the Korean take on the dumpling. While this celebrated restaurant in West Midtown offers a few standards like rice and noodles, the primary focus, as the ladies relentlessly folding them in the front window indicate, is dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings. We particularly like the kimchee mandoo, combining pork, tofu, and slivered vegetables with the pickly tang of fermented cabbage.
Momo at Phayul
From an open kitchen on the second floor of a nondescript building in Jackson Heights come gastronomic wonders. If you think Himalayan food is bland, get yourself here asap. It isn’t. Phayul (which means “fatherland” in Tibetan) shows just how robust the flavors can be, thanks to liberal use of Sichuan peppercorn. We’re fond of the shoko sil sil ngoe ma, shredded potato and green pepper. But Phayul makes an especially mean momo. About the size of an infant’s fist, these dumplings get plumped with vegetables or beef; their placid, benign exteriors don’t begin to reveal the piercing, savory delights within.
Samosa at Chennai Garden
Samosas might be the world’s most perfect food: these triangular pastries are portable, packed with potatoes, peas, and cumin, among other ingredients, and 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!
Fish Balls at Sheng Wang
Pre-hurricane, the fish balls at Sheng Wang were satisfying and cheap. Post-hurricane, they represent revitalization and rejuvenation, as restaurants in Chinatown and Lower Manhattan struggle to stay open. 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 moist 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. Helping the community never tasted so good.