Chinese dumplings have been a go-to cheap/delicious meal for me since I was a kid. My parents often took me to a restaurant in Brooklyn called China New Star, which has some of the biggest, most delicious fried pork dumplings I have ever tasted. I’d often eat the leftover dumplings, cold, right out of the refrigerator!
When I started playing on a recreational soccer league in the lower east side a few years ago I got introduced to Vanessa’s Dumplings and it was definitely love at first bite. Five small but flavorful dumplings were just $1. It’s pretty easy to have a filling, tasty lunch for just $2. So how would the dumplings in Beijing compare to the ones I can get in NYC’s Chinatown? I was looking forward to finding out! Much like my favorite game of seeing how many tacos I could eat in Mexico, I was excited by the idea of eating as many dumplings in China as I could.
Our awesome AirBnB host, Cindy, told us there was a restaurant just around the corner from her that had over 30 kinds of dumplings. We wasted no time trying them out, walking in there for our first lunch in China. Unfortunately, this restaurant has no name but it had some of the best dumplings I have ever tasted. The four of us were starving when we sat down and we ended up ordering 7 different varieties. Each order equaled 10 dumplings, so we had 70 to split among us. We had varieties of pork, shrimp, crab, lamb, and beef dumplings. It was really interesting to try lamb dumplings – something I’ve never seen on a menu in New York. I love the gamey flavor of lamb so I enjoyed them in delicious dumpling form. My favorite though, were the pork and onion dumplings. They were incredibly flavorful on their own and even better once mixed with the restaurant’s vinegar sauce and hot chili paste. We couldn’t help but laugh when the bill came- it blew the Vanessa’s budget out of the water. We had ordered 70 dumplings, three large beers and one bottle of water and the total came out to $17 USD. The pork and onion dumplings were the cheapest at 10 for $0.85 USD.
We had dumplings in one other restaurant in Beijing, it was right near the university so it was popular among the international and local students. They only had pork dumplings and the wonton itself was lighter. They didn’t sell beer but you could bring some from the store down the block, which meant our meal was even cheaper than the first one. Three of us downed several orders of dumplings and steamed buns along with our cold pilsners and didn’t pay more than $4 per person for the entire meal.
Cindy didn’t just recommend a great dumpling restaurant. She also showed us how to make them at home. In the common space of her property, three of us gathered along with Cindy, her friend and a couple visiting from France with their four children. Cindy presented two mixtures- one of pork and onion and one of beef and onion for us to start creating our dumplings. The dough was simple, just flour and water, and we learned how to roll it out into a small circle, fill them with the mixture of our choice and seal them for cooking. Not only was it a great experience but we all got to enjoy a healthy serving of dumplings afterwards.
Making and eating our own dumplings did not sway us from going to our favorite dumpling restaurant one last time. Despite being full from our own creations, we walked over to our favorite unnamed spot for one last round. The restaurant again did not disappoint with being both flavor and inexpensive.
Despite being spoiled by dumplings straight from the source, I still love getting dumplings in NYC. Whether it’s Vanessa’s on Eldridge or Fried Dumpling on Mosco and Mulberry Street – dumplings are always a great low-budget lunch or post-drinking snack.