The best vegetarian dumplings I ever had were in Jersey City at a small basement shop on Grove Street called Ducky’s & Dumplings. The owner made all the food fresh on demand and the handmade vegetarian dumplings were incredible (as were the scallion pancakes). But unfortunately the flooding from Sandy took out this restaurant.
So I decided to look for a replacement for my desire of vegetarian dumplings.
Note however that my reviews are limited to vegetarian dumplings. Some of these places may have other food and dumplings that are far better or worse – but I only care about their vegetarian ones.
My search started in Chinatown. I figured if you want dumplings, that should be the place to go. There are many small, local noodle and dumpling restaurants in Chinatown and vegetarian dumplings are fairly common. My criteria was approximately 8 dumplings within $10. Unfortunately I had to skip the real local restaurants as all the menus and signs were in Chinese and no one in those restaurants spoke any English!
My first restaurant was Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry Street. The name is right – but unfortunately everything stops there. Typical self-serve type place that is extremely inexpensive. For $3.50 I got 8 steamed vegetarian dumplings. But even that was too much to pay for them. They were extremely “doughy” and very light on the filling, which itself had a lot to be desired from as it was essentially cabbage chopped up. They tasted like steamed dough balls that just stuck to my mouth. On top of that the soy sauce and hot sauce on the table was extremely watered down. Definitely do not waste your time at this place
The next week I visited Vanessa’s on Eldridge Street off of Grand. Vanessa’s is extremely busy, with a constant flow of customers – mostly tourists, mixed in with a few preppie couples from Soho and many hipsters – but surprising very few Chinatown locals. This is probably because of Vanessa’s digital footprint – it appears in most internet food sites and has received very good reviews – and deservedly so. The vegetarian dumplings were green in color due to the spinach infused whole wheat dough, the filling was a tasty mixture of cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, ginger and some herbs like coriander – and they did not skimp on the filling, The dough was consistent and boiled to the right consistency. Despite the long wait, watered down soy and hot sauce, I was quite happy with my $4 for 8 dumplings
A few days later, while walking in midtown, I came across Hibachi Dumpling Express on 6th avenue. Fairly new, clean looking place was quite inviting. So I decided to try their dumplings. Unlike the vegetarian dumplings in Chinatown, they offered potstickers, i.e. pan fried dumplings. However making good potstickers is an art. They have to be panfried just the right amount with care to make sure they are well cooked all around. While they smelled and looked good and were cheap – they were terrible. One side was burnt while the rest was under cooked. The filling was mediocre. I ended up throwing away most of them. They clear have not mastered the art yet.
Back to Chinatown. This time to a Dim Sum and Tea Parlor called Nom Wah on Doyers Street, a tiny lane off of Chatham Square. This was a nice sit down place with table service. The selection of teas was awesome, but most of all, the service was incredible. Very welcoming with an old school attitude. They made a mistake and under billed me, so when I pointed it out, they thanked me and said “on the house!”. And their dumplings? Excellent. While a little more expensive ($4 for 3), they were noticeably larger. Made from a tapioca wrapper and filled with a mixed vegetable filling, they were definitely the winner so far. Topped off with a nice cup of tea made for a delightful and inexpensive meal.
One more stop in Chinatown – Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge off of Canal. Tiny hole in the wall, but extremely popular, with people standing outside eating – possibly because of how cheap their food is. But their vegetarian dumplings had a lot to be desired from – very similar to Tasty Dumplings mentioned above – and right with them in the do not bother category.
Well, time to try some other areas. I hear of some good places in Sunset Park, Brooklyn – but that’s a bit of a hike for me – so hopefully I will get out there one day.