Dumplings are really big in NYC right now, taking over where ramen left off, but my love for the little treats goes way back. They’re inexpensive and ready in a second, making them a perfect snack (or a complete meal) for busy businessmen as well as ballers on a budget. You’ll find dumplings with all kinds of fillings, but pork, chicken and shrimp seem most common at the traditional shops.
Most places let you choose between having your dumplings fried or boiled/steamed, and the dumplings usually come with sauce on the side. Some places have developed their very own, very secret recipe, while others will leave it up to you to mix according to your preferences from bottles of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar. Here are some of my favorite places to go for dumplings in NYC:
Nom Wah Nolita
It’s hard to believe, but this urban chic spot is in fact a spin-off from a very traditional Chinatown restaurant, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, dating back to 1920. Behind the catchy menu names and trendy attitude, you will therefore find some pretty fantastic dumplings, but where Nom Wah really excels is when they’re playing around with the old classics. Try the Boiled Shrimp and Pork Dumplings with Bacon XO Sauce ($6 for 4 pieces) and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Nom Wah Nolita, 10 Kenmare Street (between Bowery & Elizabeth St), Nolita, New York
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
Even though Vanessa’s Dumpling House doesn’t look like much, it’s been featured heavily in a number of guide books and blogs. Combine this with a big local fan base, and you’ll get a long, more or less permanent, line to the dumplings (sometimes stretching out on the street). It moves fast though, so don’t let it scare you away. 4 of the ordinary fried dumplings are a meager $1.5, but my favorite, the Wontons with Spicy Sauce, are $5.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge Street (between Broome St & Grand St), Lower East Side, New York
Sleek dumpling shop on Broome Street founded by 3 sisters who missed their mom’s cooking. At Mimi Cheng’s the ingredients are organic and locally sourced, and there’s a focus on sustainability, which you don’t find at many of the other places mentioned here. I like the Mimi Cheng dumplings with chicken and zucchini ($8.75 for 6 dumplings), but there’s also a meatless option for vegetarian dumpling fans.
Mimi Cheng’s, 380 Broome Street (between Mulberry St & Mott St), Nolita, New York
Good old Joe’s is my go-to place, when I’m craving soup dumplings, xiao long bao, in NYC. It’s not Din Tai Fung, but I really like the dumplings at Joe’s. In the menu, they’re called “Steamed Buns” and I think the ones with crab and pork meat are the best. You get 8 pieces for $8.25, which is usually enough for me, but if you come with a bigger appetite, Joe’s also serves a variety of other Chinese dishes.
Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell Street (between Doyers st & Bowery), Chinatown, New York
Hole-in-the-wall shop with really amazing dumplings. Everything is made in front of you and the dumplings are juicy and delicious. 12 pan-fried dumplings are only $3, which should be enough for lunch or even dinner, but the sesame pancakes are also really good, so I’ll usually get one of them on the side as a late-night snack. I think there’s only one tiny table inside the shop, so get your dumplings to go and find a bench nearby to sit down and enjoy.
North Dumpling, 27 Essex Street (between Hester St & Grand st), Lower East Side, New York