Vanessa's Dumplings (New York City NY)
||220 East 14th Street,|
New York City, NY 10003
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2007 Issue: 14(3) page: 28 and 31
We found a young lady's eatery making various kinds of dumplings, and like others before us, we declared them delicious. Do you know whose dumplings we are referring to?
For a couple of thousand years, these stuffed foods have been a Chinese snack food; and some literature calls them a complete meal. While that may be for some, the rest of us consider them beloved, and simply snack foods. Read something about them in an article in this issue called: Dumplings by Vanessa.
In the past they were made fresh and by hand; something that is rapidly becoming a rarity. Furthermore, most folk do not know the difference between freshly made ones and those made by machine. Do you?
Fresh dumplings are recognized by quite a few folk, particularly professionals, though few have actually made them. Some food writers and many food eaters are in the know; yet though some half dozen have touted those made at one of Vanessa's emporia as great, we wonder if they know how to make their own?
In business less than ten years, this Beijing native, Vanessa, has opened several dumpling emporia. Her first one, an eatery called Dumpling House; 118A Eldridge Street; New York NY 10003 This place in Manhattan’s lower east side became an instant success. Locals in that area knew they were handmade, and very fresh. Her second place, called Tasty Dumpling; 54 Mulberry Street; in Chinatown continued her tradition of making handmade fresh fantastic dumplings. A third place has taken a giant step and left Chinatown and its population of dumpling mavens. It is: Vanessa's Dumplings; 220 East 14th Street; Manhattan; (212) 529-1329.
Vanessa, and her Chinese partner Shira, wanted to share these delicate delicious Chinese snack foods with a wider community. Therefore, its owners opened this third dumpling emporia in May 2006. Here, they can and do delight a wider audience. This place is bigger than both of the other ones, and it offers many more delicious snack foods. We know because we have often indulged ourselves there (and at her other places, all going strong; have you?
Folks flock to the new one and the older ones. So have more than half dozen food professionals, including others from this magazine. You may recall seeing it in Harley Spiller's article titled: Favorites in the Big Apple which appeared in Volume 13(4) on page 31. Her menu cover, shown on this page, shows other delights alsong with some newspaper quotes.
Vanessa's philosophy and expertise in making healthy food is available in all three locations. The dumplings and other snack dough delights include sandwiches. These are hand-made and done so frequently each day. They are no relation to a typical Western sandwich. Every different hand-made and hand-wrapped Vanessa food item is filled with real fresh fine food. There is nothing chemical nor phony in or about any of them. None of Vanessa's snacks are produced by machine. None are made and stored cold or frozen. Not one of them has any artificial coloring. Not one has any additive (except for salt). And, not one has a single chemical within. In this day of concern for what we ingest, eating Vanessa's yummy dumplings means eating and enjoying healthy foods made by human hands.
At the newest place on East 14th Street, dumpling wrappers vary inside and out. Some are tinted red with beet and wheat flour. Some have a green tint from spinach or spinach juice. There are others that appear golden because they are mixed with pumpkin flour. There are also ones with a white exterior because they are made just with wheat flour.
Each colored dough and each filling is made many times a day, They taste great because they are fresh and made in house. You can enjoy these hand-made dumplings in any of eight different ways. Some are filled with cabbage and pork, others with chives and pork, still others filled with chicken and mushrooms, or seafood. Some are one hundred percent veggie. You can have any or all of them boiled, pan steamed, or fried as pot-stickers. They make great snack meals. Some are in a bun, others available in soup; pick your preference and eat some very divine dumplings whose origins are ancient with tastes delicious.
What will these goodies set you back? These fresh hand-made good tastes come with a bill for very little money. Outside of Chinatown most are five for less than two bucks. In Chinatown where rents are less, they can cost half that. Other economic winners on 14th Street at least, include three kinds of steamed buns for ninety-nine cents each. Each of these is bigger than a man's fist, each has a soft exterior, and each can be had plain or filled.
Filled with what? There are three different interiors available. They are one hundred percent veggie, cabbage and pork, or a sweet red bean filling (like the one illustrated on this page). They are warm and wonderful, have terrific texture, and great taste. And for those who live miles away as we do, they reheat in the steamer or in a microwave in minutes, at most. One customer eating nearby called these big buns: A meal in itself. She and we adore them for a large snack or a medium-size meal.
Ancient Chinese dough was stuffed and pan-baked. The Chinese called them made this way, a bing. On 14th street, there are bing-type Sesame Pancake Sandwiches not to be missed. They, too, come plain or with a filling. They can be had only with veggies, or with roast pork, roast beef, or tuna. We marvel at and often order too many with roast pork.
Do you believe that these sandwiches are not Chinese? If you mean something between two slices of something called 'Wonder Bread' you would be right. But Vanessa is from Beijing and she knows that Peking duck is served in a steamed or baked bun, which literally translates as a 'skin' or pi. These may be labeled 'sandwich,' but try one, and as Harley Spiller calls them, they will be your 'new favorite treat.'
Incidentally, there are other upscale goodies at the uptown location. They include home-style soups, sushi rolls, teriyaki dishes; and smoothies. The mango one we had with bubbles, also known as boba, was a meal in itself. Do not want mango; go for peach, strawberry, passion fruit, taro, green mango, magic mocha, or her other flavors. In them, fresh fruit is blended a moment before serving; no wonder it is so good.
Vanessa caters parties, and we attended a wedding that served her dumplings. She does deliver if you are lucky enough to be within ten blocks. If we were, we would order them for lunch on many a day. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky, so we need to eat there or purchase their thirty-item frozen packs. Doing so we can take advantage of getting ten additional pieces with every three packs. Doing so, we would be filling our freezer with her fine food.
Vanessa has exposed her Chinese and non-Chinese neighbors to great Chinese snack food. In one two-hour period, there were but two Asian customers and dozens of folk of every other nationality. Hers is a busy place. On another occasion, several customers when queried, told us they sampled foods they never knew existed; and they will be back for more. You can sample many items if you order one of the five combination platters.
One last comment to Vanessa: Like a supermarket ad says, 'Please move closer to us.'