Are dumplings the world's most perfect food? They could be. Dumplings are delicious even in their more mediocre incarnations, and when dumplings are perfect they can border on transcendence. A well made dumpling keeps a secret tucked inside a starchy pocket, and tearing into one is not unlike unwrapping a present, which makes every dumpling you eat a celebration.
Dumplings also come in sufficient variety that the most consumed of dumpling enthusiasts could eat for years and never become bored. And it certainly doesn't hurt that dumplings are usually cheap.
Here are five examples served in and around Dallas that will offer you a small window into the power of the dumpling.
Monkey King Noodle Co.(pictured above) This newcomer to Deep Ellum already feels like it's been around for years. There are only a few tables and chairs, and there is no waitstaff or climate control, but the soup dumplings from this takeaway will make up for all these shortcomings. Grab a pair of paper-wrapped chopsticks and get to work quickly. Soup dumplings are best just shy of scalding.
Russian Banya Head to your local liquor store and pick up the biggest bottle of vodka you can find -- proprietor Tony G. frowns on dinky bottles -- and then make haste to Carrollton's Russian Banya. The bathhouse is so much more than a place to get a massage from a Russian gorilla that will knead your flesh like stiff bread dough; it's a place to eat pelmeni, the beef-filled dumpling that floats in chicken broth, dusted with dill. Add a dollop of sour cream and your eyes will start to roll around in your head. Or was that the vodka? No matter, you'll sweat it all out later in the sauna.
Royal China A conversation about dumplings and Dallas would not be complete without a mention of Royal China, where the dumplings are made by hand right in front of your eyes. Proceed to the bar towards the back of the restaurant, order the xiao long bao and watch as the women at the dumpling station conceal small scoops of cold, gelatinous stew inside hand-rolled dumpling wrappers. When they're steamed the gelatin gives way to a rich, unctuous soup that bursts with flavor when you bite into the dumpling.
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Jeng Chi Jeng Chi recently moved a few spots down in the same Greenville Avenue strip mall, and the new address has afforded them a lot more space. The kitchen is open now, kind of. You can watch as kitchen workers pleat dumpling wrappers behind glass walls like engineers working on microchips in the clean room. The dumpling menu has expanded along with the restaurant. Start with the vegetable dumplings because there're more to live than pork, and don't stop ordering till you're full.
Everest Restaurant Admittedly, they don't look much like dumplings, but they are. After the kitchen at Everest Restaurant pan fries these hand-crimped dumplings, generously filled with goat meat, there're tossed in a chili sauce that's as thick as warm jam. These dumplings come pre-dipped, swimming in a spicy sauce that you'll want to mop up with bread when all of your dumplings have disappeared. All this for just $6.99? It feels like a sin.