12 Must-Try Dumplings Across the Country
Dim sum dumplings — once the sole province of Chinese restaurants — are having their breakthrough moment. From a fifth-generation chef folding traditional xiao long bao to a food truck steaming up bacon cheeseburger dumplings for passersby, chefs across the country are delighting diners with dim sum and then some. Whether you like your shumai from a Chinatown dive or in a glitzy nightclub, we've tracked down some of the best dumplings to fit your taste and budget. Check out a sampler below and head over to the gallery for the full list.
This unassuming family-run place on Buford Highway has been Atlanta's go-to for Szechuan for years. The menu features over 150 items (both mouth-numbing and "Americanized"), but the thing to get is the Zhong-style dumplings topped with a sweet and spicy chili sauce. Both the pork filling and the sauce are family recipes dating back to 1893, and chef Gu and his wife, natives of Szechuan Province, still make the dumplings by hand every day, using skins thick enough to withstand the generous pour of sauce on top. (At $8 for a plate of 12, they're a steal). The Zhong-style dumplings have been so popular that the owners are poised to open a second dumpling-centric offshoot in Krog Street Market in Inman Park.
Clevelanders have James Beard-nominated chef Jonathon Sawyer (also of Greenhouse Tavern) to thank for bringing the gospel of ramen to Ohio. At Noodlecat, his Public Square paean to New York City's noodle houses, and at his newer walk-up stall in the historic West Side Market, Sawyer offers over 10 different ramen options along with handful of Japanese-American appetizers such as brisket steamed buns. Before slurping down a bowl of his housemade Tokyo-style ramen (get it topped with the buttermilk fried chicken), we recommend you order a plate of his vegetable gyoza, Sawyer's inventive (and vegan) take on the traditional Japanese dumpling, that's stuffed with root vegetables and chickpeas.
If you're looking for great dumplings inside the Beltway, look no further than Wolfgang Puck's stylish bi-level modern Asian restaurant and bar near the National Mall at the Newseum. Purists might pout, but the Austrian chef is no stranger to Asian-fusion cooking, and running the show is Scott Drewno, a longtime Puck protege who's spent decades studying the art of Chinese cooking. On any given day, Drewno makes anywhere from eight to 12 styles of dumplings, but the most-popular is the crystal garlic chive dumplings. Stuffed with flat garlic chives, Maryland crab and Kurobuta pork, they're steamed and then pan-fried to get a crispy bottom. Drewno sells so many he has to order a 200-pound pig every week just to supply the filling. The dumplings are available in the lounge and in the main dining room at dinner.
The City of Angels has no shortage of great Chinese restaurants — you can get lost in the San Gabriel Valley for days — but ask Angelenos where they get their dumpling fix and the answer is always Din Tai Fung, an internationally acclaimed juggernaut with nearly 70 branches in Asia and five in Southern California (plus two newer locations in Seattle). These sprawling strip-mall joints feature over 13 different kinds of steamed dumplings on the menu, but come here for the xiao long bao. It takes a trainee up to three months to learn the basics of how to make their signature Shanghai-style soup dumplings, each of which is meticulously weighed and closed with at least 18 hand-crimped folds to ensure both an elegant presentation and a sturdy enough pocket to contain the broth while steamed.
Say all you want about your favorite Chinatown dive, but in our book, Joe Ng, the executive chef of these twin restaurants in the West Village and on the Upper West Side, is a dumpling savant who turns out over 20,000 dumplings every week. Ng works in the time-honored tradition of the great banquet chefs of Northern China, meticulously crafting dumplings that represent different animals and settings, but at Red Farm he puts his own modern stamp on it. To wit are these Pac Man dumplings, a whimsical twist on the classic har gaw, stuffed with an assortment of shrimp fillings and perfectly symmetrical cut vegetables, that plaintively gaze out with their black sesame-seed eyes. If you stop by in the winter, don't miss the black truffle soup dumplings, filled with imported French truffles.
Check out the full gallery for more helpings of the country’s best dumplings.