When you live in a country that is not your own. Or more specifically, when you live in a country that is climbing the slow and steep Sisyphysean hill towards greatness, you can get easily excited when something new pops in. At least I do. So when a message about deliciousness is accompanied with a photo of potstickers, xiao long bao and jiaozi lands in my whatsapp feed…!!! cannot describe my elation.
In the last five years, I have moved or spent a lengthy amount of time in four cities. Upon landing, my first google search is “best dumplings in [insert city].” We all have that food that feeds our soul. For Cait, it’s good Mexican. For me, it’s all encompassed in a little ball of meat and veggies wrapped in a thin layer of dough that is sufficiently sturdy to hold its soupy contents, chewy to please the mouth its being subjected to and thin enough to denote an appropriate level of daintiness. Any lover of dumplings can wax poetic for at least 12 minutes about this.
So based on this excited message that I received, I decided to take a one-meal break from the paleo challenge and dragged Cait plus her recovering tummy to test out this potential beacon of heaven and home yesterday. Off we went in a tuktuk, down streets only typically used as shortcuts during big bad rush hour. And there it was. The little shop across the street from a school, its signage only in Chinese script, but the pictures of dumplings out front were the alerts that we had arrived. A big pile of expats were leaving just as we arrived. The Chinese family who ran the joint only spoke Mandarin. A smidge of Khmer. No English. These could all be signs of greatness, right? Sadly no. The xiao long bao first arrived cold. We had to asked them to be warmed up. Then there was the anthemic horking of mucus and related fun from a neighbouring table. This may have caused both of our appetites to flounder significantly. And at the end of it all. The xiao long bao, jaozi and potstickers were…okay. They were meaty, nicely flavoured and even made in house (see below). Cait wasn’t a fan of the dense yet weirdly fluffy dough casing the xiao long bao (I on the other hand, was). We both liked the potstickers. But at the end of the meal…I wasn’t quite satisfied, and I was happy to leave, relieved that a meal for to only cost $6 (because that is pretty much how I valued our dishes). Although if you ask Cait, I seemingly maintained my optimism. Little did she know of the disappointment that lurked in my dumpling heart.
Later that night, when my partner (giddy referrer of the disappointing dumplings) returned home, we discussed the perplexing situation. Perhaps whenever a beacon of gastronomic hope rears itself in our toddler of a city, we as expats have a tendency to get too…excited…conflating expectations and all that. If you are interested in testing this place out for yourself, you can find it on street 199, near the intersection with street 348, across the street from a school. Look for dumplings!
There are now two things I know for sure about dumplings. Nothing will leave me as satisfied as a bowl of my mother’s noodle soup and a plate of perfectly crispy pot stickers for a cold winter’s lunch. A winning result of having been subjected to a Saturday morning of Chinese heritage and language class. Also, the best dumpling joints will always reference a figure of maternal authority (see Mama Wong’s in Phnom Penh and Mother’s Dumplings in Toronto). Cuz you know. Mamas know best.
And I can’t finish without Tiff’s List of Dumpling Love:
Toronto – Anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area where you can find Chinese people.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Mama Wong’s, Street 308
Vientiane, Laos – Liaoning Dumpling Spot Hoi An, Vietnam – White Rose Dumplings
Manila, Philippines – Dongbei Dumpling, Chinatown (Binondo)
London, England – Jen Café, Chinatown
Song Fuelling This Post: St. Lucia – Elevate (Passion Pit Remix) All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.