Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the Year of the Rooster! For the uninitiated, Chinese New Year is celebrated on the lunar calendar, so it does not fall on January 1 every year. Chinese New Year is a time to clean your home and in doing so, scare away all the demons and bad-luck-monsters and whatnot. If past years are any indication, it’s also the time to eat lots of Chinese food! As we move into another turn of the Chinese zodiac, we celebrate in our usual way: noodles, dumplings, and spending as little money as possible.
Somewhere in Manhattan Chinatown, nestled in between the baked goods and barbecue, is Tasty Dumpling, at the intersection of Cheap and Delicious. (Okay, technically it’s on Mulberry between Bayard and Mosco, just down the street from Golden Unicorn.) The closest subway stations are at Canal Street on the 6, J, or Z trains, Chambers Street on the J or Z trains, or Grand Street on the B or D trains. Basically if you can get yourself to Chinatown, you can get yourself to Tasty Dumpling.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I might argue that you can’t even really go off the inside jacket either—not when it comes to Chinatown. On the glamorous island of Manhattan, trendy restaurants have their fish tanks and prix fixe flair, but not at Tasty Dumpling. The interior of the restaurant—if it is even large enough to qualify as a restaurant—is industrial, cramped, and sparse. The whole of it is a counter, a drink case, and a couple of tables with hardly enough chairs to make the tables functional. Like minimalist chic, but actually just minimalist. But like a blank jacket cover can encase a wonderful book, Tasty Dumpling certainly lives up to its name.
The choices are quite vast, but as my cousins often say, you wouldn’t order the steak at a seafood restaurant, so why would you order anything other than dumplings at a dumpling house? We stuck to the classic pan-fried pork and chives dumplings, although pork and cabbage would probably be fine too. We also threw in a cup of corn soup—a staple in Chinese cooking—and an orange soda, the cheapest one in the entire city. In fact, the entire meal was one of the cheapest we have ever seen in the city, coming in at about five dollars. The only thing cheaper might be a late-night McDonald’s run, but dumplings are always far superior even to a fresh McDonald’s apple pie. In addition, traditional Chinese food is simple and usually devoid of dairy—no hidden whey powder or nonfat dry milk protein lurking in a dumpling! The only thing we asked about were peanuts and peanut oil, but Tasty Dumpling uses vegetable oil for all their frying purposes.
In case we haven’t made it abundantly clear, Tasty Dumpling is a dive-y hole-in-the-wall kind of place in the best way possible. Everything was prepared fresh behind the counter, wrapped in wax and Styrofoam and shoved onto sticky red trays within minutes. The soup was an enormous cup, the dumplings were piping hot and delicious, and the soda was cold. A plus side was that the dumplings and soup kept really well as leftovers, and heated nicely in our trusty microwave.
This time of year is one of renewal and restoration, where we face the unknown with eagerness and enthusiasm. While it is a bit of a hike to reach Tasty Dumpling, the dumpling shop is within walking distance from our favorite bakery and the cute wine bars of Little Italy, so you can grab a celebratory cupcake and toast to the Year of the BEAR Rooster!