The wrinkly parcels in the picture are fresh, hand-made Dong Bei Dumplings, chewy flour wrappers stuffed with chives and dipped in spicy black Chinese vinegar. These are probably the best dumplings I tasted in my life.
Dong Bei is in Northeast, China (wiki says this was historically referred to as Manchuria). The area has harsh winters thus cuisine in the region is characterized by hot hearty dishes that drive out the cold. Now, while the Philippines has a fairly large population with Chinese descent (otherwise known as Chinoy), most of the Chinese food (and no, Chowking does not count as Chinese food) in the country is the bright, Cantonese version . Dong Bei Dumplings therefore is a rarity.
Dong Bei Dumplings is hardly a restaurant, more like a cleared up utility kitchen with four tables. There are sacks of flour stacked on the sides of the wall and the refrigerator/cooler is in one corner of the room, displaying the inventory of drinks and huge bundles of chives. The menu is handwritten on the board and is in both Chinese and English. The staff is very friendly, and the owners (a tall Chinese couple) are very visibly working in the kitchen and serving the guests.
The cooks will make the dumplings from scratch as you order them. You have a choice of vegetables (chinese cabbage and kutchay/chives) only or vegetables with a little pork. You can also order them fried or steamed. All orders are served with chinese vinegar and bird’s-eye chili, and all orders are perfect with cold, sugar-less tea.
Little dough pellets are rolled out by hand on a small table on one side of the tiny dining area. The cooks are lightning fast — they would have completed the wrappers for your order by the time you walk from one side of the room to their work area. I bet these guys make a mean pie crust!
After they rolled out the right amount of wrappers, they put a spoonful of the filling inside each dumpling and seal. I noticed that they didn’t add any fancy creases on top. The filling is kept in a small metal mixing bowl, and looks like pre-digested cud (at least the veggie version does).
Dumplings ready for steaming or frying.
This is the fried pancake version, filled with kutchay, cabbage and a little ground pork. They serve this fresh from the pan (you can hear them frying your batch in the small kitchen behind the counter). Reminiscent of Filipino okoy (shrimp and mung bean sprouts pancakes) or lumpiang prito (fried spring rolls), each dim sum has a crunchy slightly chewy wrapper, soft pork filling, then the tart taste of the vinegar to cut through the rich taste of the pork and the oil. I like the fried version better than the steamed ones because of the textural contrast, and the hot food – cold dipping sauce balance.
Each plate of ~15 dumplings costs Php100 or around $2.00. You can also order frozen dumplings from the restaurant at the same price.
- Old Manila Walks
- Binondo: Dong Bei Dumplings are the best dumplings in Chinatown! | Ivan About Town | Philippine Travel Journal.
- EatingAsia: Dongbei Delights
- Northern Comfort in Fare From China’s Far Reaches – NYTimes.com
- What Is… Dim Sum? (thedailymeal.com)
- A Shanghai Dumpling Primer (thedailymeal.com)