Yesterday, we went to Chinatown because my daughter, Sam, needed to eat and take photos of Chinese food in relation with a school requirement. We’ve eaten in many places in Chinatown but I thought it would be better to allow for more variety — try new establishments and dishes that we’ve never experienced before. I searched Google for names that came up the most often and Dong Bei Dumpling was among the most recommended.
Dong Bei is really a hole-in-the-wall. A tiny place — so tiny that some of the tables doubled as counters where the kitchen attendants made the dumplings. A good and bad thing, really. Bad because it was a little inconvenient to wait for them to move their stuff to vacate a table for walk-in customers. Good because you get to see how the dumplings are prepared. Have sanitary issues? There’s time to walk out.
But that’s not the only good-and-bad about Dong Bei. Bad that variety is limited. Good because every dumpling is freshly made. And the flavors are authentic Chinese. Good that the servings are generous but they weren’t exactly cheap.
First, let me show you what we ordered.
We had steamed dumplings…
… fried dumplings…
Then, the xiao long bao.
Finally, the pancakes.
Four plates of dumplings plus drinks amounted to P520.00.
Now, the thing about dumplings is that there are many kinds of dumpling skins. There’s opaque and there’s transparent. There’s thin and super thin. And there are even more kinds of filling. Pork, beef, crab, shrimps, vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, tofu… it’s endless, or any combination of two or more of these. At Dong Bei, there’s only one kind of dumpling skin. And the filling — it’s mostly a choice between meat (pork, from the taste of it) and a mixture of meat and kutchay (Chinese chives).
But despite the limited variety, the dumplings were delicious. I wouldn’t say the best because what’s best is always a matter of personal preference and I do abhor writers who imply that they have some kind of authority to use labels like the best or the Top 10 or whatever other catchy title they use. I find such practice irresponsible. At Dong Bei, for instance, the xiao long bao (soup-filled dumplings) was delicious but if you’ve been to Din Tai Fung, you’d know that xiao long bao could be so much more.
What makes Dong Bei dumplings really good is the freshness. The dumplings are prepared only after you place your order. You can even watch while they are prepared, take photos and ask questions (see how to make dumpling, illustrated). The cooks (mostly, Filipinas) are friendly and accommodating.