Natural Dumplings

Many American consumers are sometimes confused about Chinese dumplings and potstickers. In fact, during a photo shoot session for steamed dumplings, one of the food stylists told me the dumplings were “upside down”! She was alarmed that they looked uncooked!

Then it occurred to me that many Americans’ first taste of Chinese dumplings or potstickers were pan fried, with a crusty brown bottom., served on a plate with the crust showing. Potstickers are pan-fried dumplings, and during the process, often get stuck to the pan, and thus the name! Therefore, some may not even have tasted dumplings steamed!

Indeed, fried foods appeal to the average American more than plain steamed dumplings. But pan frying or deep frying dumplings, while perfect for entertaining, may not be the only ways to enjoy dumplings. In my household, we often have dumpling wrapping as family affair, and my daughters used to keep count who could eat the most. Our way of cooking is real simple – toss wrapped dumplings into a pot of boiling water until they float. We would choose our dipping sauces – ranging from regular soy sauce with oil to chili sauce, or if we feel like splurging, some XO sauce.

If you’re health conscious, try wrap you own with quality fillings – which can be ground pork with vegetables, ground chicken, seasoned with fresh herbs, chopped mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ground ginger. Meatless ones are great too.

Tang’s Natural, manufactured in Brooklyn, New York, sets the new standard for precooked dumplings and noodles. The whole wheat wrappers and use of choice ingredients such as Bell & Evans chicken make them a league of their own. If you’re into making fresh dumplings at home, their Tang’s Natural wrappers should be your choice too. For dumpling connoisseurs, wrappers should not be too thick to fill you up with dough, but should not disintegrate when dunked in boiling water. These wrappers come in oval and square shapes for different regional styles. They are honestly your best bet. I usually have some in my fridge as a standby ingredient, when I am out of ideas of time to cook dinner.

With children’s diets being closely examined and questioned these days, I think packing some dumplings for school would be an excellent option. You can put protein (even tofu) and vegetables all in a tasty package appealing to kids of all ages. It’s what I called tasty, fun food that is healthy and not junky! Consider having a dumpling wrapping party for children for special occasions. I believe teaching children how to cook properly is one life skill that will serve them a lifetime of good.

Better than the Beer: Refreshing Qingdao Cuisine

So you think you know what Chinese food is? Have you tried Qingdao style cuisine? M&T Restaurant in Flushing serves up this northeast Chinese coastal city’s fine cuisine. Being that it’s a coastal city, most of what they eat comes from the sea. Although Qingdao is commonly known for its namesake beer, Tsingtao, they have to be eating something to accompany the beer that they drink.

M&T is not a fancy place, and you could easily mistake it for just another Chinese restaurant in Flushing, but what a wonderful surprise. I think the best food always comes out of small, hole-in-the-wall type of places, and this is definitely one of the best.

Opened by Ms. Mei and Mr. Tang (hence the restaurant name M&T), the food served in this quaint restaurant serves what the couple considers comfort food, as a reminder of their hometown Qingdao. We asked Donna for recommendations on what to order. The menu is very simple and straightforward with no real descriptions to tantalize your palate, but everything that we ordered was definitely special, different, and very delicious.
“Qingdao Cold Noodles,” described as “cold pasta with special sauce,” is one of the most popular signature dishes at M&T. Made from seaweed imported directly from Qingdao, the noodles are a result of extracting the gelatin from the seaweed after hours of stewing. Served chilled, the cold pasta isn’t even technically a noodle, but rather consists of rectangular cubes of jelly with a buoyant bite. It’s a really refreshing dish served with shredded carrots and cilantro sitting in a vinegar sauce with lots of garlic.
The shrimp and cabbage dish was sautéed in it’s own roe, which gave it a lot of flavor.
We also ordered eggs sautéed with clams and scallions. The eggs were scrambled to perfection and the clam juice that came out of the clams being sautéed with the eggs made this dish extra tasty!
The squid with garlic shoots and chili was juicy. The squid was soft and tender, and the garlic shoots complemented the sautéed squid so well, and the chili gave it a nice little kick of flavor. And, like all of the seafood we were having, it tasted as if everything was caught that day — fresh and delicious.

In addition to what we ordered, Donna gave us a few extra dishes to try including pickled lotus roots, fish that was flash fried, which was a bit sweet and a little salty, and sweet pumpkin pancake fritters.

With the warm weather, it’s nice to eat a meal that tastes fresh, light, and unexpected. Go check out M&T and you will see that Qingdao has so much more to offer other than good beer.