Where to Eat Dumplings in Chinatown and Across NYC
Foster wealth and good fortune in the Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year is typically a bustling time for the many enclaves of Chinese communities across NYC. From downtown Manhattan’s Chinatown to Sunset Park in Brooklyn or Flushing in Queens, before COVID-19, their streets would traditionally burst with lion dancers and revelers ushering in a fresh start for the holiday.
However, as the pandemic continues, Lunar New Year festivities will be far more subdued this year. The annual Chinatown parade has already been postponed to the spring, and many Chinese restaurants continue to struggle because of COVID-19 and increased xenophobia. So with the Year of the Ox just around the corner, it’s a great time to support culinary institutions in Chinatown and beyond to pick up one of the holiday’s most celebratory foods: dumplings.
"Dumplings signify good fortune and wealth for the new year as they are shaped like little purses,” says chef Anita Lo, the cookbook author and award-winning force behind the now closed Annisa. “We all could use a little luck this Lunar New Year, so why not consume a plate?”
For home cooks looking for tips from Lo, she’ll be hosting a step-by-step demo (virtually, of course) of her pork, shrimp, and chive dumplings on 100 Pleats on the start of Lunar New Year, Friday, February 12. But for New Yorkers craving the skills of professionals, consider a trip to these 11 establishments in Chinatown, or one of its Brooklyn and Queens counterparts, instead. “Chinatown businesses have been hurt particularly badly in the pandemic,” says Lo, “so do go to the experts if you’re not going to make your own."
Just make sure to wear a mask, social distance, and tip generously (though maybe avoid the unlucky number four). Happy Lunar New Year!
The Instagram crowd flocks to the Cheng sisters’ shops for its monthly specials, but its menu mainstays are the reason to add them to your dumpling rotation. The original Mimi Cheng, named after Hannah and Marian’s mom, was inspired by the matriarch’s signature zucchini and chicken filling, while the Mighty Veggie is a satisfying meat-free alternative. All of their dumplings use locally-sourced ingredients from purveyor’s such as Pat La Frieda, Pino's Butcher Shop, and Satur Farms.
How to order: Storefront or order via website.
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao 南翔小籠包
Opened in 2006, then shuttered briefly in 2019, the soup-dumpling heavyweight in Queens reopened at its current location with both an expanded dining room and menu. Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao now has 11 varieties of xiao long bao to choose from—including a multicolored Lucky Six sampler and luxe add-ins like scallop or abalone—but the tried-and-true signature is the way to go for XLB purists. Frozen dumplings in packs of up to 50 are also available.
How to order: Storefront, call 718-321-3838, or order takeout via website.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Established in 1920 and now helmed by first generation New Yorker, Wilson Tang, Manhattan’s oldest dim sum parlor has all the classics (siu mai, xiao long bao) but their shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings are the real knockout. The open-faced beauties hold plump fresh shrimp and greens in translucent, nearly melt-in-your-mouth wrappers. Packages of Nom Wah’s frozen dumplings are also available for local delivery and nationwide shipping.
How to order: Outdoor seating is first come, first served. Order takeout and delivery via Caviar, Chowbus, DoorDash, GrubHub.
Shanghai Asian Cuisine • 上海小館
Jing Fong regulars have likely breezed right by this hole-in-the-wall on their way to the dim sum palace. At Shanghai Asian Cuisine, the soup-dumpling specialists do its hometown proud with delicate, thin-skinned xiao long bao filled with pork by itself, or together with crab or scented with truffles. Though not traditional by any means, their take on Sichuan wontons pack a spicy, slightly sweet kick for dumpling eaters who like a bit of heat.
How to order: Storefront, call 212-964-5640, or via website.
Shanghai You Garden
Whether pan-fried pork buns (sheng jian bao) are considered a dumpling may be up for debate, but there’s no denying that Shanghai You Garden’s crispy-bottomed parcels are a standout. The soup dumplings at this Queens restaurant are also excellent and come filled with pork alone or pork paired with crab, shrimp, or squash. Frozen dim sum can be purchased for local delivery to Manhattan, New Jersey, Long Island, and upstate.
How to order: Storefront, call 718-886-2286, or order takeout and delivery via DoorDash, GrubHub, Seamless, UberEats
Shu Jiao Fu Zhou Cuisine
Fans of Shu Jiao Fu Zhou were thrilled to see the Fujianese restaurant—a favorite amongst the city’s large immigrant community from China’’s southeastern Fujian province—reopen in November, lining up to pick up its signature peanut noodles and boiled pork and chive dumplings. A pork and cabbage variety is also available and frozen bags of both flavors are available to take home for stashing in freezers.
How to order: Storefront or call 212-625-2532.
New Yorkers once packed this pint-sized restaurant—which specializes in cuisine from China’s central Henan province—for its heaping Big Tray of Chicken noodle dish, but diners shouldn’t sleep on Spicy Village’s pork dumplings. They’re drenched in a spicy scallion sauce and finished with a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro and chopped scallions. While you’re at it, try the soup dumplings, too.
How to order: Storefront, call 212-625-8299, or via website.
True to its name, the potstickers at this Mulberry Street dumpling house are some of the tastiest—and at less than two bucks a pop, possibly cheapest in NYC. Served five to an order in plastic clamshells, the options come with different fillings, but the first menu combo of chives and pork is by far the most popular. The dumplings are Beijing-style, which means the skins are on the thicker side and hold up beautifully to both pan-frying and boiling.
How to order: Storefront or call 212-349-0070.
White Bear 白熊
Located at the last stop of the 7 Train and perhaps Queens’ most talked about dumplings, these floppy wontons deserve all the praise and then some. The silky pork-stuffed parcels are excellent on their own, but reach a whole new level of greatness when smothered in house-made chili oil, pickled vegetables, and fresh scallions. For White Bear newbies, menu item six is the number to remember.
How to order: Storefront or call 718-961-2322.
Xi’an Famous Foods
Founded by Xi’an native David Shi and now run in partnership with his son, Jason Wang, Xi’an Famous Food has locations across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. The eatery might be best known for its hand-pulled noodles, but its two dumplings—one lamb, one spinach—deserve just as much of the spotlight. Jam packed with chopped spinach and bouncy vermicelli, the vegetarian option has a slight edge. The hefty bright green bundles arrive in a bowl of vinegar-spiked chili oil that brings just the right amount of heat to the entire affair.
How to order: Storefront or via website.
Yun Nan Flavour Garden
Noodles may get top billing here, but the dumpling soup is no quiet sidekick at this restaurant operated by immigrants from China’s Yunnan, known for incorporating the spice and herbal flavors from neighboring Southeast Asia. At this Brooklyn spot, with plump pork wontons submerged in a spicy, tangy broth that’s a trademark of the province, the bowl nearly upstages leading actors like the restaurant’s signature crossing bridge noodles and chilled rice noodles.
How to order: Storefront or call 718-633-3090.