In my family, pan-fried dumplings are often a "recycled" food. If we boiled dumplings for dinner one night and there were some leftovers, into the pan they would go. Frying the dumplings adds a distinctly new taste to them, making them arguably even more delicious.
In addition to being one of my favorite foods, dumplings are also extremely convenient to make, since they can be made in bulk and then frozen for later consumption. One batch of dumplings might last over two weeks and can be a part of several meals.
I definitely did not realize how much I appreciated home-cooked food until coming to college, and since I have found that there is no feeling quite like eating homemade dumplings on breaks after weeks of dining hall food. This past weekend, when I was craving home-cooked Chinese food, I tried some pan-fried dumplings from two local Chinese restaurants, Tiger Noodles on Nassau Street and Hunan Chinese Restaurant on Witherspoon Street.
I ordered the pan-fried dumplings from Tiger Noodles online, where there are three different options available: meat, vegetable or seafood. There is also the option to have them either pan-fried or boiled. One order is $5 for six pan-fried dumplings, so I tried out an order of meat dumplings.
The delivery arrived within an hour, and came with soy sauce packages as well as vinegar. (Sidenote: personally, I have never had dumplings with soy sauce; my family uses vinegar, but I have heard that it is typical in Southern China to eat dumplings with soy sauce).
The dumplings were stored in a plastic container that preserved the heat well, but it also caused them to stick together slightly. I found that being able to separate them involved ripping the wrapper.
Additionally, the dumplings had not been fried completely. They were at a halfway point between boiled and pan-fried, so the wrapper still had a soft, watery texture that most pan-fried dumplings do not. Personally, I did not mind it, since I find that over-frying the dumplings is a more egregious problem, as it quickly becomes nauseating if you eat too many over-fried dumplings in one sitting.
Taste-wise, I was very pleasantly surprised. Often, Chinese restaurants will overdo it on the soy sauce, but Tiger Noodles managed to keep their pan-fried dumplings from tasting too salty. In addition to the meat, they added some onions, and it added to the flavor without being overpowering.
Overall, I would say that I would order it again, especially since it is cheap and convenient. (I didn’t even have to leave my room to order).
Hunan Chinese Restaurant
Hunan also offered the option of meat or vegetable pan-fried dumplings, so I got meat again for the sake of comparison. Hunan also delivered within the hour with soy sauce packages and vinegar on the side. (Sidenote: Although an appetizer of six pan-fried dumplings only costs $4.65, Hunan requires that you spend a minimum of $15 dollars for delivery and accepts cash only).
When I first opened the container, I was surprised by the actual look of the dumplings. Although the dumplings had been properly fried, the dumplings themselves were made with a much thicker wrapper. As a result, the texture seemed more similar to Chinese baozi, which I was not a big fan of.
Taste-wise, the dumplings had a stronger flavor overall thanks to the over-use of soy sauce as well as the Chinese chives which were added in addition to the onions. I found the filling to be dry, which was not helped by the frying.
Overall, I would say that I had a better experience with the Tiger Noodles pan-fried dumplings. The texture was softer and the wrapper was thinner, and the taste did not become as grating as quickly.
Personal ranking (maximum of 5, standard set by homemade pan-fried dumplings):
Tiger Noodles: 4/5 Paws. Slightly under-fried but still delicious.
Hunan: 2/5 Paws. Mostly disappointing...not recommended.