Friday, March 26, 2010

Lucy's Toronto Vacation 3: Dumplings Galore!

Lucy's Toronto Vacation - 1
Lucy's Toronto Vacation - 2
Lucy's Toronto Vacation - 3
Lucy's Toronto Vacation - 4

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When Christine started raving about dumplings, I thought she was crazy. Period. I love dumplings, but I’ve yet to swoon over a plate. This restaurant changed my mind with the first bite.

Christine: Cool. Thanks.

Christine’s friend picked us up and drove us to a busy Chinese strip mall, Time Square, in Richmond Hill. The restaurant, Northern Dumpling Kitchen, didn’t stand out at all, and it was only half full when we arrived. Reserving my judgement, I sat back and told the girls to order whatever they wanted me to try. I was an open mind. I was nothing. I was totally zen.

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The first dish we ordered was called Shanghai rice cakes, I think. When they were delivered to our table, my first impression was that they were dduk, Korean rice cakes. Add in the wonderful aroma of a properly heated and seasoned wok, and it was heaven. The rice cakes were just the perfect amount of chewy, and the vegetables tasted fresh. I really enjoyed the light sauce and the slightly crunchy, but tender texture of wood ear mushrooms. My zen mindset started to melt away, and I started to get really excited for the dumplings.

Christine: I like the fried rice cakes, even though it's not what I'd typically like, which is a more aggressively season dish. The simplicity of the dish was such a nice change. The nappa cabbage, wood ear and shrimp in the dish added a slight sweetness, while the chewy rice cakes had a slight smoky flavour. It's not a heavy dish at all. It was a breath of fresh air.

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The xiao long bao shocked me. They were like little obese dumplings! They were overfilled with soup, exactly Christine’s style. Screw zen, I was freaking pumped to eat these fat dudes! The girls warned me to be extra careful because the soup will come gushing forth at the slightest tear. When I picked one up with my chopsticks, the skin stretched and warped so much, I thought it was going to burst. I stopped to watch how Christine ate the dumplings because I didn’t want to make a total fool of myself. Nothing could have prepared me for this dumpling.

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Christine: Notice how the XLB doesn't fit in the spoon? It's girth was overflowing over the sides!

With a smidgen of red vinegar and a few slivers of ginger, I took a bite. The skin was chewy and soft, but it didn’t stick to my teeth. It was definitely steamed properly. And the juice! Oh, glorious juice! There was almost two soup-spoonfuls of broth in the tiny obese dumplings!!! Ridiculous! I fell in love with the broth because it tasted like my mum’s all-night simmering broths. It tasted like comfort food without having eaten xiao long bao when I was a child.

I accidentally broke one and thought all the juice ran out, so when I bit into the deflated xiao long bao, I did not expect to choke on a gush of broth. It was a learning experience, fo’ sho’.

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The pan-fried chicken dumplings were also awesome. The skin was fried crispy and browned evenly. The flavour was similar to the xiao long bao, and I attribute that to the broth. Delicious! They were excellent when they first came out, but by the end of the meal, they felt supremely heavy and overindulgent. Thankfully, the broth didn’t gel as it cooled. That would have been disgusting.

Christine: These chicken dumplings are 10x better than most pot stickers!

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We asked for two orders, so we ended up with way too much food for three people. Seriously, just look at that pile of pan-fried goodness. All of that rich broth weighed us down, and we were all sleepy by the end of it.

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This lovely lunch cost less than $30, which was a steal. While it may not seem like much, the dumplings and stir-fried rice cakes filled us up quickly. I think I’d skip the rice cakes and focus on the dumplings next time. It’s not that the rice cakes were bad – I just feel the dumplings would be a better investment in stomach space.

As we slowly dragged our feet back to the car, we made plans to meet up with some mutual friends to watch the gold medal men’s hockey game between Canada and the U.S.A. We settled into a small bar in Richmond Hill after fighting traffic for almost 20 minutes on the 404. If you were watching that game, you’d know how intense that game was. And Canada won in overtime (we’ve got a penchant for dramatics), defeating the Americans with a score of 3-2!!!

After the game, we walked over for bubble tea and drove home. Epic day.


Northern Dumpling Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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