Who doesn’t love dumplings? They’re a universal comfort food common to pretty much every culture. Ravioli, perogi, kreplach, manti, mandu — the list is practically endless.
But one constant in most cuisines is constrained variations of fillings. Well maybe ravioli has gone rogue in recent years, but in most traditional kitchens there is a very proscribed list of sanctioned flavors, all else being regarded as heresy.
Chinese menus, even the most expansive, focus on half a dozen dumpling offerings, if you’re lucky. Not so at, as the name implies, Dumpling Galaxy.
Here they have more dumpling categories than the average place has fillings. The actual number of dumpling varieties is something over 100.
Dumpling Galaxy is the new venture of Helen Yu, the owner of Tianjin Dumpling, a dumpling dive in Flushing’s subterranean Golden Mall much beloved by hardcore foodies. For a while, Tianjin has been offering “design-your-own” dumplings. Choose a combination of fillings — just like pizza toppings — and they will wrap it in dough and cook them up. According to Ms. Yu, her customers came up with some real winners, and she kept notes. She combined her own creativity with ideas of her customers, and came up with what must be the most prodigious collection of filled dough in dumplingdom.
Unlike its grungy predecessor, Dumpling Dynasty occupies cheery new digs in the Arcadia Mall on the lobby level of a spanking new building on the corner of Main Street and Franklin Avenue. The light, airy space is handsomely done up in red and gold Chinese modern style. It also doesn’t confine itself to dumplings. Ms. Yu, who is from Tiajin, describes her offerings as “authentic Northern style Chinese cuisine and hand-made dumplings.”
Most of the categories, including signature dumplings filled with seafood, lamb, beef and vegetable are served boiled with a divided saucer of black vinegar and soy sauce for dipping. Pan-fried dumplings is its own category featuring a range of fillings, some of which overlap with the boiled ones. The steamed category includes shumai, open topped, and xiaolongbao, soup dumplings. The final category is dessert dumplings.
We plunged in with an order of lamb with green squash dumplings, probably the top of the pops from the old joint. They were as juicy and delicious as we remembered them. We followed those with some duck meat and mushroom dumplings, which were a little earthier than the lamb, but in the same vein.
From the pan-fried category we chose pork and chive. Rather than the familiar pot sticker style of individual dumplings, these pups came bound together in a unifying thin crepe. The idea is to pluck them apart, getting a crunchy bonus of crepe along with the dumpling.
Our shrimp shumai were delicately flavored and elegant. There’s something so visually enticing about the filling peeking out of their open ruffled tops.
Something we all could use, a money bag, is an aptly named dumpling here. Shrimp and celery are drawn into a sack shape in a thin dumpling wrapper which is then wrapped in a smaller thicker dough wrapper and tied. The whole package is then deep fried. The result is something that looks like a money bag, and tastes like an old-fashioned egg roll. The surface of the outer dough wrapping becomes bubbly. The filling tastes like the neighborhood Chinese food of our youth — an unexpected bite of nostalgia.
While there was no way we could do justice to a Chinese menu that could rival a Greek diner’s, we just had to sample a dish that wasn’t dumplings. We chose, almost at random, garlic spare ribs to represent what in our mind was the “not dumplings” category. The beautifully presented ribs were fried, yet miraculously un-greasy, they were redolent of cumin as well as tons of garlic and red pepper. The plate was strewn with something that looked like finely chopped nuts. A taste told us it was chopped garlic, punctuated with scattered red pepper. If you’re a garlic lover, this is your dish.
Our final dumplings were of the dessert persuasion. Pumpkin dough filled with black sesame was a little too un-desserty for this Westerner. We preferred the Eight Treasure and Pear sweet dumplings which tasted like dough filled with very crumbly halvah.
Helen Yu is so passionate about dumplings that she aspires to hold a dumpling festival in the future, inclusive of all varieties—not just Chinese. If you love dumplings, rocket over to the Galaxy.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
42-35 Main St.
(718) 461-0808, (718) 463-0808
Price Range: Dumplings $4.95—7.95 for six
Cuisine: Traditional Northern Chinese and every possible kind of Chinese dumpling.
Setting: Bright, cheery, Chinese modern.
Service: Friendly, accommodating
Hours: 8:30 am -10:30 pm Seven days
Parking: Street or pay garage in building
Children: Good for children
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes