118 Eldridge Street
New York, NY
(212) 625 8008
The line was snaking out the door at Dumpling House, a bustling little store on an otherwise quiet block of Eldridge street. It was getting dark and I groaned, thinking it would crowded, and we’d have to wait thirty minutes to eat. The evening was cold and a little drizzly. But fortunately, the line moved fast, and we eventually got seats.
We studied the menu while waiting for our turn to order and I decided to go with boiled dumplings, a sesame pancake sandwich, and sesame noodles. My friend ordered the same, as well as a large container steaming with vegetable dumpling soup.
The Dumpling House is essentially a take-out joint; most people order their dumplings to go and then wait as the four hatted women behind the counter boil them fresh. One woman works specifically on sandwiches, standing closest to the take-out window. Particular eaters watch her as she builds their meals according to their specifications. I sat saving two stools (out of seven) near a back counter top while my friend did the watching and waiting to make sure we got our seven items.
Of course we ordered way too much food but we didn’t care, because the dumplings, noodles, soups, and sandwiches were cheap, and we were hungry. We held our 16 dumplings by their faintly pink, ridged peaks and dipped them into a mixture of sauces. The dumpling dough was tender and elastic; the filling was an enticing blend of scallions, greens, and carrots. They were distinctively fresh, prepared throughout the day by men in a bright kitchen behind the eating counter. The women out front boiled, fried, and served customers. In my experience, veggie dumplings are usually quite mediocre, so it was astonishing and delightful to eat quality ones, prepared in a little shop on a quiet street.
To make the sesame pancake sandwiches, women pour a batter into an oil slicked pan. After the bread puffs out into a golden crisp, they slice the pizza-sized pancake into quarters, and use two per sandwich. The veggie sandwich is a popular item. I imagine it’s because the nutty, hot crust layered with sweet pickled cucumbers and carrots is an unusual and filling contrast of flavors. The tableside sriracha, a sexier version of ketch-up, is usually squirted on top for a saucy, sweet spice.
After eating the dumplings and the sandwich, I was too full to enjoy the noodles properly, but they were long and thick and topped with a sesame paste and pickled cucumbers. I hear the dumpling soup was excellent; my friend had it the next day for lunch and couldn’t stop raving about it.
[vegetable dumplings (8): $2; sesame pancake sandwich: $1.25; dumpling soup: $3; sesame noodles: $1.25]