Dumplings are one of those foods, like, pizza and burgers, that even when they're bad, they're still pretty good. But when they're good — made with care and high-quality ingredients — they are truly special. And people who have visited Helen You's Tianjin Dumpling, the eight-year-old Golden Shopping Mall stall in Flushing, know that she specializes in filling combinations found nowhere else. Now she's debuted the full-service Dumpling Galaxy at the much roomier Arcadia Mall, offering upwards of 100 different varieties of dumplings.
What's the reason for the expansive menu? "I started from there and couldn't stop," You tells Grub, explaining that unlike other standard-bearer pork and chive places around the city, she fills all her dumplings to order — that's almost unheard of, anywhere. Furthermore, she now plans to overhaul the menu every other year, which means Dumpling Galaxy's selection will only grow as expansively, like its name indicates, with age. But before that happens, here's a very necessary primer: a look at 33 of the most unusual, tastiest, and most unexpectedly sweet renditions on the menu.
Duck and Mushrooms
Unless they’re explicitly identified otherwise, you can bet you’ll be getting shiitake whenever you order a mushroom dumpling here. You prefers them for their beefy flavor. This one is a must-try.
Sure, dried octopus is popular throughout China, from north to south, but is typically used in soups. You loves its strong flavor, which needs little seasoning, and wanted to create a dumpling that would appeal to those who share her passion.
Hawthorn and Wood Ear Mushroom
Americans probably don’t think dessert when they hear mushroom. But in China, hawthorn, tart red fruit, and white wood ear mushroom are used to make a popular dessert soup. At Dumpling Galaxy, the cooks deploy a heavier hand with the anise.
Pork and Bitter Melon
“Certain people, if they don’t eat bitter melon they won’t eat this dumpling at all,” You admitted. “But if they like bitter melon, they eat it like crazy. They eat it for their health, but after eating it, everything tastes sweeter, fresher, and better.”
It's a style of dumpling called tangyuan. Tang means soup, approximately, which is why the glutinous rice balls are cooked in and served in the soup. Only mildly sweet, this strawberry dumpling is made with a sticky rice wrapper and served in a rice-vinegar based broth.
Before cooking, the squid is soaked in Shaoxing cooking wine to temper its fishiness and tenderize the meat.
Traditional Steamed Seafood
The traditional seafood actually pairs pork and chives with shrimp, a very popular combination in China.
Pork and Chives
Everyone's favorite flavor.
Pork and Bamboo Shoot
The bamboo shoots add a mild, fibrous, and slightly crunchy touch to the traditional pork filling.
Fish with Pickled Vegetables
A standout. For this dumpling inspired by the fiery suān cài yú, You toned down the spice to train the focus squarely on the fish and pickled cabbage.
A traditional dessert of dried fruit and sticky rice, You’s eight treasures dumpling sports Chinese dates, peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and other nuts.
Egg with Dill
Despite dill’s popularity in Tianjin, you won’t find stalls hawking this combination as a breakfast special.
Beef With Tomato
As a kid in Tianjin, You savored countless bowls of beef and tomato stew. The two ingredients, she feels, always go well together. She created this dumpling to pay homage to her childhood and grandmother, whose cooking she was raised on.
Lamb and String Bean
The string beans are sautéed with a pinch of garlic before being mixed with the lamb.
Beef with Carrots
Carrots are shredded and mixed with the beef, lending deft notes of sweetness and an appealing orange hue.
Tofu with Crab Roe
For this dumpling, You uses a small amount of crab roe to accent the fresh, subtle, and “greaseless” tofu.
Mushroom with Eggplant
Shitake mushrooms are mixed with Chinese eggplant, which is seasoned lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic and then steamed.
Pork With Preserved Egg, Pan-fried
These aren’t the guo tie you grew up eating at your neighborhood $1 dumpling store. Instead, they are made in the rarely seen style of Tianjin, cooked together so that a caramelized, very thin crepe forms.
Egg and Cucumber
The delicious diversity of You’s meatless dumplings was inspired by her desire to give vegetarians options beyond the basic chopped cabbage fillings.
Two types of seafood highly prized in China, fish and scallop, are combined for this dumpling.
Lamb and Green Pepper
Chopped green bell pepper is paired with gamey lamb for crunchy texture and mild flavor.
Pork with Corn
Yes, Dumpling Galaxy is in the business of introducing westerners to the art of Chinese dumplings, but You doesn’t limit herself to traditional ingredients. Her years in the Northeast, where autumn corn is a religion, and deep “love for all vegetables” inspired this one.
Cod with Fish Roe
You uses fish roe in this dumpling not just for its texture and salty flavor, which complements the mild cod well, but because “it looks beautiful.”
Pork and Dill
Turns out the licorice-flavored herb is popular in Tianjin.
Preserved Egg and Pine Nut
“This is one of my creations,” You says. “One day, I was cooking with preserved egg and thought, why don’t I mix them together? So I added pine nuts and cashew. It’s a little crunchy.” Don't miss this one.
Shrimp and Yam
Chinese yam is a white tuber that's sometimes rare to find here, because it is difficult to cultivate.
Hawthorn and Nuts
This one pairs peanuts and sesame — both popular in Chinese sweets — with the crabapple-like fruit, a distant cousin of Mexico’s tejocote.
Lamb and Squash
Lamb and squash are a popular combination in her native Tianjin, You tells us. She uses a type of green squash popular in China.
Lamb and Celery
You finds the flavor of Chinese too strong, so she uses a combination of Chinese and Western celery for this dumpling.
Fish and Lotus Root
You is devoted to lotus root for its “special crunchy texture,” which she felt would make a great complement to tender fish.
A bonanza of vegetables are tightly packed into this dumpling, including bamboo shoots, bok choy, cabbage, celery, corn, mushrooms, carrots, and spinach.
Hot and Spicy Beef
Another essential pick. For this, You seasons the beef with homemade chile oil and a little bit of cumin. While cumin is quite popular in Tianjin, as it is in much of northern China, the dumpling is actually most in demand among her Indian friends and customers.
The Dumpling Galaxy storefront.
Dumpling Galaxy, 42-35 Main St., nr. Franklin Ave., Flushing; 718-461-0808