We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...


2011 nyc dumpling festival and dumpling eating contest recap

The winners of the dumpling eating contest (Guinness Records breaker holding the plaque)Yesterday morning I ran in the Fitness Mind, Body, and Spirt race in Central Park. The race went well (I got a personal PR) and after crossing the finish line I skipped the free bags of pretzels and apples they were handing out and instead took my grumbling stomach down to the Lower East Side to meet Mary Kate and some friends at the annual Tang's Natural NYC Dumpling Festival. It was a good choice!

We actually went to the festival two years ago and I knew it was the perfect place stuff my face with good food post-race. Tickets to the festival are $20 which allows you to try dumplings from four different booths of your choosing. This may seem a little pricey until you realize the entire ticket price goes to the charity Food Bank for New York City. What makes the festival so cool is that it makes you rethink the definition of a dumpling. There are not just traditional Chinese dumplings and pot stickers, but there are also Ukrainian Pierogi, Portuguese dumplings with seafood, steamed baozi, and apple dessert dumplings among others.

Nate with a giant dumpling that looks disturbingly like a an alien baby

We all made the rounds at the booths and then tasted each others'. My favorite were Miss Korea's BBQ dumplings. The wheat dumplings were filled with marinated beef and spicy (I mean SPICY) kimchi which tasted similar to little pockets of Korean bulgogi. To make them even better, they were served with more beef and more kimchi on the side.

Another one I liked were the Tang's Natural dumplings served with a splash of chili sauce. They had wheat skins and a filling made with Chinese chives (jiu cai, 韭菜) which I normally don't like but it didn't overpower the filling here. The apartment I just moved into is across the street from a Whole Foods (where you can buy these frozen) and I see many nights eating of these in my near future.

Another goodie was the Ukrainian pierogi from the restaurant Veselka. (If you haven't eaten at this restaurant before, you must try it out. It's an East Village institution and they serve all kinds of amazing Ukrainian soul food you've probably vaguely heard before but haven never tried like cheese blintzes and borscht.) Their booth at the festival was serving pierogi dumplings with a few different types of fillings. I tried the potato and sour cream (basic but still good) and the goat cheese and arugula (zing! fantastic!) which were all also coved in bits of caramelized onions.

An honorable mention were the Portuguese dumplings from O' Lavrador's booth which were filled with seafood and came with an excellent savory sauce.

My friend Brian got a spiced apple dumpling (really more like a mini-turnover pastry) with whipped cream and cinnamon. Like I always say, you can never go wrong with fried dough, cinnamon, and apple filling.

My roommate has been talking about how amazing Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale is. They were selling it at the festival so I grabbed a bottle of it... and it was awesome. Right off the bat you know this isn't ginger ale you grew up with. There are all these tiny pieces of real ginger that have settled on the bottom the the bottle (the label tells you to shake gently before drinking). The flavor is really different than your basic Canada Dry ginger ale--closer to the flavor of crystalized ginger candy with the same spiciness. They also sell one that is made with Jasmine flowers and another with Pomegranite. I wholly recommend it. My roommate mixes it with whisky which is also recommend.

Mary Kate, our cousin Lizzie, the dumpling mascot "Tango Mama", and NateFinally, after all our eating it was time to watch other people eat. The annual dumpling eating contest included 5 rounds of eaters (3 men rounds and 2 women women). Floria Lee won the women's contest with 37. Here's our video of "Gentleman Joe" Menchetti winning the men's contest eating 69 dumplings in 2 minutes. This was his 7th time to win. 

Afterwards Mary Kate and I met Jaden Hair, the event announcer. We've been longtime fans of Jaden, the cook behind Steamy Kitchen. She was really nice and it was super cool that we got to meet her. If you go to her website, she has a great cooking supplies store and awesome recipes. She's like the Martha Stewart of Asian cooking. 



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point and shop: the new visual ingredient glossary

I was a college exchange student living in China when I first started learning how to cook Chinese food. It was all new to me—stir-frying, braising, steaming, and all the weird fruits and vegetables and sauces used in Asian cooking, not to mention their incomprehensible Chinese names. I would get on my bike and ride to the market only to realize I had no idea what I was looking for! I quickly learned the pointing method. If I took a picture with me to the market, I found that I could find the ingredient by pointing at the picture and asking, “zhe ge zai nar (where is this thingy)?”
This turned out to be a good way to learn Chinese cooking. Soon I not only knew how to point at the ingredients, I knew their names (in English and Chinese) and understood what they taste like and how to use them in cooking. Navigating the isles of a Asian grocery store, especially in the West, can be daunting. That's why Mary Kate and I are launching a visual ingredient glossary on this site. It's a place where people can actually see what ingredients look like, see different packaging and brands, and see the different Chinese and English names the same ingredient is masquerading under. It's also a great show and point tool! Mary Kate and I have been at this for years and we’re still learning! Chinese cuisine is the most complex cuisine in the world. Our glossary is a work in progress and we will be adding more photos and descriptions as we can. If you have a photo of an ingredient that you think should be included, by all means email it to us here! You can also use the comment section below each glossary entry to add your own thoughts, recipes, or whatever. Visit the Visual Ingredient Glossary here.


yunnan tomato salad, a surprising end to a hot summer day

Do you ever just have a day where everything you do seems like deja vu, like you've done it before, and like it's the same thing you do everyday day in and day out? Well, I do and I did yesterday except on my way home I walked through the Union Square green market as it was closing and came across an end of the day sale as the farmers were pulling out of the city with their trucks and going back to upstate new york or to some faraway land where trees and grass and vegetables grow and people get natural tans. Tomato season is over but the farmers still had some big red ones that looked amazing and were dirt cheap. I also got a bag of fresh Thai basil and a container of homegrown mint sprigs for just 5 bucks. I wondered all the way home what I was going to use it for (I normally only buy groceries after I've made plans) other than open the lid of the basil on the subway to mask the b.o. of the guy next to me.

We have a recipe in our book for Dai Tomato-Mint Salad--It's a salad from Xishuangbanna, a region of Yunnan Province in southern China, and in the recipe the spearmint sprigs are left whole and tumbled
with a little chili oil, juicy cherry tomatoes, and punchy garlic. I ended up doing a variation on this recipe yesterday with my green market spoils but I used more tomato, less mint, and added a little Thai basil (Thailand is not far from the Xishuangbanna border and Dai cooks use a lot of Thai spices like basil). I think the salad tastes even better today after the the tomatoes marinated in all the flavors in the fridge overnight.

This calls for chili oil. You can buy it or if you want to make your own, see our chili oil recipe.

-mary kate

yunnan tomato salad

4 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup mint leaves
1/3 cup Thai basil leaves (or regular basil)
3 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tablespoon chili oil

Slice the tomatoes into small wedges.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, mint, basil, green onions, salt, and chili flakes. Use a wooden spoon to mash the contents of the bowl until all the leaves are crushed and bruised. If you think you've mashed too much, keep going.

Toss the tomatoes into the herb mixture and then drizzle the chili oil over the tomatoes. Use the wooden spoon to lightly mash the tomatoes until they lose their structure and are limp. Chill the salad for at least an hour before serving.


Wonton wrappers 馄饨皮 (hún tún pí)

These square dumpling wrappers are used to wrap wonton dumplings, and they are different from the round dumpling wrappers used to wrap jiaozi dumplings. They are made with flour and egg and are slightly yellow in color. They are sometimes referred to as wonton skins and can be bought in packages at some supermarkets and any Asian grocery store.

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