Tag Archives: chinese

Dumpling House

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dumpling house

While I may be wrong, it seems like I’ve found out what the Chinese equivalent to a “family diner” is. In a given medium/large city, there are at least three mandatory dives that are always busy, crank out cheap and tasty american style meals and have the title “family diner”. You could argue that those vague “wok take-out” are “asian” dive counterparts, but those are more akin to hotdog stands than actual restaurants. And honestly, those places are empty and freaking terrifying. Dumpling restaurants fill the role of a neighbourhood diner much better: humble yet friendly locations with busy staff and food that keeps drawing in lots and lots happy customers.

dumpling house interior

Interior of Dumpling House @ Gerrard and Broadview

The reason for my little, more than slightly pompous rant was because, surprise surprise, this isn’t the only Toronto wonton restaurant called Dumpling House. There’s another one at Spadina, which is very popular and one of my family’s favourite eateries. Thus ensued an obligatory comparison between the two throughout this post. I wondered if the names of both places were different in Chinese, perhaps a way to differentiate the two names, so I examined pictures from both to see if I could notice any similarities or differences.

Dumpling House

This is the Spadina Dumpling House. Note the J-like character in the middle.

Dumpling House

This is the Gerrard Street Dumpling House. Note the same J-like character and how the left hand letter looks like a different version of the Spadina one.

Well, to my admittedly foreign and clue-less eyes, the words from both restaurants look similar, so my guess is that the Spadina title is in Traditional Chinese and the Gerrard one is in Simplified (because the characters are less intricate) or possibly one is in Cantonese. If anyone reading this knows more about Chinese than I do (which isn’t a lot), please feel free to correct my abysmal language skills in the comments.

So Dumpling House Gerrard Edition is a diner-like restaurant that serves wontons, has a generic name and smells delicious when you walk inside. Mom thought it’d be interesting to compare this restaurant to the other place, which I will now call the Mirror Dumpling in reference to people’s reflections in mirrors (what else?). I could call it “the Spadina place”, but Mirror Dumpling sounds cooler.

chinese menu

 Right off the bat Dumpling House offers a different menu: one with more selection for non-wonton items, and conversely less varieties of dumpling fillings. However, they have three different types of wonton as opposed to the Mirror Dumpling’s two: with the addition of boiled to the list of steamed and fried (although the boiled option was closer to Mirror’s actual steamed option).

steamed dumpling

Pork & chive Boiled Dumpling

First we had boiled pork and chive dumplings, a normal choice for us. Frankly it was a tie with the Mirror Dumpling, the meat was a delicious mix between umami and salty, with flecks of green onion to add some depth.

chicken dumpling

Inside the Pork & Chive Dumpling

I did notice these dumplings to be juicier, my plate was covered in warm meat grease coming from the tender pork ball wrapped inside soft, thin wonton.

Steamed dumpling

Their steamed Egg Dumpling

 

Our next option was more unusual and had no Mirror counterpart that we’re familiar with: steamed egg and herb dumplings. Interestingly, they came in a basket, and were more delicately put together. The wonton itself had more flavour, tasting more like rice dough than greasy wrapping; I believe this was due to it having less moisture. Without as much juice, I found the pastry to be a little bit too tough, although others may prefer a wonton that doesn’t fall apart so easily.

egg dumpling

Inside the Steamed Egg Dumpling

I do think it worked well with the filling, a wonderful blend of green herbs and mild, finely chopped egg. The softer flavours worked well with a steamed wonton, although the first dumpling tasted better than the last one of the batch. Make of that what you will, I liked it more than mom did.

beef dumpling

Fried Beef Dumpling

Third up were the pan fried beef, which came in a disappointingly smaller batch and made up for it with their individually larger size. Again, I liked those more than mom, who preferred the Mirror Dumpling for its crispy dough on top and less juicy meat. These dumplings squirted when you bit into them, while it proved how moist they were, it was actually kind of annoying on the first bite. I quite liked the beef, although it was pretty much flavoured by grease and a touch of garlic and basic seasoning. Oddly this was quite attractive in its own way and reminded me somewhat of beef in wonton soup, but swimming in its own juice instead of broth.

chinese dessert

Kind of like a dessert quesadilla

 

For dessert, we had red bean pancakes, something new that I wanted to try out. They were quite simple and mild, tasting familiar to me in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. The dough was thin and flat, cut into little triangles and wrapped around sweetened bean paste. I’d say it’s best for people who like desserts that aren’t sickeningly sweet or rich, although anyone who’s already full from their meal would like them.

Pros: has a diverse menu, lots of non-dumpling options, and even the wonton choices have variety: the steamed egg and fried beef dumplings were polar opposites. Also has a cozy decorative interior and very low prices. Less busy and crowded with customers than the Spadina place.

Cons: I can’t think of any true cons, other than what may only apply to some people (see below)

Toronto Dumpling House

Pro/Cons: some people may like Gerrard’s dumplings better, or Spadina’s, I can’t really accommodate for personal taste. Also in comparison with Spadina, some people may be closer to one than the other; I live on Gerrard and this place is inbetween my house and Spadina.

Verdict: Dumpling House is quite recommendable for anyone who wants large plates of tasty dumplings for a good price in a local wonton place. As I’ve said, preferences may vary and this isn’t exactly a high-end or fancy restaurant, but it is great for a good meal.

Dumpling House 619 Gerrard Street East

Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Happy Birthday (Editor’s Post)

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Mandarin Buffet

Where do you take a 6’4″ man-child, that lives to eat for his 14th birthday? Obviously an all you can eat buffet. Same rules we always have when we go to the Mandarin (which is rare)… Nothing breaded, deep-fried or covered in a sugary sauce eg. Orange Chicken. Other than that, there were no limits. In order of consumption…

Round One

Round One

Soup and salad. The Thai Chicken Salad was absolutely delicious.

Round Two

Round Two

Kind of a yellow theme going here. The cauliflower was a bit of a tactical error as the heavy cheese sauce was quite filling.

Round Three

Round Three

The meat themed plate with one lone potato.

Round Four

Round Four

Note that Callum used a dinner plate for his selections instead of the smaller dessert plates provided.

Round Five

Round Five

The fifth and final round. Just a little palatte cleanser

Blowing out his candles later at home

Blowing out his candles later at home

Happy Birthday Buddy.. we are all very proud of you!!

Fast Food

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The usual food court suspects

The usual food court suspects

While most think of burgers and fries as fast food, the name can apply to any type of quickly made food, so vender grub is actually classifiable as fast food.  It has a history far, far older than the fifties, thousands years more, back to the Roman years.  In Rome, which in some ways is a historical parody of our civilization in my point of view, several people’s diets relied on what they got from street venders [maybe they ate a panzerotti while watching people get eaten by lions in the arena].

Think you'd get the munchies while watching this?

Think you’d get the munchies while watching this?

It was the same in the rightfully named dark ages of Europe, where citizens that couldn’t afford a kitchen ate mostly what they bought from salesmen in the streets.  This type of vender-buyer lifestyle still reigns today, just ask someone from New York, or someone from India or China where street food is immensely popular.

Street food from around the world

Street food from around the world

The kind of Fast Food most people, even our friends in Asia [or to those people, their friends in North America] really did start in the fifties, before Ralph Nadar when Americans lived the dream of beautiful [unsafe but no one cared back then] cars, and didn’t know what was in their food, and being a teen meant living in the fast lane, anyone who saw Back to the Future knows what I’m talking about.  White Castle [hear about them now?  I didn’t think so] is the pioneer being the second Fast Food chain and the first to serve hamburgers and have the staple limited menu we all love and hate.  They sold their burgers for five cents a pop, remember inflation was a thing of the future back then.

White Castle in the 50's

White Castle in the 50’s

Because of that era that time travelers just love [Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, Star Trek etc…], now over two million American out of the 314 mil of them are fast food workers.  I wonder how many are teens.

The thing that makes them so popular, to put it bluntly, is the speed they cook at, and how other choices like chili or baked potatoes are also available.  The fact you can, but probably shouldn’t, eat a burger at the wheel of a moving car also has its appeal in today’s kind-of-like-the-fifties-but-with-more-political-and-economy-crap-era.

How many people do this everyday?

How many people do this everyday?

Hey, Canada is much the same way, I didn’t say we’re better than those guys down south [I didn’t say we’re worse either, so don’t you even think it].  North American and British cuisines aren’t the only ones being influenced.  Italian pizza has been changed from a thin to a thick crust, and giving different ingredients, and Chinese food has changed so much that actual Chinese people, by that I mean culturally more than anything else, couldn’t recognize some of the take-out we have now [it makes me wonder what they have in a greasy five dollar box being passed off as authentic].

Editor’s note: the video below is a little long at aprox 16 minutes.  But its funny and very enlightening.  Worth watching

Cheap, quick meat patties on a bun has spread like a virus, I don’t use that analogy positively or negatively, to other counties that before wouldn’t have dreamed of eating this stuff, like, for instance, Japan.

While I acknowledge vender food, I think the fast food chains is what most readers really want to, and should, know.  It is a very controversial topic, with films and books pointing the finger at fast food companies crying wolf for bad health, bad food, and bad economy.  A whole mess of junk, in effect.

A very popular book that was also made into a movie

A very popular book that was also made into a movie

Well, along with other modern innovations, fast food did emerge at the same time a lot of problems did. Could simple food companies really be to blame for a host of calamities, or is the wolf a fake?  It is incredibly popular, the simple good taste fat, salt, and sugar has, as well as the lack of some proper nutrients, does reach a wide audience with many different palates.  Secondly, its in our face, bill boards, brought-to-you-bys, television ads, pop culture references, schools, blah, blah, blah, blah etc, they’re here they’re here!  Fast food will take over the world, just don’t put on your tinfoil hat, it’s probably McDonald’s’ litter.

They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

That’s all well and good, but it’s more the type of food that’s ‘the rub’ as they say.  Hamburgers have: high protein, good, high fat, bad if there is too much but is necessary, high salt, again, important but too much is bad.  Iron is in there as well, but, like we all know, veggies is where the vitamins come from, and I don’t mean french fries, which are fried to the point of being deficient.

Wasn't  the potato perfect before it was fried?

Wasn’t the potato perfect before it was fried?

Coke is obviously bad too, who said bubbling sugar water that nobody knows the ingredients of. On that topic, I was going to put the list down, until I figured out the pepsi bottle we have is diet.  I already knew they had water [of course] and caramel colours for colouring, but the rest I didn’t know.  “Contains: Carbonated water, Caramel Colour, Phosphoric Acid, Aspartame, [124 mg/355 ml, contains Phenylalanine] Sodium Benzoate,” the list goes on.

list of ingredients in teeny tiny writing

list of ingredients in teeny tiny writing

By the way, Sodium Benzoate is not the salt that we know, that’s another Sodium.  I’m pretty sure most of those chemicals are sugar substitutes, here’s the regular Pepsi ingredient list [courtesy of Wikipedia] “In the United States, Pepsi is made with carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup [a very bad thing for your health, and is a replacement for sugar], caramel colour, sugar [for Petey’s sake WHY?  You have the sweet fructose crap!] Phosphoric acid [acid in your drink, umm healthy!], caffeine, citric acid [don’t worry, that’s the same kind from lemons or oranges; citrus] and natural flavours.”  That’s an actual quote from Wikipedia, excluding the brackets, obviously that was me.  The caffeine-free varieties of Coke and Pepsi both have the same recipes just without caffeine.

According to Wiki in double blind taste tests, most people could not tell the difference in taste

According to Wiki in double blind taste tests, most people could not tell the difference in taste

That didn’t sound too great did it?  Well, that’s just coke, and that’s just the very beginning of it all.  It’s starting to look worse and worse for the fast food guys, especially with movies like Super Size Me or Food Inc., which takes a look at the disgusting ways livestock is treated.  I have two facts more to give.  One, the companies won’t change unless there is incentive to, meaning that they do whatever gets them more customers.  Two, not all places are this bad.  There are several places, chains too, including Subways and other places to an extent, that are far better than abused animals and customers, so if you really want to save the world, don’t hate fast food, just eat better fast food.

Urban Eatery - The Eaton Centre

Urban Eatery – The Eaton Centre

Look at the Eaton Centre’s food court, there are all kinds of delicious and nutritious things there, and next time you go there, or your home’s equivalent of it, go to the more exotic foreign option instead of greasy, disgusting slop you don’t even like that much anyway.  I might sound a little extreme, but what’s causing the problem, the Holy Ghost?  You tell me, I know as much as anyone at this point.

Editor’s note: Any excuse to throw in an Eddie Izzard clip.  Mention Holy Ghost and voila:

But wait, isn’t this all a little hypocritical coming from a food blogger, someone who goes to all kinds of ridiculously unhealthy places as a hobby?  Well, for starters, I only eat like that when eating out, when I’m at home, I eat the best I can, and I exercise, treats are okay for anyone, health freaks would agree.  Also, I try knew foods, one of my favourite restaurants in Mediterranean, the other Pakitstani, another Indian Fusion, one Japanese and one Mexican.

Now for my opinion and voting of this cuisine in the months long cuisine contest.

Ganesh - god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune

Ganesh – god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune

As I’ve said before, it is probably the only one that’s controversial, and that is a big obstacle, even Ganesh would have trouble with it [wiki it].  So we’ll do it the standard way:

Taste: while generally hamburgers taste good, you have to know which place to go to, since several places serve rather bland stuff, and mass produced flavours lose something when treated so industrially.  Some fast food chains are delicious, but it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out which ones

Health: Oh boy.  Burgers, shakes, fries, cokes, ice creams, cakes, chicken nuggets that you don’t want to know what they’re made of, does that sound healthy to you?!  As I said before, it takes some good amount of knowledge to find healthy fast food, and when it gets to the bigger, international chains, it gets even harder.  This wouldn’t be so bad if so many fast food places, and processed food companies, deceive and, in essence, lie to us about what’s in our food.  I’ll be generous and say that the healthier places make it all right and save the score, but they don’t really

Variety: well that’s a stumper.  There are some chains that have rather exotic and foreign items, but even then it’s mostly ‘Chinese’ grease that isn’t really Chinese.  I’ll say there aren’t many options here when it comes to variety, excluding some few, smaller chains.

fast food in america

Will this cuisine reign supreme?  Well… It’s okay to great in some places, but it gets harder and harder to find good quality, and the healthier the slimmer the pickings. I think this cuisine has, not had, potential, but only if some serious changes occur in our culture.  All I can say is that it is really too hard for me to place, and I’m being nice.  If I felt like being mean [our brutally honest, depending on your view] I’d be getting really nasty and snarky, but I don’t want to drown in controversy, which leads to arguments and hate mail.  If this wasn’t one of my more happy cuisine posts, then I’m sorry, it’s the truth

Szechuan Express

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Szechuan Express was the first restaurant we tried at the new food court in the Eaton Centre.  If we were to judge the entire food court off of this restaurant, we would have been very disappointed with the Urban Eatery.  But we have since eaten at a lot of other venues here and we are everything but disappointed.

My order

In case you’re wondering why we did not fill the table to the brim with food (as usual),  is because we had plans for dinner later.  I did not include my mother’s meal because she had the exact same thing as I did, except she had sticky buns instead of sticky balls.  I dislike sticky buns and evidently sticky balls as well.  They were just too sweet, even with soya sauce added.

And now for the reasons why I said this restaurant was disappointing.  #1: It turned out not all the menu options were even available.  #2: The food we did get was cold.  #3: My mother is positive that their product is  frozen/pre-packaged.

What do you see when you look at this (not literally)?

I’ll give you a few hints before I show you.  #1: It’s from a movie  #2: It’s really gross (that’s a warning)  #3: I’m aware this is a random thought.  Without further ado…. here it is!

The Facehugger from Alien

I think the only reason I enjoyed this food at all is because I was hungry, which I almost always am.  We will never eat at the Szechuan Express again.  And after this blog, they probably won’t even let us.

Szechuan Express 220 Yonge St (Eaton Centre)

Szechuan Express on Urbanspoon

Dumpling House Restaurant

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Ahhhh, the Dumpling House Restaurant. We have been going to this place for years, for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the food is incredibly delicious and secondly, it’s super cheap.
When going to the Dumpling House Restaurant, keep your eyes peeled for this sign.  Because Spadina has so many Chinese signs, they blend in like a neon sign in Las Vegas.

please excuse the glare on the windows in this photo

However, there is one unique thing about the outside of this restaurant and that is the chefs working in the front window.
It may look clean and fancy now but it looked pretty grungy a year ago before it was renovated. The food was so good that we ate there despite the dingy decor and nasty restrooms.  I don’t remember much about how the restrooms look now, but I do remember being impressed with how much they have changed for the better.
Look!!! It’s an alien lifeform!!!  Despite looking like something from a “Creature Feature”, this is actually just showing you the inside of a pork and shrimp steamed dumpling.  Don’t worry, there are no alien larvae in your dumplings (P.S. my mom was really impressed by the size of the shrimp).

Pork & Shrimp Steamed Dumplings

See how appetizing they actually look.  To be honest, I just wanted you to see them in their  “non-mangled” state.

Pork & Chives Steamed Dumplings

One thing that I think is really distinctive about this restaurant is that the dumpling dough actually has flavour.
About a year ago I did not like the fried dumplings  (above are the Fried Minced Beef Dumplings).  

 I think that is because we were on a really “healthy” diet that didn’t include red meat or fatty/fried foods.  But now my mom and me have come to love unhealthy, artery-clogging, hospitalization causing – foods like this.

Look at all the food!!!

This is why we have a gym membership.  Don’t worry, we did take some of this home for later.

Dumpling House Restaurant 328 Spadina Avenue
Dumpling House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chopsticks (Not the Song)

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Sorry I have not written in awhile, but I’ve been busy during the summer,  mostly walking and eating.  We’ve tried out several different places that we are going to blog about in the future.  Speaking of the future (more on the chopsticks later), I have some ideas for new blogs and categories.  One thing I’d like to make clear is that some of these are just ideas and others may take awhile before I actually post them.

Because this is a blog for families and people that aren’t rich, I decided that I might have a category about Mall food.  We are going to start with the new Food Court that just opened in the Eaton Center, The Urban Eatery.

We also have a couple of ideas that are related to tv shows.  Restaurant Makeover  is one of those shows that actually take place in Toronto.  Because of this I decided that we could try out the ones featured on the show (if its’ still open) and see how they are doing now.  One of the other tv shows that we watch is called Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bags.  We will try out some of the cookbooks that they review and maybe some of our own choices as well.

My sister Reighan and her partner Chris have just moved to Montreal.  So when we visit them we will obviously be eating out and we can blog about some of the places that we will visit.

And now back to the chopsticks.  Some of my subscribers have asked me if I use chopsticks when I eat Asian food.  I cannot use “real” chopsticks, but I never leave home without my “cheater” chopsticks in my knapsack.  Because you never know what or where we are going to eat next.

If you don’t know how to use chopsticks you don’t have to resort to spearing your food with them like a caveman. Put a folded piece of paper between the two sticks and wrap an elastic around the end. And voila, your own cheaters.

Bamboo Dim Sum Cafe

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Although the Bamboo Dim Sum Cafe may look like a small, minor place from the outside, the inside is deep, comfortable and has good food.  Even though we went to this restaurant twice, there are still many items on this menu we have not tried.  This is just to give you an idea of the best and worst items.

This is near the front, they have booths in the back

The lighting on the inside, as you can see, is dim (as in dim sum…Ha, Ha, Ha).  P.S. that was my mother’s joke.  There are plenty of decorations on the walls and tables which makes the place feel comfortable.  In the background they have pretty, classical Chinese music playing: like in a movie.  This is one of the fancier places we’ve gone to.

FIRST VISIT

Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings)

The dough was not too chewy and actually had a flavour of its own, instead of just being used to contain the filling.  The shrimp was just a titch salty but had pronounced shrimp flavour and a nice aftertaste.  The carrot slice underneath the dumpling (this goes for all carrot slices under all their dim sum) is practically flavourless and clearly just used for a garnish.

Steamed Chinese Mushroom Stuffed with Shrimp and Crab Meat

To those who aren’t familiar with Chinese food; what will probably be your first thought when you look at these is.. “Ewwww it’s slimy”.  If the sliminess does not turn you away (yes they are slimy) the rubber things they called mushrooms will.   “Steamed Mushrooms” implies that they would be nice and soft, but they are so chewy they are practilcally inedible.

Steamed B.B.Q. Bun

The sweet bun would be pleasant to eat if there was more meat filling.  The meat was really good (had a nice savoury – salty taste) but the ratio of sticky bun to meat was too high.  However this is not the Bamboo’s fault, because this is how they are traditionally made.  P.S. Nana first bite accidently included the paper (from the bottom of the bun).

Steamed Rice Noodle with Shrimp

This tasted a bit like the steamed shrimp dumplings, only way better!!  The green onions on top added a nice herbiness, while the rice noodle was perfectly cooked.  Not too mushy with a good bite to it.

Steamed Chicken Breast and Chinese Mushrooms

The sauce was salty and like the mushrooms (which were actually edible), also savoury.  Paired with the delicious and tender chicken, the mushrooms and sauce went great.  A hint of ginger also adds to the flavour.

Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce

What do you get when you spell “dab” backwards?  BAD, which is exactly what describes these ribs.  Being mostly fat, the ribs are hard to chew because they are so soft.  The only way to somewhat comfortably swallow a bite of these is with a gulp of coke, which feels like an invertebrae secreting liquid down your throat.  However, Chinese Ribs are usually fatty.

SECOND VISIT

We ordered the three best items that we knew (Steamed Rice Noodle with Shrimp, Har Gow and Steamed Chicken Breast and Chinese Mushrooms) and three new items.

Pork Siu Mai with Shrimp and Scallop

I was skeptical about the Scallop at first (because I don’t like clams or oysters) but I liked this so much, I was actually excited to get the fourth dumpling.

Wok Fried Noodle in Soya Sauce

To sum things up, I thought they were a little better than the usual Chinese Noodles but nothing special.

Pan Fried Dumpling with Pork

These dumplings were so good that I actually said “Yummmm” when I first bit into one.  Unlike a lot of other pan fired dumplings, this one was filled from tip to tip with meat, instead of just a bunch of space.  We unanimously agreed that these were the best pan fried dumplings we have ever had.

Because of the really good menu items, I would eat here again.  And also try a new thing or two.  Just stay away from anything that looks or feels “slimy”.

Bamboo Dim Sum Cafe: 494 Danforth Avenue

Bamboo Dim Sum Cafe on Urbanspoon