$13: Frozen Dumplings

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What: Frozen jiaozi ($5 for 25) and "Chinese hamburgers" ($6 for 6) = $11

Where: Hoven Foods, 502 6th Ave. S., 623-6764, INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT.

Would I buy them again? Yes, as a provisional measure.

I've been trying to get access to Seattle's network of little old ladies who make Chinese dumplings for their friends and neighbors, but so far, no luck. (One of my friends has a contact, but these things take time.) Frozen dumplings are easy to boil or steam up, and my favorite quick lunch. Every month or two I used to stock up from a restaurant in Oakland that would sell handmade dumplings at $13.50 for a bag of 50, but here I've only been able to get mass-produced dumplings at the supermarket.

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I peeked into Hoven Foods, a tiny market on the edge of the ID, and saw a freezer case filled with plastic bags: beef and pork dumplings (jiaozi) for boiling, xiao long bao (Shanghai-style steamed pork dumplings), and flat white disks that I hadn't seen before. The cashier said that they were made by a local restaurant, but they looked even more rustic than that. I came back and bought a few bags to take home.

I'm going to confess to you now: I overshot my limit and bought a bag of xiao long bao, but they were so awful (thick, gluey, with not great meat) that I tossed the rest of the bag. But these two were pretty good:

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Dumped these pork-and-Chinese-leek dumplings into a pot of boiling water and let them cook for 13-14 minutes. (I threw in some broccoli into the pot a few minutes before they were ready, just for my lunch.) The wrappings were thicker than commercial renditions -- either packaged dumplings or those you'd find at a good dim sum place -- but the filling had a good oniony flavor. I dunked them in a little black vinegar to snack on.

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It took a little practice to figure out how to cook the disks. Many places (like Fu Man Dumpling House) call them "Chinese hamburgers." I thawed them out, then pan fried them over low heat so they slowly browned and cooked inside. (The white stuff in the middle is just extra dough). Man, are they good. The skin crisps up nicely. It took a wardrobe malfunction before I discovered that the seasoned ground beef inside is so juicy you have to eat the dumpling over a bowl.

I'll go back to Hoven for now -- there were a couple more varieties of boiled dumplings I want to try -- but I'm still angling for an in with the old ladies. Know any? Email me. Also ISO local tamale ladies. Christmas is just around the corner...

 
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