Tuesday, 18 January 2011

More Dumplings Please, Mom! (Part 2)

Though my family and I usually pan-fry our homemade jiaozi, many familiar with these Chinese dumplings would know that there are also two other traditional methods of cooking them: boiling and steaming.  With boiling, this can either be done in plain water or in a broth, and steaming is a popular method as they can be placed in steamers with other foods such as steamed buns at the same time, allowing for mass cooking.  There are a few Chinese restaurants in the Toronto area where dumplings are a specialty or at least prominently featured in the menu, and Mother's Dumplings is one of them.

Located in the northern end of Chinatown along Spadina and recently relocated from a smaller location, this little restaurant is a family business which features jiaozi along with some other Northern Chinese dishes, including a few noodle dishes and some side dishes.  The dumplings are made in-house; one can see a production line going in the open kitchen as scores are made at a time.  It's amazing that they can make those dumplings at such a pace.  It's also wonderful that they make their dumplings juicy.  Though I love my parents' homemade jiaozi, the only weakness I can say about them is that they are on the dry side.  The flip side is that I know my parents' version is as lean as can be.  That said, the jiaozi served at Mother's Dumplings seem less greasy compared to other restaurant versions I recall.

Whether the dumplings were steamed, boiled or pan-fried, whether it was jiaozi, xiaolong bao (steamed pork-filled dumplings that look like miniature buns), or even pan-fried pork and vegetable pancakes/biscuits (pictured above), the first bite allowed for a burst of juiciness and flavour from the filling.  Of course, there are several varieties of fillings for jiaozi, so my sister and were fortunate to be dining out with three of our cousins.  That allowed us to order several small dishes of dumplings (~10-12 per small order) in order to try as many varieties.  Special mention must be made of my sister's suggestion, the pork and dill boiled dumplings.  Dill is not a traditional Chinese ingredient, yet this filling made for a delicious and, for me at least, a potentially dangerously addictive concoction.  Other dishes we had that we enjoyed included the xiaolong bao (listed as Juicy Pork Buns), steamed pork and chive dumplings, boiled pork and bak choy dumplings, pork and vegetable pancakes, and steamed buns (listed as Dough Twists).  Unlike many Shanghai-style cuisine restaurants, this place did not provide a dipping dish of condensed milk, for which I was mildly disappointed, if only temporarily as I chomped on some more dumplings.  (My disappointment was due to the fact that it has been a while since I've had that sweet, thick goodness that is condensed milk.  I remember having that the first time as a spread on toast when I was a kid, and I never could seem to get enough of that stuff since!)

The prices are reasonable, and all the dumplings are made in-house and served hot.  Jiaozi can make for some delicious and relatively healthy comfort food, and if one doesn't know how to make those dumplings, at least there's one place where they can be made for your enjoyment.  Apparently, Mother's Dumplings even sells its dumplings raw and frozen in case people want to enjoy them from the comfort of their own homes.

Name: Mother's Dumplings
Address: 421 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON
Cuisine: Chinese
Price Range: N/A (depends on individual appetites/tastes)
Accessible: Yes

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