September 30, 2022

AmericanHummus

Food & Travel Enthusiast

6 delightful dumpling destinations for Lunar New Year

The Chronicle Food + Wine staff has its own picks for a Lunar New Year staple: dumplings. The traditional new year dumpling comes shaped like old-school gold or silver ingots, and consuming them during the holiday is a nod to more wealth in the new year. Here are some of the staff’s favorite restaurant dumplings. We included soup dumplings for fun, though most of these spots offer dumplings in the crinkly shape, too. For an extra dose of cheer, order noodles to symbolize longevity; many of these restaurants offer those, too.

New Dumpling

New Dumpling’s dumplings in El Cerrito.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

Where I go for dumplings in the Bay Area depends entirely on the type of dumpling. But ahead of Lunar New Year, I’m thinking about jiaozi. These northern Chinese-style dumplings symbolize prosperity during the holiday season because they’re shaped like an ancient Chinese currency. In the East Bay, El Cerrito’s New Dumpling offers the best selection with about 10 different fillings, from classic pork and shrimp to more surprising tomato egg. I love the simplicity of a plump, boiled dumpling where the thick and chewy dough is the star. (For similar jiaozi in San Francisco, try Yuanbao Jiaozi at 2110 Irving St.) 10064 San Pablo Ave., near Central Avenue, El Cerrito. — Janelle Bitker, food enterprise reporter

Rintaro

Hanetsuki gyoza at Izakaya Rintaro in S.F.

Hanetsuki gyoza at Izakaya Rintaro in S.F.

Stephen Lam/Special to The Chronicle

Gyoza are the Japanese answer to the Chinese jiaozi, the crescent-shape dumplings often enjoyed during the Lunar New Year. Since they go down well with a cold beer, they’re an essential at Japanese pubs like San Francisco’s Rintaro, where the humble dumpling gets its wings. The California-Japanese izakaya’s hanetsuki gyoza ($15) are arranged in a circle in a hot pan, where they’re steamed and seared for hot bottoms. But wait, there’s more: A last-minute trickle of flour and water over the dumplings creates a cracker-like frico — the dumpling’s “wings,” which snap off and add a pleasing crunch to each bite. The filling of Berkshire pork is already rich and juicy, but an addition of extra gelatin, pulled from simmered chicken feet, makes the dumplings utterly luxurious. 82 14th St., near Folsom Street, San Francisco. — Soleil Ho, restaurant critic

Dumpling Alley

Dumpling Alley’s dumplings come boiled.

Dumpling Alley’s dumplings come boiled.

Soleil Ho / The Chronicle

Though there are many homestyle Chinese dishes that have worthy restaurant versions, finding boiled dumplings with the je ne sais quoi of my mother’s version has always proved challenging. Dumpling Alley in the Richmond District is the only place that comes close — which makes it nothing short of brilliant in my mind. Fresh, thin-skinned and stuffed to the brim, the boiled dumplings have just the right touch of salt to highlight the flavors of the proteins hidden inside. The pork, chive and shrimp blends the tenderness of pork with the clean bounce of shrimp, while the chives, eggs and black fungus is the kind of vegetarian dumpling I wish more restaurants served. Buying a couple bags of frozen dumplings was a pandemic treat; if I close my eyes, I can pretend like a relative made them for me. 2512 Clement St., near 26th Avenue, San Francisco. — Serena Dai, senior editor of Food + Wine

Dragon Beaux

Wild mushroom & chicken bao (left) with five guys xiao long bao (right) and scallop shiu mai (top right) made at Dragon Beaux.

Wild mushroom & chicken bao (left) with five guys xiao long bao (right) and scallop shiu mai (top right) made at Dragon Beaux.

Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle

I realize this is a bit of a cop-out, but it’s hard to pick a favorite among Dragon Beaux’s Five Guys xiao long bao ($10.88 for lunch, $11.88 for dinner). Yes, it’s Instagram bait — you can also order it at Dragon Beaux’s Ghirardelli Square sister restaurant Palette Tea House — but it’s also a worthy representation of a soup dumpling. The dumpling skins are great all around with just the right amount of thinness. If I did have to pick a favorite, I’d go with the squid ink and black truffle dumpling; there’s an added hit of brinyness and umami along with the salty soup in the dumpling. Another worthy pick: the bright-red beet skin dumpling with beef. It doesn’t have any of the earthy flavor of the root, but the beet in the skin imparts an overall richness to the dumpling. Just get two orders to avoid any potential fights with dining companions. 5700 Geary Blvd., near 21st Avenue, San Francisco. — Tanay Warerkar, assistant Food + Wine editor

Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant

West Lake lamb dumplings at Old Mandarin Islamic.

West Lake lamb dumplings at Old Mandarin Islamic.

PATRICIA CHANG/

I recently spent an entire day craving the lamb dumplings from Old Mandarin Islamic in the Outer Sunset. Thoughts of the petite, tender dumplings filled with succulent lamb burrowed into my brain and wouldn’t leave until I secured an order for dinner that night. Make sure to ask for extra chile oil and vinegar for dipping. I also love following the longtime Chinese-halal restaurant on Instagram, where you can find mesmerizing behind-the-scenes videos of staff rolling out dough, stuffing, pleating and boiling the dumplings by hand. 3132 Vicente St., between 42nd and 43rd avenues, San Francisco. — Elena Kadvany, food reporter

Xiao Long Bao

The namesake dumplings at this takeaway dim sum counter in the Inner Richmond come in tiny aluminum cups, appearing almost like little dumpling cupcakes, their pinched edges like a swirling mound of frosting. During the pandemic, I missed the ritual of going out to an in-person dim sum brunch and opening up the bamboo steamer to reveal layers of plump, hot soup dumplings, and I found a lot of comfort in Xiao Long Bao’s takeout-friendly xiao long bao. This is a dish best eaten quickly and hot, so if you can, grab a bench on Clement Street and perform your own soup dumpling ritual there. Hold the aluminum cup over the plastic takeout container, jab the dumpling with a chopstick and pour in some of the black vinegar sauce, then slurp it all up. No spoon required. 625 Clement St., between Seventh and Eighth avenues, San Francisco. — Esther Mobley, senior wine critic

Serena Dai is the San Francisco Chronicle’s senior editor of food & wine. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @ssdai