A Spontaneous Dumpling Tasting at Rickshaw

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My mom tells the story of her Uncle Manny who stunned her, as a young girl, out at Chinese restaurant when he told the waitress: “Bring whatever’s good” without even glancing at the menu.

I remember hearing that story as a kid and thinking nothing could be more lavish than shirking a menu and all the required calculations one must make in order not to break the bank. And then, years later, as I entered the food world I started dining with food writers and food professionals and guess what? They’d ask the waiter “what’s good?” and do as my Uncle Manny did–order not what was economically sound and reasonable, but whatever it was that the restaurant was proudest to proffer.

The Uncle Manny bug bit me last week when I stumbled back into Rickshaw, a former favorite dumpling place near my old apartment on 23rd Street and 6th Ave. I stared at the menu and all its options–6 dumpling options, essentially–and instead of choosing one I asked the cashier if I could have one of each.

“Sure,” she said. “You can do individual orders of each: they each come in their own sauce.”

“In their own sauce?” I asked. “Like floating in sauce?”

“No,” she said. “Like there’s a little thing of sauce and the dumpling’s in the sauce.”

That sounded very strange but I wasn’t going to argue. I also ordered my favorite Rickshaw beverage, the Meyer lemonade and eagerly awaited the arrival of my dumplings.

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I wish I could say that this dumpling tasting was a success, but it really wasn’t. When the dumplings came they were, as the cashier said, dunked into little tubs of sauce. Many of the sauces were thick mayonnaisey sauces and so the dumplings, by the time I got to them, were saturated with fat and goo and also rather mealy. Also, for the amount of money it all cost–over $10–it would’ve been smarter just to choose one dumpling and pair it with a salad or soup, the way it’s normally done at Rickshaw.

No one dumpling stood out, but essentially the dumplings themselves were very decent: as decent as anything wrapped in dough and fried in oil can be. I just wish they weren’t soaked in sauce. And that I’d gotten a salad to negate how unhealthy it all was.

Alas, there are times to be an Uncle Manny and times not to be an Uncle Manny. This was one of those times not to be an Uncle Manny.

8 comments

  1. Hmm.. the picture looks really good, but I always wonder what the appeal of Rickshaw was. Sure they have interesting fillings but regular pork dumplings + soy sauce? $1 in chinatown…

  2. I used to pass by that place on a regular basis and now I’m kind of glad I never did. The dumplings DUNKED in sauce is quite unappealing!! Why do people think a LOT of sauce/dressing = good?

  3. Well, Uncle Manny still had the right idea, I think. I usually pick a couple of things that interest me on a menu and then ask the server which he or she would choose. It’s telling if they just shrug and say, “They’re both good” (points off) or if they say, “Oh, I just loooove the rabbit!” or “Well, the rabbit’s delicious, but a little on the filling side, so if you want something lighter, I’d go with the bass. The sauce is really good.””

    I wonder if you could get the dumplings with the sauce on the side?

  4. That’s because you did it wrong! You didn’t ask what’s good; you tried to have it all.

    I often do new restaurant’s Uncle Manny style. It works the best with established restaurants that are new to you.

  5. Dumplings are staples in Northeastern China and there are infinite varieties of them. The ones in Rickshaw is what one could say a bastardized version made for the American common denominator standards of take-out Chinese restaurants. How sad is that.

    The real Chinese dumplings come in so many versions with fish and chives, cumin lamb, seafood and all kinds of stuffing. Too bad Chinese restaurants in America are just not bold enough to offer them to the American public.

  6. You should try to make dumplings at home. They are real tasty might I add.

    There is one chinese place in Marietta, Georgia that served real authentic Sichuan food. The crazy witress/hostess there will usually order for you and not allow you to order what you want. It’s hialrious to watch her debate with the other waiter in Chinese about what the best dish would be tonight for us. But when ever we put our meal in her hands it always ends up being the meals we have there.

  7. You should try to make dumplings at home. They are real tasty might I add.

    There is one chinese place in Marietta, Georgia that served real authentic Sichuan food. The crazy witress/hostess there will usually order for you and not allow you to order what you want. It’s hialrious to watch her debate with the other waiter in Chinese about what the best dish would be tonight for us. But when ever we put our meal in her hands it always ends up being the meals we have there.

  8. i’ve never liked Rickshaw Dumplings. They seem mealy and nasty to me…and the flavors weren’t that great. Maybe I’m just being picky though. Who knows!

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