Consider the dumpling, if you will. In all its incarnations – fried, steamed or boiled – it is the food of my dreams. In Taipei, in 1981, you could buy them for a penny apiece – yes, that’s $.01 apiece – and I ate them every day in a dumpling restaurant in Food Alley, where the tables were rickety, the floor was dirt (is that possible? am I just making that up? Honestly, I don’t think so), and each tabletop held a diner creamer filled with dried crushed chilis floating in peanut oil, soy sauce, and – at this particular restaurant – a coveted tiny bottle of sesame oil.
Take a look at that above paragraph. It was my goal to construct every sentence of this entire entry so that it contained a clause suspended in dashes – like this – but already I have grown tired of such a conceit, and if another such sentence appears from here on, it will not be intentional, but will have grown organically from the forest of surrounding words, the way a sunflower will suddenly appear halfway through the summer, just below the bird feeder. That was a very long sentence there, wasn’t it.
So anyway, the various kinds of dumplings at this particular penny-apiece dumpling restaurant were listed on a blackboard. Since my knowledge of Chinese characters, even back then, when I used to work at them, isn’t good, I didn’t know what half the offerings were. Nor did I care, because what could be better than the tried and true pork+vegetable dumpling? Nothing, in my opinion. Were it not for the pig, I could easily be vegetarian, but the pig exists, and so do pork+vegetable dumplings, and there you have it.
Next week will mark our annual dumpling party in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Two giant bowls of dumpling filling will be prepared, one traditional and one veggie. Stacks of gyoza wrappers – because I’m too damn lazy and unskilled to make them myself – and here we have another dash-dash sentence, don’t we, a triple dasher – will stand at the ready. Dumpling eaters of all ages will try their hand at filling them, pinching them shut, curving them into the requisite crescent. The Dumpling Master will stand at the stove, frying and boiling batch after batch.
Chopsticks will be scattered about, as will small dipping bowls containing the hallowed mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar and garlic and sesame oil.
A couple of pans of brownies will also stand at the ready, because brownies – as everyone knows (and here we go again; these sentences are out of control) – are the traditional dessert of the Han people.
In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the best dumplings can be found at my friend Ping’s house. Barring a visit to Ping’s kitchen, try the Grand Shanghai, on Grand Avenue, six blocks east of Snelling in St. Paul, and the Evergreen Taiwanese Restaurant on Eat Street in Minneapolis. In New York, try Prosperity Dumplings in Chinatown (5/$1.00!). Or if you find yourself near Madison Square Park, try the Rickshaw.
Yum. Duo chi yi dianr.