There’s something special about the food you grew up with. No matter how many years pass, it remains forever etched on your soul. That’s what you taste at Dumpling King—food that owner Mary Ma clearly holds dear to her heart.
Ma, who spent 14 years as a casino dealer before recently opening this new Chinatown restaurant, has hired a group of talented cooks to re-create the food of her youth, Mandarin cuisine specifically from Northern China. The large menu (more than 100 items) features dishes you’ll recognize, dishes that seem familiar but deviate from the standard and dishes you’ve never seen before.
With a name like Dumpling King, you know where to start. The best ones I’ve tried are the crystal grilled dumplings ($9.99), potstickers filled with beef that magically maintain a crisp exterior despite the ample juiciness waiting inside. Resting on top is a latticed flour batter creating a unique visual as well as added texture.
Among tried and true dishes, go with dry-fried string beans ($8.99). Doused with garlic and chili peppers, these legumes keep a perfect snap and hold up nicely to the delectably assertive spice. Leek pancake ($6.99) is a fun riff on the well-known scallion pancake, which is also offered. This take is thicker, still crunchy on the outside and light in the middle, with a tasty leek and egg filling. Dip it in vinegar to give it some punch.
Then there are the eye-openers. Teppan tofu ($9.99) is a striking presentation, sizzling ingredients served on foil inside of a traditional iron plate. Deep fried, battered tofu pieces pick up the flavors of the accompanying minced beef, home-style veggies and a sauce that could be loosely described as Chinese gravy. Put everything on white rice and you have the perfect dish to warm up a cold day.
Dumpling King doesn’t really do dessert, but toffee taro ($9.99) will satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s as strange as it sounds, with the hearty root vegetable covered in a sweet, sticky caramel, as ribbons of sugar dance on top. The taro clumps together, making it difficult to pick up with chopsticks, but after you dip it in water, it’s more manageable. It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s a nice adventure for those willing to seek one.
I’ve only scratched the surface at Dumpling King, but with food this tasty, I look forward to exploring more of Ma’s culinary memories—the stuff I know, the stuff I think I know and the stuff I have no idea about.
Dumpling King 5740 W. Spring Mountain Road, 702-220-5808. Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.