Vanessa’s Dumpling House- Chinatown (NYC)

Finding the best dumpling in a big city like New York is not an easy task. So I took to the internet to see which spots made the cut. Not surprisingly, the majority were located in and around Chinatown. Being deprived of all things Asian in the South I was determined to eat as many dumplings and Chinese food as time and appetite would allow for. And so I set out walking from the NoMad Hotel all the way down to Chinatown in order to get my dumpling fix. It was a long walk but the reward was worth it. Tucked all the way in the depths of Chinatown I found Vanessa’s Dumpling House, a non-conspicuous fast-food joint with a house full of fans. I ordered more food on the menu than I could physically consume but with the cheap eats and aromas in the air I could not resist. Within minutes my order was prepared and I was in a state of dumpling ecstasy. One of the best authentic dumplings I have yet to taste. Vanessa’s Dumpling House definitely made it to my NY places to eat go-to list.




Vanessa's Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The art of eating a soup dumpling | Vancouver, B.C.

Before arriving my friend and partner-in-eating asked me where I wanted to eat while in Vancouver. My response was “everything Asian: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, whatever, as long as it’s Asian”. That in short sums up what I will be eating for the next few weeks. In a city with such a large community of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, one thing is sure: the food will be amazing and options, endless to say the least.  On our first day together we decided on dumplings. Because nothing can beat a little ball filled with a mixture of heavenly goodness. Being downtown and having no access to the Chinese mecca that is Richmond, we decided on the Dynasty House located on lower Robson street. Most of our Asian food adventures downtown revolve around the two block radius of lower Robson and Denman where many variety of Korean, Japanese and Chinese restaurants reside.


Dynasty Dumpling had a small line up out the door which can never be a bad thing. But within 15 minutes we were quickly seated (despite a little hiccup over having a child and stroller with us). Guests were quick to offer their table so as to accommodate us, on the other hand, the hostess was not very happy about us having a stroller. But in the end, a nice man offered up his table after witnessing the commotion.


I’ll skip a few lines detailing the bad service and get to the good part: the soup dumplings. The menu features Shanghaise dishes including a page filled with a variety of soup dumplings. We ordered the original pork dumplings and the pork and kimchi dumplings along with a variety of other dishes including other dumplings beef and rice cake, and honey glazed lotus roots. The first time I had a soup dumpling happened to be on a Chinatown tour in Philadelphia. It was there that I was taught the secret of how to eat a soup dumpling. Once served If you bite into one right away you will surely burn your tongue. It is best to wait at least a minute to let it cool. Then gently dipping your chopstick in the vinegar you can pick up the dumpling right underneath the chopstick and place in spoon. You will then have two options: 1- poke a hole and let the broth ooze onto the spoon before eating, or 2- biting off the top and sipping the broth before devouring the whole thing. Either way you are sure to feel the same effect: pure and simple ecstasy. 


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A Foodie’s Guide to Vancouver (Canada)

Vancouver, British Columbia…the most beautiful place on earth. At least that is what the license plate claims. But really, it is! I may be biased since I am from Vancouver and spent the majority of my life there before moving south of the border. And while the natural beauty, scenery and wildlife may take your breathe away, Vancouver has even more to offer. The diverse mix of immigrants that now inhabit Vancouver has brought with it some of the best restaurants and food in North America.  Here is my list of go-to spots in Vancouver that I never fail to visit when I am in town. I would love to hear what your favorites are in the comments below so that I can consider them on my next trip home and add it to my list!



From the same owners as Chambar, Medina serves Belgian-Moroccon cuisine. Lines up go around the block and can take hours but once inside the food will make you forget that you waited for so long. Don’t miss out on the classic belgian waffles and the lavender lattes. Twisted Fork serves some of the yummiest brunch in town. I always go for the banana stuffed french toast which is an unforgettable experience in decadence.

Or choose to spend the morning in Stanley Park, the sprawling urban oasis of greenery and water that is the West Coast’s rival to Central Park. Begin at the Teahouse in Stanley Park, a well-known brunch spot, both for its location and Canadian Northwest twists on some classic breakfast items. Ask for a table by the window to look out over English Bay and West Vancouver. Don’t miss the smoked salmon Benedict, which comes with local sockeye salmon. (7501 Stanley Park Drive;


It is not a surprise that really good chinese food can be found in Chinatown and while there are really authentic spots where you must visit with a mandarin/cantonese speaking friend (for which I’m lucky to have one) there are other more modern restaurants that have started popping up in this up and coming hip neighborhood. Bao Bei is a really hip/hipster restaurant that has really good chinese food with a twist. Phnom Penh is another favorite located in Chinatown. And while the name might suggest the food is a mix between Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese.  It offers some favorite classics like the chicken wings.

Dim Sum:

For one of the most genuine Asian cultural and culinary experiences in North America, go to the Aberdeen Center for dim sum at Fisherman’s Terrace (3580-4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond). This sprawling Asian shopping center has an entire store dedicated to Hello Kitty merchandise, a Korean barbecue and a pan-Asian supermarket, among other treasures. Many options are also available downtown in Chinatown. The Jade Dynasty Restaurant (137 Pender Street) offers good-value dim sum, or just wander along the road and choose one of the many restaurants that takes your fancy. 


My favorites include Chambar (562 Beatty Street) is a sophisticated, funky restaurant serving innovative Belgium, French and Moroccan food using regional ingredientsLes Faux Bourgeois  is a french bistro located in Mount Pleasant. If you want to feel a little bit of France and have authentic French food then make the trip out of downtown to Mount Pleasant. Wait times are long but it is definitely worth it. Another French favorite located downtown is La Brasserie located in Davie Village.


There is a large Indian population in Vancouver which means one thing: really good and authentic Indian food. For the real deal you must head to Main street and Fraser street to ‘Little India’. Here you will find a vast number of Indian restaurants where cheap eats are a plenty. However, for a more upscale evening, head to one of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver: Vij’s (1480 W 11th Ave). Owners Vikram and wife Meeru pride themselves on quality Indian food in a beautiful setting. The restaurant is quite small and the wait time often is over 1-2 hours long. So be prepared to wait a while and get drunk in the process. My favorite item on the menu? The Lamb Popsicles!


An area in Vancouver that should be explored if you have time is Commercial street- Vancouver’s own version of Little Italy. Here you can find a range of great Italian food. Outside of the Commercial street area are a wide range of great choices including my favorites: Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma. 

Italian Pizza options are also great in Vancouver including Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Gastown and Pizzeria Farina.


Starting off at the intersection of Denman street and Robson street is where the feast begins. For the best ramen downtown, I usually head to either Motomoki Shokudo (740 Denman Street) or it’s sister location, Kintaro Ramen.  Try the black bamboo charcoal ramen. It is quite possibly the best broth you’ll ever taste.

Further up on Robson street is another all-time favorite, Guu with Garlic, a Japanese Izakaya restaurant which opened its doors in the early 2000’s and quickly gained so much popularity that it now has multiple locations around Vancouver and Toronto. (Below is the grilled squid served with a side of Lemon and Japanese Mayonnaise).


For the best hand-made gyozas in town I always head to Gyoza King (1508 Robson Street), a small and cozy Japanese bistro where you can choose from a variety of gyozas and other Japanese favorites. My number one pick: the shrimp and chive gyozas with a bottle of unfiltered sake to wash it down.


Where to begin on this one? Sushi restaurants cover the streets of Vancouver just as frequently as Starbucks. Some authentic, fresh and delicious and others are just in the business to make money. Making the hunt for good sushi a fun challenge (although to be honest even the mediocre sushi bars in Vancouver are far better than most sushi I’ve tasted around the US)! For a healthy organic sushi meal I head over to the tiny little gem, Shizen ya, located on Hornby street directly across from the courthouse.  For a more upscale experience with unique takes on sushi, Miku (#70 – 200 Granville St) is the place to be. The sushi is amazing and takes on a form of art. If in Yaletown, Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton St) offers a vast range of fresh seafood, sushi and BC coastal fare. It is a classy affair and on the pricey end but if in Vancouver for a short time it should not be missed.


Finchs Tea and Coffee House (353 W. Pender Street) is a classic Gastown gem serving some of the best sandwiches in town. Favorites include the proscuitto, pear and baked blue brie cheese and walnut sandwich. Absolutely to die for! Hubbub is another favorite due to their oh so delicious bread. My all time favorite is the turkey sausage sandwich which I describe in great lengths in my post.



When in Vancouver, eat lots of seafood, the unrivaled local specialty.There are so many that I am going to list them here for you and let you pick your favorite:  Blue Water Cafe and Raw BarMiku, Rodney’s Oyster House and Go Fish Ocean Emporium (a food stand close to Granville Island).


 What are your favorite restaurants in Vancouver? Please add below in comment so that I can try it out next time I am in town! 


The Hungry Nomad

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Back in NYC eating Szechuan at Han Dynasty, East Village (NYC)

There is nothing I love more than a trip to New York.  The energy of the city, constant noise, traffic and crowds absolutely thrills me. The eating options aren’t so bad either. I have never been to anywhere in the world with as many different dining options as New York. As my readers know  in the last year we made the very difficult move to Lafayette, Louisiana deep in cajun country where dining options are very (very) limited. So I spent a better part of two weeks researching and making a list of places I was to eat at while in New York.


Arriving on a friday, I first made a stop at popular midtown bagel joint where I chowed down a large New York Bagel with jalapeños spiked cream cheese. Verdict: Delicious! That night my friends and I headed down to the East Village to try Han Dynasty, Philly’s own restauranteur’s opening in New York. The small shop was packed solid and chaotic but the smell of the chili oil and fried pork was too good to pass up. And so we waited across the street until our table became available at 10 pm. Being a pro at Han dining (we were regulars in Philly) I took a glance at the menu, saw that it was the same, and ordered all the dishes I had been craving since our move from Philly: Dan Dan Noodles, wontons in chili oil, chicken in garlic sauce, prawn hot pot and much more.

image_3 Everything tasted exactly the same as the dishes in Philly and were served in the same quick manner and efficiency. The only difference I found was that the spiciness level was definitely not the same as Philly. Here even an 8 on the spicy scale seemed to go down without a fight.  While I loved the simple dishes and low prices, I did not like the layout of the restaurant and tables which seemed to be sliding around due to the oil seeping out from the kitchen floors. Meanwhile, the bartender was yelling at the hostess telling her that she needed to ‘take control of the situation’ in front of a crowd of hungry on-lookers. All in all the service was again en par with that of Han’s Philly locations: good food, mediocre service!image_5

Han Dynasty on Urbanspoon

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Weekend Dim Sum at Ocean City- Chinatown (Philadelphia, USA)

It is a beautiful foggy and rainy Sunday in Philadelphia. You know what that means? It is time for dim sum (for some). Many, including myself, prefer this Chinese tradition to the typical eggs and bacon brunch, mostly for the variety of dishes offered in one sitting. In Philadelphia, the best dim sum is of course located in Chinatown and includes restaurants such as Dim Sum Garden, Joy Tsin Lau and Ocean City Restaurant. 
We followed the crowds to Ocean City where a crowd of people waited at the front for their turn to be seated. Luckily, the wait was not that long since we showed up after the 1pm lunch rush. 
The food is served in steam table trolleys usually stacked high with bamboo or metal steamer baskets. Waiters push them around the restaurant from table to table, and you get to point to the dish that you want and order. Each table gets a card that is stamped. Each order typically costs only a few dollars adding up.  Once seated, our eyes went directly to the many food trolleys circling the room. We selected the Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings), Shumai (pork), Siu Mai (open pork dumpling), a delicious shrimp and cilantro dumpling. 
The Siu mai is a open-topped steamed pork and/or shrimp dumpling made with a wheat flour wrapping and is often topped with fish roe or grated carrot. This is always a favorite and is always one of our orders. 
The zhaliang (friend, noodle-wrapped cullers) is a steamed rice noodle wrapped around crispy fried cullers topped with soy and hoisin sauce. The combination of the crispy and soft texture is a perfect contrast and tastes really good. 
The Har Gau or steamed shrimp dumplings is always a favorite. It is a translucent  dumpling made with wheat starch skin and tapioca to give it that stretchy texture. It is typically filled with shrimp only but sometimes if you get lucky scallions and bamboo shoots are used. The Har Gau is hard to find as it is typically everyone’s favorite. We waited around the longest for a basket of these. 
Overall, our dim sum experience at Ocean City was pretty good. Despite the crowds of people, the service was pretty good for dim sum standards. We ended up eating way too much and only paid $30 for a table of two. Where else can you find such a grand feast for so little? 
Ocean City on Urbanspoon
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Dim Sum Garden- Chinatown (Philadelphia, USA)

Several weeks ago the Count and I along with a few friends went on the Free Tours by Foot Chinatown Food Tour. We walked through Philadelphia’s small yet historic Chinatown stopping by at the best spots for quick eats. The tour ended with a sit down lunch at Dim Sum Garden.
I have walked by this spot without bothering to look twice only because it is under the convention center overpass and I wrongfully must have assumed that it could not be good given it’s dark location. Wrong!
Best handmade dumplings I have had…and I am from Vancouver which is known for its mainland Chinese and Hong Kong delicacies. In fact, given that my best friend is Chinese doing Sunday ‘Dim Sum’ brunch was kind of our thing. This spot is not your typical sit down full service dim sum restaurant where they come around with their carts and you can pick and choose what you’d like to eat next. Here you order your dim sum at the counter and pay at the counter.
Now onto the actual dumplings: our tour guide knew a thing or two about dumplings and ordered a few  rounds for the table. I have never had a soup dumpling (xiao long bao) and found it to be such a treat. There  is an entire process to having a soup dumpling. You must gently place one in your spoon. Place a hole at the top to allow the hot steam to cool off and place the whole thing in your mouth without spilling the contents on the inside. Essentially it’s soup wrapped up in dough served with their own special dumpling sauce. Okay. That was great. Whats next?

Next was the Shanghai siu mai- sticky rice and minced pork dumplings. These were also a first for me and were a real treat. Sticky rice with small bits of pork all mixed with a delicious sauce and beautifully bundled up into a dumpling.
We also had the prawn dumplings, pork and chive dumplings and many other varieties of dumplings. One was better than the next. Best part is you know its fresh and handmade as you can see through the back counter where all the action is happening. It’s cheap dumpling at its best. Don’t be put off by the neon lights and interior facade. This is a place where you can satisfy your dumpling cravings not to go people watching (unless you enjoy watching suffering panhandlers and other characters on 11th street).
Dim Sum Garden on Urbanspoon


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Han Dynasty-Manayunk (Philadelphia, USA)

One month in to our move to Philadelphia and we discovered the Manayunk neighborhood. I love Main street with their charming shops and eclectic range of restaurants. On our first visit to the area we planned on having Persian food but were disappointed to find the restaurant closed on a Sunday. So we wandered the street until we reached Han Dynasty. The Count wasn’t in the mood for Chinese food but after seeing all the award and zagat rated stickers on the door we decided to try it anyway. Note: this review is based on two trips made to the same location. 

I’ll start with the service which was horrible. It is a very small restaurant with waiters running around from left to right, yet we stood at the front for what seemed like 15 minutes before someone acknowledged us. There were plenty of open tables so we finally asked one of the staff if we could take a seat. Once we were seated we waited another 10-15 minutes before someone came to our table. Once we expressed our concern with the service they seemed to pick up their pace. 

Now onto the food. The menu is true Szechuan (pronounced Zesh-won)  and has been rated one of the best in the country. After tasting it I am not surprised. What I loved most is that the menu is one page only not like other Chinese restaurants who present books as menus to flip through. There are your appetizers, entrees and side dishes. Szechuan is a style of Chinese cooking which originated from the Sichuan province of Southwestern China. What makes it so popular are the bold flavours, particularly the pungent and spiciness resulting from the use of mounds and mounds of garlic and chili peppers. You can choose your dishes based on the style of sauce you prefer and the meat or vegetables. Then you can choose the spiciness level ranging from 1 being tolerable to 10 being the spiciest. (See Menu)

We started off with an order of wontons in chili oil. Once I took the first bite I was immediately hooked. I love garlic and am known to use a lot of it at home. What made the dish so special was the garlic chili sauce sprinkled with sesame oil. 

Next we tried the wontons in chili oil sauce. The flavors were the same although the wantons come in a larger quantity and seem to have more filling. It was also delicious. 

There were four of us on our second trip so we decided to order two main entrees and share. First order was the Dry Pot Style served in a mini wok and cooked in a spicy hot sauce with black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and Sichuan peppercorns. We ordered the level 7 spice thinking it was a happy medium. It arrived on top of a mini gas stove sizzling hot served with a big bowl of white rice.  Again the sauce and the spiciness and the liberal use of garlic made it so good. In fact, the best I’ve ever had. 

The cilantro topping added that additional punch of flavor but also worked against the burning spices. 

We also ordered a side of bok choy with black mushrooms. It was presented so beautifully like a plate of flowers. 

It was the perfect side dish to offset the meat and spice. The bok choy was fresh and crunchy, the mushrooms were so good and the sauce even better. 

Our next entree was the prawns in garlic sauce. As if there was not enough garlic in the other dishes this plate was mainly covered in garlic. Did I complain? Of course not, it was truly one of the best sauces I have ever tasted. The prawns were large and generous amounts were presented in the plate.  On our first trip we had the garlic sauce with the beef as opposed to the shrimp. I think I preferred the beef to the prawns for this dish. The garlic sauce is my favorite and I know that I’ll be a regular based purely on this sauce. Just thinking of it is making my mouth water.

Was the meal amazing? Yes. Will I be back? Yes. Did the service turn me off? A bit but the food is too good to let the bad service get in the way. Plus there are several different locations and I am determined to try them all. 

Han Dynasty (Manayunk) on Urbanspoon

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Wo ai ni- Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (Vancouver, Canada)

Ok! So I finally got a chance to eat at Bao Bei last night. I’ve been there several times since its opening but every time the wait has been too long and we have ended up walking down the street to Phnom Phen restaurant (which deserves a post of its own).

The food was great.  I guess you could say it is more of a tapas-type joint.  Amongst my favourites were the  the Mantou (steamed buns and braised beef shortrib), Sticky Rice Cake which consisted of  stir fried julienned pork, salted mustard greens and mushrooms (however, for those of you who have had rice cake before you will note that this is actually more like rice noodles with delicious toppings…either way I am almost pretty sure you wont be disappointed),  the Pearl Bok Choi (so yummy), squid served in a wonderful array of sauces and bok choi, and prawn and chives dumplings.  The ‘whole bean’ black bean sauce on the Bok Choi and other dishes was delicious and really added the flavor to the dishes. For desert I had the Deep fried banana served with sorbet(I wasn’t particularly blown away). (See Menu)

Pork Buns

What adds on to the food is the great ambiance. Located it Chinatown on Keefer street, I assume this is a new hip joint in Van city (but don’t take my word for it since I’ve been away for much too long). The design is pretty cool: A delicate-looking row of white-painted knives fastened into the wall, antique trays crowding another vertical section, tall branches shooting out of dainty vases, an olde-tyme-looking bar, dim lighting and gorgeous wall paper lining the back wall of the restaurant.

The servers and owner were all nice and helpful (which is always a bonus these days). OH! I guess its worth mentioning that if you are not too fond of pork then you might want to stay away as many of the dishes have stir fried julienned pork sprinkled all over. I am sure critics will say that there is better chinese food out there and I wont disagree (after all we do live in vancouver) but if you are looking to add a little ambiance to your friday night meal then this place will definitely do.

Bao Bei is located at: 163 Keefer Street, Vancouver, BC, V6A 1X3  T. 604 688 0876

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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