Mother’s Dumplings

I stepped out of my building this evening and felt a warm summer breeze brush across my face (and also a slap of humidity…I’m from out west and am still getting used to the humidity).  The sun was a couple hours above the horizon and you could still feel the static from the crazy lightening storm from the night before.  I had originally planned  on walking to the grocery store (which actually isn’t much of a walk since it is on the first floor of my building) but decided to take a detour and hit the grocery store on the way back.  I headed west towards China town with the intent on looping back around through little Italy and maybe finding a few new places to eat before the end of the summer (there is a fish sandwich shop, burrito place, two pizza places, a gelato place, and two nicer italian restaurants I had identified on my walk…it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks).  As I walked west I came upon one of my favorite little shops in Toronto, Mother’s Dumplings.

I first tried this place in the fall of 2007, when it’s not cold enough to snow but cold enough that you want something warm and comforting after being outside for more than ten minutes.  I remember waking up on a Saturday (I think it was 2pm) and phoning a friend telling him I was hungry and wanted to try this dumpling place.  My friend was really hung ov…I mean…feeling under the weather, so I decided to head out myself.  I had never eaten at a restaurant by myself so this was a new experience in itself.  Being cliche and all, I brought a book, East of Eden by Steinbeck (thank you Oprah), and made my way to this little underground shop.

CIMG0147I walked in to find four tables in the front and three small tables in the back by the open kitchen where a family was cooking up a storm.  I got the last table in the back, which in the middle of the afternoon, was a good sign.  I’m convinced good restaurants are full all the time…or maybe this is a just a hot spot for late risers like myself.  I ordered 1 order of steamed pork and chive dumplings and an order or beef buns.  In no time at all, there was a steaming plate of dumplings in front of me.

CIMG0165I didn’t really know what to expect.  Dumplings weren’t exactly something I got excited about, unlike a juicy steak, Thanksgiving turkey or Hogtown poutine.  After letting the dumplings cool off for a bit, I attempted to pick one up with the chopsticks.  The slippery bugger shot out from between the sticks and luckily landed back on to the serving plate.  Feeling a little embarrassed and actually kind of glad I was eating by myself since my friends wouldn’t let me hear the end of it (we used to joke that my motor skills were deteriorating), I carefully made another attempt and got the dumpling into my mouth.  As you bite into the dumpling you begin to feel the juices swish around your mouth and you are hit with a rush of flavors.  The meat begins to melt in your mouth and is balanced out by the taste of the vegetables.  It feels so warm as it travels down to you stomach.  This is the ultimate comfort food.  I made my way through half the plate and one of the buns before I was pretty full.  I decided to pack the rest up which I had for dinner and you know what, it reheats well too!

The following week I took my buddy who flaked out on me the previous week and we tried a few more of the flavors, chicken and mushroom, beef and celery, pork and bok choi…all so delicious.  They can also be cooked in different ways.  Below are the steamed pork and bok choi and the lamb shui mai.

As you can tell in these pictures, the people I went with were just as excited about the food that they wouldn’t even let me get a  picture of the full dish before digging in.  I’ll admit, after they grabbed one I had to grab one too.  These things are just too good to let sit around.

CIMG0214The steamed dumplings have more flavor and are less slippery than their boiled counterparts.  However, you get fewer dumplings in the steamed order so the choice of whether to go with steamed or boiled was usually a function of how hungry we were.  Below are the pan fried dumplings.

CIMG0167This greasier option is delicious.  It is crisped on the outside and still maintains the soft and juicy inside that is the hallmark of a mother’s dumplings.  From that first week, I had gone to Mother’s Dumplings 8 weeks in a row (it may seem excessive but cheap good food like this is hard to come by and its only a ten minute walk from my place).  I think every week we were also excited to try something new on the menu.  In addition to ordering dumplings, we also tried the noodles.

CIMG0201The broth in the da-lu noodles is perfectly salted, flavorful and like everything else on the menu is warm and comforting.  There are bits of meat and vegetables spread out throughout the soup which gives each bite a unique flavor.  There is also an egg in it…I like eggs.  We were a little shocked when we first saw the dish since it is a BIG bowl of noodles.  For under $7, this is enough to feed two people comfortably (of course we always leave this place uncomfortably full since we keep forgetting how much food there is in each dish).  Seeing as we usually go for “breakfast” we also decided to try the pancakes.  This is the banana and green onion pancake.  I know what you are thinking, “banana and green onion?!”  We decided to give the place the benefit of the doubt since everything else is so good (except for the buns surprisingly which has a bread to meat ratio that is too high for my liking).

CIMG0166The pancake is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, kind of like the pan fried dumplings but instead of meat and vegetables in the middle you hit with an almost paste-like mixture of bananas and green onions.  It also has a hint of saltiness to it which actually works really well.  I really like these but it is a little on the greasy side so….who am I kidding I order it almost every time I go.  I like to think it is still healthier than bacon and eggs.  The other type of pancake we’ve tried is the pork and vegetables.

CIMG0213These were okay.  After eating them we all thought to ourselves, we should have just ordered more dumplings.  It is nice to mix it up every once in a while so if we are looking for a change, there are plenty of excellent options on the menu to choose from.  Mother’s Dumplings has earned a regular spot in my weekend rotation and I have never been disappointed.  I just cooked up some of the frozen ones I picked up tonight and they too are just bundles of awesomeness.  If you ever find yourself on Huron street and need to retreat from the funny smell of China town (which seems worse in the humid summers) or the bitter cold of the Toronto winters, head down the steps to Mother’s Dumplings for comfort food that only Mother can deliver.

~ by jlowjlow on August 11, 2009.

One Response to “Mother’s Dumplings”

  1. You’ve had everything at Mother’s Dumplings! The food their is pretty awesome. I like the Juicy Dumplings best, in Chinese referred to as siu long bau. They aren’t the best dumplings I’ve had but they are damn cheap and tasty.

    I echo your sentiments about eating alone. I did it for the first time in Kingston at Pan Chanchos and I ALSO brought a book to read. The next goal is to watch a movie alone. And buy a big popcorn to eat at the theatre.

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