Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Dumplings - Egg, Chive and Chicken & Fennel and Pork Potstickers

For the longest time I always passed up the Happy Dumplings stand at the Stonestown Farmers Market because the queue was just too long, and I lacked patience. But that thinking completely changes when it rains! If a little rain will keep people away and the line for Happy Dumplings short, then I'll stand in showers any day just as long as it prevents these delectable snacks from selling out.

Happy Dumplings can be found at both the Stonestown Farmers Market on Sundays and at the Fort Mason Off the Grid on Friday nights. They also have a walk-in restaurant called Little Saigon Cafe located downtown. Their mobile truck and farmers market stand specialize in their version of potstickers, which are made fresh to order and pan-fried right before they are served. Their menu selection has both meat and vegetarian offerings, with usually one special of the day.

First off, these suckers are huge! They are billed as potstickers, but take note that they are not like what you would expect from a typical dumpling at most Chinese restaurants. Instead, they are prepared in the Shandong style, which means they are pan fried right after they are steamed in water. The buns are actually made with a dough versus a thin wonton-like skin, which allows Happy Dumpling to stuff them full of tasty fillings. This thick dough combined with the pan frying leads to a nice crispy exterior that is slightly chewy on the inside. The buns are portable, durable and can be easily eaten on the go. Like traditional sheng jian bao, they are sold four to an order, though you can also buy them individually.

The first bao I tried was the Egg, Chive and Chicken Potsticker off of their regular menu. The bun was filled with glass noodles, chives, diced chicken and egg. I enjoyed the overall flavor, and the glass noodles added an interesting texture, but the egg really dominated the show. I was actually hoping for the chives to be more prominent against the otherwise neutral flavors. It tasted fine, and I enjoyed it, but I thought it could have had a stronger flavor, especially when compared to the other bun in my order.

The next selection I tried was their special of the day—a Fennel and Pork Potsticker. Personal preference will play largely into my review here because I absolutely adore fennel. I love fennel as a vegetable and I love it as a seed. I think it is an outstanding complement to pork, and Happy Dumpling got it right by combining the two. My potsticker was chock full of fennel, and it was by far the dominant flavor, which pleased me greatly. The pork had hints of Chinese five spice, and the whole package worked really well together. It's too bad this was a special because I would be coming back week after week for this one!

Overall I really enjoyed my dumplings and love that I can watch them being made, from the filling to the frying to my plate. I can't wait to try more of their specials, and the price, at 4 dumplings for $3.00, is very accessible for those who are just curious to try.

Rating - Egg, Chive and Chicken Potstickers: 3/5
Rating - Pork and Fennel Potstickers: 4/5 (ratings guide)

Happy Dumplings (@HappyDumplings) $3.00 for 4 dumplings

Yang Rou Chuan; Happy Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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