NEW YORK — It turns out that eating 10 different kinds of dumplings in one sitting can give you a bit of stomach ache, but that didn’t stop hundreds of New Yorkers from trying on Saturday at the 2nd annual NYC Dumpling Festival.
The 85-degree weather and blaring top-40 tunes brought a summer atmosphere back to Sara D. Roosevelt Park as lines of people crisscrossed the basketball courts waiting to sample the various doughy pockets.
“Today, New York is the capital of the dumpling-eating world,” said New York City Comptroller John Liu during the “dumpling- cutting” ceremony that officially started the festivities. “Every single imaginable food can be ground and rolled up into a bite-sized morsel. Dumplings are just an incredible food.”
From Italian Ravioli to Chinese Pot Stickers, Polish Pierogi to Malaysian Lemongrass, the festival featured flavors from around the world.
“Every culture has a dumpling, so at an event like this you can eat your way around the world,” said Mitchell Davis, vice president of the James Beard Foundation and author of “Kitchen Sense.” Davis attended the festival as one of the judges for the 7th annual Dumpling Eating contest.
Reigning five-time champ Joe “Gentlemen” Menchetti retained his title by eating 55 dumplings in a two-minute span. He holds the all-time record of downing 66 dumplings in two minutes — talk about a stomach ache.
TMI Food Group, Tang’s Natural, Chef One, Twin Marquis, H-Mart and Bruce Cost provided dumplings for the festival, all of which were packaged products available in local supermarkets. All of the proceeds from the festival went to the Food Bank of New York City.
Bruce Cost, cookbook author and expert on Asian cuisine, was proud to share his product at the festival.
“Dumplings are a food that’s universal,” said Cost. But unlike in Asian countries, Cost said frozen or refrigerated dumplings haven’t yet become mainstream in American households. This is something he said he expects to change soon, with dumplings rivaling the likes of frozen pizza by offering a healthier alternative.
Judging by the lines at the festival, Cost may be on to something as the line for his BBQ Pork Bao, a steamed Chinese bun, was by far the longest throughout the day.
Tiffany Lee of Brooklyn raved about the Bao. “Whether that was fried, soft or baked, I don’t care; it’s good,” she said.
Other highlights of the festival included the refreshing crunch of the fried Malaysian Lemon Grass Dumpling, the sesame stickiness of the Sweet Rice Tangyuan, and the spicy burn of the Korean Kimchi and Pork Mandoo.
In line for the Korean dumplings, Manhattan resident Tom Burke was eager to satisfy his dumpling cravings.
“I’m obsessed with dumplings,” Burke proclaimed. His obsession once took him on an adventure to nine different restaurants in one evening to try and find the best dumpling in the city.
“The key to the perfect dumpling is the texture. A little crunchy, but not too hard, juicy meat, a little fat, but not too much fat.” But what really makes it perfect is a little pop of extra flavor, he said.
His favorite: Lan Zhou on East Broadway (a little hole-in-the-wall on the Lower East Side). “It’s got this ginger spice flavor; it just nails it,” he said.