A little while back, I judged a dumpling festival in the LES. Dream gig? Not quite. It was a dumpling eating contest, where hungry masochists wolfed down room-temperature dumplings, slicked in bowls of tap water. Whoever ate the most in 2 minutes won a cool $2,000. My role was ceremonial at best, disgusting at worst. At one point I had to paw through a bunch of half-eaten dumplings that fell out of one dude’s mouth, to gauge how many he’d actually swallowed.
The event was sponsored by Chef One, a high-volume Asian foods manufacturer that took over an old Bushwick brewery in 1999. I paid little attention to the quality of Chef One’s products that day; they were not being consumed for gustatory pleasure. But more recently I had a chance to sample their wares in my home kitchen, with no loud buzzers, jacked-up announcers, or risk of regurgitation.
And without a doubt, I’ve determined Chef One makes the best dumplings you can find at a standard local supermarket (say, Crown Heights’ Key Foods) I should be clear: I have a fairly serious dumpling intake, to the point that the editor of this publication asked if it was affecting my health. I feel fine (cough cough), but my addiction certainly qualifies me to give a proper assessment.
Now if I want ethereal dumplings that make me close my eyes and sway a bit, I’ll head to Sunset Park or Flushing. But for those of us not blessed to live in dumpling-heavy hoods—or close to a Vanessa’s—sometimes you just need your fix. Chef One makes quality dumplings at a reasonable price (though perhaps not as shockingly cheap as my go-to Brooklyn spot). I was particularly enamored with the kale and chicken variety, which were toothy and loaded with flavor. Overall, though, every style was pleasant.
Note: There were no half-eaten dumplings on the table at meal’s end. I win!