The restaurant I was planning to visit was closed. What to do on a chilly day? Carbs, of course, in the form of dumplings and buns. Though I was close to Eden Center, I was curious about a spot called Tasty Dumpling inside the Falls Plaza strip mall in Falls Church.
Chef and co-owner Jason Zhu hails from Beijing, but his dumplings span Asia. From lemongrass chicken to kimchi, his unique creations are each sealed in a colorful wrapper, creating a table full of pinks, greens, yellows, and even purples. I tried the tofu dumplings (background above) just to see their white-and-pink stripes. Unfortunately, they were not as vivid as I hoped, nor was the flavor of the dumplings, which were listed on the menu as including spicy chile crisp.
The dumplings, while pleasant enough, are not the reason to visit Tasty Dumpling, it turns out. Zhu says that his recipe for pan-fried bao, adapted from the Shanghainese staple (sheng jian bao), is among his most popular dishes. And that’s with good reason.
These are not your typical Shanghai-style buns, though. For something closer to the original, go to Nanjing Bistro in Fairfax. Zhu’s interpretation includes versions made from the usual pork or from beef. I tried the latter. At first bite, I knew that I was right to venture outside the norm.
Beefy juice flowed seductively from within the plump bun with its crisp bottom. Sweet onions, not scallions, flavor the liquid, making it more reminiscent in some ways of Central Asian chebureki or Mongolian buuz than a Chinese dumpling. But a dash of ginger brings the combination back east, as does the inclusion of squiggly clear noodles.
Not every successful meal goes exactly as planned, but my Tasty Dumpling experience proved that sometimes a swerve can be sweetest of all.
1112 W. Broad St., Falls Church
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