Tag Archives: Hungry

Modern Russian Dumplings That Nod to the Past

At Luda’s Dumplings, where he is the chef, Eugene pledged to follow his mother’s precepts — always use the freshest ingredients; mix everything by hand — if not exactly her recipe. The dough, for example, is made with organic flour and is “not as soft” as with traditional pelmeni, he said; growing up in Sheepshead Bay, a historically Italian neighborhood, he fell in love with pasta and wanted the dumplings to have a texture closer to al dente.

Of the six fillings available, the most robust and wintry in spirit is Siberian-style beef and pork, here grass-fed Angus beef shoulder and pastured pork butt, ground in-house and evenly split so neither lords over the other. One pierce, and the juices run.

In other versions, a mash of potato and Cheddar has surprising buoyancy, and spinach, melded with feta, Parmesan and mozzarella, retains its vivid green. But pulverized shrimp loses some of its briny character, muffled by Parmesan and ricotta inside a dough stained pink by beet juice.

All are enhanced by a choice of three toppings per order, among them soul-brightening dill, mushrooms chopped and sautéed until almost duxelles and slightly carnal, and roasted garlic minced so fine, it’s undetectable to the eye but an insistent imprint on the tongue.

Each dumpling is crimped with a doily-like fringe, the skin thin enough that you can see the shadows of its interior. Credit Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Best are pickled jalapeño slices, which give a little jump to the meal. (Higher-end toppings, for a $ 1 premium, include a drape of melted mozzarella, snippets of bacon and a poached egg that when slashed unleashes its caldron of yolk.)

Each order comes with two sauces, for dipping or pouring. For those who hew to tradition, there’s the bracing simplicity of vinegar or the velvety soft landing of sour cream, perhaps even better mixed together.

More maverick are variations of sour cream spiked with, by turns, raw garlic, Sriracha, chipotle, horseradish and pickled jalapeño, each with its own clarifying flare. “I know my mom would yell at me if she saw some of these things,” Mr. Tulman said.

Old-school pelmeni molds, looking like panels of honeycomb, hang above the counter. But Mr. Tulman shapes his pelmeni on a machine visible in the next room, built in Russia and customized with extra rollers so as not to overheat the dough when it’s compressed.

For dessert, there are slightly damp farmer cheese pelmeni with cocoa-infused skins, nicely muddled with sour cherries and chocolate flakes that promptly wilt into sauce. A lighter finish comes with kompot, a decidedly sweet fruit punch. It’s another nod to Luda, although Mr. Tulman allows that he’s been “experimenting” with the likes of pineapple and mango.

“Things in Russia we never had,” he said.

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Luda’s Dumplings

Recommended Dishes Pork-and-beef dumplings with roasted mushrooms and dill; spinach-and-cheese dumplings with pickled jalapeño slices and roasted garlic; potato-and-cheese dumplings with poached egg, parsley and sliced pickle.
NYT > Food

Hungry City: Rice Balls, Subtle and Showy Alike, at Omusubi Gonbei

Still, I preferred less showy ingredients: takana, pickled mustard greens with a faint, grounding bitterness; umeboshi, salty-sour pickled plum whose residual sweetness fights through; mentaiko (pollock roe), briny and close to cream.

Jako, dark-eyed glassine baby sardines, bodies ossified, taste like shattered deep-sea bacon. They’re threaded through a rice ball framed by shiso leaves, lending a green scent and hint of menthol.

A shrimp locked in tempura batter flares its tail, the nori draped around the rice like a tuxedo vest. The idea is smartly reprised with a fried oyster, another innovation for the American audience. Spam, a nod to the Hawaiian version of omusubi, is slapped over tamago, omelet laced with sugar and mirin: the classic death match — and love match — of salty and sweet.

Also on offer are miniature buckets ($ 3.50 each) of karaage, fried chicken in boneless pieces, all dark thigh, the meat rich from a bath in soy sauce. The crust softens a little as it sits, but still has fervor, its nubbly coat infiltrated by ginger, garlic and seasonings that the manager very kindly, very firmly refused to name.

Omusubi Gonbei is stationed right inside the entrance to Katagiri, which opened in 1907 as one of the first Japanese markets in the United States. (The original shop still stands on East 59th Street.) Venture deeper, and the missed opportunities multiply: bento boxes, sushi, steam rising from bowls of ramen.

No regrets. Just a promise to come back. NYT > Food