Have you ever made dumplings?
They are a pain in the neck. Good ones, anyway, require patience and dexterity – all that stuffing, dampening, folding, crimping, steaming, frying. Especially the crimping bit. I’m very bad. Which is why I tend to let others make them for me. Lately, I’ve been letting the women at Dumpling Park do the work, and I recommend you do likewise. Their dumplings are divine and the space they’ve created is darling.
So here’s what you do: bring a friend if you can; bring cash, that’s all they take; bring a lawn chair (the bit of seating the ‘park’ provides fills up fast). Don’t try to come on a Saturday, they are open weekdays only. And wear a hat. There’s an umbrella, but its shade is for the dumpling grill, where the steamed packages of thin dough crisp up, potsticker style, encasing the juicy, well-seasoned filling within.
Then make your way to Rochester Street, and when you get near the Morning Owl, close to Carling Avenue, head west along the driveway that runs just north of the coffeehouse. There, on a lurid green carpet of artificial grass is a parked a white trailer, with smart black trim and painted pressed tin for some glam, framed with flower boxes and potted herbs, and a perched owl, to remind you where you are. (And where you can go for a coffee and a cookie post-dumpling.)
Dumpling Park is run by a couple of resourceful women (Krista O’Leary, whose partner Kevin owns Morning Owl, and Kellie Vu) with a quirky flair for prettying things up.
Their dumplings come in two sizes. I made the mistake of ordering the smaller. Filled with pork and chives, they are fried up post steam, and served hot off the outdoor grill onto a waiting bowl of zucchini ‘noodles’, scallions and red cabbage, crowned with a daikon radish pinked in beet juice and drizzled with a soy-ginger broth. I also gave the ginger tofu bowl a try, with quinoa, kale, cucumber, crunchy lettuce, scallions, red cabbage and edamame. It looked better than it ate, as the flavour was a bit wan and the quinoa soggy. I’ll be back for dumplings. The big size.
Find Dumpling Park on the asphalt behind 538 Rochester Street. Open Monday to Friday from 11AM til 2PM. Cash only. With taxes, $9 to $12. If you need a receipt, you go to Morning Owl!