Dumplings, aka jiaozi, reputedly date back to China’s Eastern Han dynasty, when a medical practitioner boiled dough, stuffed it with warming herbs and distributed the ear-shaped concoction for people to protect their ears from frostbite. They were later dubbed “jiao’er" (er meaning “ear”), and traditionally eaten on the first day of winter.
Eventually a divide developed: northerners ate dumplings with thicker dough, boiled or fried; thinly wrapped hun tun, or wontons, usually consumed in broth, became popular in the south. Both styles are a winter solstice tradition and staples in New York City, where people consume dumplings for on-the-go snacks, appetizers or sometimes full meals.
You can find these traditional dumplings in many forms—fried, boiled or steamed, with or without soup—in these eateries across Queens and Manhattan that dedicate themselves to dumpling craft.
Old Captain’s Dumpling
135-23 40th Rd., Flushing, Queens
Head to Flushing’s Old Captain’s Dumplingfor a sit-down meal of handmade wontons and dumplings. Try their signature fish dumpling or lamb with carrot. Vegetarian options include egg with chive. If you’re in the mood for a thinner wrapping, try the wonton filled with salmon. As a side dish, order the millet congee, a porridge made from a light, protein-rich grain. You can even purchase frozen dumplings to make at home.
135-02 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, Queens
Two blocks over you’ll find White Bear. Open for more than a decade, the intimate eatery fits no more than 10 people. Don’t leave without trying their signature No. 6: wontons with hot sauce (frequently hailed as the best in NYC), which are stuffed with pork, vegetable and shrimp, coated with red chili and topped with pickled radish and green scallion.
86-10 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, Queens
Broadway Snacks has counter seating by the windows. Try their popular pan-fried chive and pork dumplings, served all day, and sip a homemade soybean drink. Pair everything with some savory tea eggs—boiled, slightly cracked and soaked for hours in a dark coffee-colored broth made with cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, tea leaves, salt and soy sauce. If you’re still hungry, get another popular pairing: preserved duck egg with pork congee made with rice that has been minced and boiled until soft.
Stick to My Potstickers
224 W. 35th St., Garment District, Manhattan
Continue your dumpling tour in Manhattan at Stick to My Pot Potstickers, which opened in 2019. Dumplings can be steamed, boiled or fried here (the last of which are called potstickers, or guo tie). An on-site machine makes the thin dough wraps. There is a vegan option filled with pumpkin, edamame, shiitake mushroom and corn. For a side try the wine-braised edamame.
214 E. 9th St., East Village, Manhattan
Opened in October 2021, Dumpling Lab has tables and bar seating. Inspired by the cuisine of Qingdao, a city in northern China that borders the Yellow Sea, the restaurant serves excellent seafood dishes. Get their signature dumplings with mackerel, pork, chive and dried shellfish, or order the squid ink dumpling wrap with uni. For a vegetarian option, try the zucchini, cucumber and egg with vermicelli filling. The smashed cucumber salad with garlic vinaigrette is a must as a side dish. The beer menu includes Jade Scorpion from Hong Kong, a citrusy pilsner brewed with green peppercorn, and Jasmine Tea, a lager from Nanjing, China, with floral hints.
42 Mulberry St., Chinatown, Manhattan
Move south to Chinatown, where local favorite Tasty Dumpling faces Columbus Park. After you order their cabbage and pork dumplings boiled or fried, plus a hot and sour soup to balance the flavors, dine in or sit outdoors across the street. You can also grab a bag of frozen dumplings to go. Tip: when making these at home, bring the dumplings to a boil, add a cup of cold water and bring to a boil again; repeat with another cup of cold water. As the wrapping is thicker, this will help soften the skin.