Flying in late from my short food-vacation to New York on Thursday and a late shift on Friday, you’d think I’d be exhausted and ready to hit the bed. You’re right. But although I was feeling my body wearing down, you can also count on the little voice in my head that screams out, “You need to go eat this!” The voice was a little louder than usual for Honest Dumpling’s first pop-up event at the Drift storefront on 124St. So here’s a recap!
For those unfamiliar with Honest Dumplings, shame on you. Do you not like dumplings? Appreciate the use of local, organic ingredients? Owners Chris Lerohl and Ray Ma, a husband and wife team, brings the average dumpling to a whole new level. I first heard of Honest Dumplings via Twitter (of course!) and was delighted to see their booth at this year’s City Market. Gorgeous dumplings, thin colorful wrappers packed with various delicious fillings, packaged and frozen for patrons to bring home and steam. All summer I’ve had a chance to try multiple packs. Offering flavors like Maple Pork Belly, Sichuan Chicken, and Spicy Tofu & Peanuts, most of Honest Dumplings’ yummyness stray far away from your Chinese grandma dumplings, although they do offer a more traditional take on it. My favorite from their market offerings? The Maple Pork Belly – craves my sweet tooth and my pork belly cravings! I’m sure those who have tried will agree.
Their first pop-up was hosted at Drift’s catering space from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. No seatings, tickets, or reservations. I arrived to the space at around 8:30pm, praying (although rooting for them!) that they weren’t sold out. They had not, thanks to previously made dumplings prepped for the weekly City Market. Hurray for two large commercial freezer-ful of dumplings! Ray and her team was busy steaming the dumplings to order, a big feat from how I usually see her at the market booth. I was there with my friend Alex, the intention of catching up and trying new dumplings flavors meshed into one outing. We only had to wait for a 10 minutes before ordering and seating, compared to earlier diners who I heard waited for up to an hour for their dumplings. Lines right out the door! The people want their dumplings.
Two options were available to order: meat and vegan. Simple enough. Each $15 order came with eight dumplings, two of each featured flavor and a rice hashbrown, lemon pepper tofu, dragon fruit, and Reclaim Urban Farm sunflower shoots. Alex and I shared both the meat and vegan dumplings.
The meat dumplings features for the night: Short Ribs & Apple Pears, Maple Pork Belly, Pork, Edamame & Shrimp, and Sichuan Chicken. Although I’m loyal to the Maple Pork Belly dumpling, I might have to say that the Korean-style short rib in combination with apple pears took my heart that night. So delicious and full of flavor! Alex, traditionalist at heart, enjoyed the Pork, Edamame, and Shrimp dumplings the best. What I love about Honest Dumplings is the fact that they generously pack their housemade wrappers. None of this tiny-bite-sized-meatball filling you get from frozen dumplings at the Asian grocery store. No, no. These are quality dumplings, with locally-sourced ingredients.
The vegan dumplings were equally flavourful and were a close second favourite for both me and Alex. It’s not my fault that we like meat. Anybody who loves tofu though knows that Ying Fat in Chinatown is Edmonton’s tofu and soy-product heaven though. Where else can you can get freshly made tofu and soymilk? It’s great to see it used in Honest Dumplings’ product! And that spicy Sichuan sauce. Yuuuuummy. The sauce is complimentary with every pack of frozen dumplings but are also sold separately by the jar. Alongside the Spicy Tofu & Peanuts, we tried the Miso Eggplant & Barley Risotto; Kale, Ginger & Shiitake; and Mixed Mushrooms & Truffle Oil. The mushroom dumpling packed a huge punch!
By the end of the night, things were winding down. The Honest Dumplings team gathered around a table, visibly tired but all the more joyful and of course, had some delicious dumplings for their staff dinner. Drift’s space seats roughly 40 people, so they expected to do 100 covers. They did over 200 that night, not an easy feat! I’m so so so happy for them. Next pop-up will be in 2015. Word on the street (from Ray herself, haha!), there’s even a possibility of a joint pop-up with Prairie Noodle Shop! Ramen + dumplings? Voice in my head is already hyperventilating. Thanks to Honest Dumplings for a great night of catch-up and delicious eats! You can buy party packs (colourful variety packs) or single flavour packs every Saturday at the City Market at City Hall and the online SPUD delivery shop. Follow their Facebook and Twitter for more updates!