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Jul 5, 2012 01:03 AM

I Dumpling in Redwood City

With the first mention of iDumpling (or I Dumpling) by bbulkow in this thread, , I made a mental note to give it try ASAP. Two weeks ago I had a chance to try it with William when our mother was visiting. Greeted warmly by the owner, I discovered that my brother had already been there enough times to be considered a regular.

Garlic with Crushed Cucumber, $5.85, yes, that’s what it’s called on the menu. And there’s enough garlic that the inversion is pretty accurate. The cucumbers used are the smaller, sweeter, tender-skinned Persian or Japanese variety rather than supermarket commodity type. Well-salted, very garlicky and bruised just enough to soak in the seasonings, a good job with this cold appetizer.

Fresh Cilantro Salad/Bean Stick, $5.95, was a standout of chewy tofu skin tossed with aromatic cilantro leaves and sesame in a delectably salty dressing. The salt level was starting to build up at this point and we were drinking a lot of tea to wash it down.

Sauerkraut Pork Soup Noodle, $6.95, was my least favorite dish. A huge and solidly packed bowl of soup leaving little headspace for the broth, the strips of pork and stock smelled rank and barnyard for me. Also the fresh, thickish noodles turned soggy and soft in the hot broth.

Green Chives Pan Cakes (2), $5.95, did not do much for me either. The tough pastry was soaked through with oil, and the filling of scrambled egg curds, Chinese chives and bean threads was pretty bland. When we failed to pack up the leftover, the owner asked what the problem was and seemed hurt and surprised that we didn’t care for this one. He said it’s a popular item.

William has ordered the Sliced Marinated Pig Ear, $5.95, cold appetizer each visit and he said this plate was the best yet. The seasoning has been the same each time, but sometimes the strips are a bit thinner. A little softer with less of a cartilage crackle than I would like, this hits the texture that my brother prefers.

The Lamb Dumplings (12), $6.95, were the highest-priced selection on the water dumpling (shui jiao) menu and my favorite dish of the night. Definitely hand-made wrappers, yet these were not as thick and doughy. While not thin, the wrappers were tender rather than firm and chewy and I liked them a lot. With the chile sauce, these gamey lamb dumplings are worth a drive to Redwood City.

I was fascinated by the chile sauce on each table, and asked the owner if it was housemade. He was pleased that we had noticed the difference and said that he had taste-tested 11 commercial brands and decided he needed to make his own. There’s a natural sweetness that tastes like caramelized onions and garlic, then a rounded chile burn that starts off slowly on entry and fans out further back on the palate.

William recommended trying one of the bento dinners. I saw one ordered by another table and it looks great for less than $7.

We didn’t get a chance to ask about the restaurant’s name. The menu is printed with “I Dumpling”, but naturally one wonders if it’s supposed to be Apple-ized as iDumpling. Or perhaps “I, Dumpling” as in I, Robot or I, Claudius or even as mundane as No. 1 Dumpling, similar to the now closed No. 1 Dumpling House in New York. Next chowhound who eats there, please find out.

I Dumpling
2660 Broadway
Redwood City

Tuesday thru Sunday
11:30am to 3:30pm
5:00pm to 9:00pm

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  1. I'm glad you checked it out. I had only tried the dumplings (it was a mid-afternoon snack), and enjoyed talking to the owner also.

    1. I really liked the fact that they had three types of chicken dumplings. You can't get chicken dumplings in the San Gabriel Valley for some reason.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chandavkl

        Chicken filled dumplings aren't particularly common up here either.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          One of the dumpling places in the Sunset district has six or seven chicken varieties. They also sell them frozen, but they'd melt by the time I drove back to LA.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            You must be referring to Kingdom of Chinese Dumpling on Noriega (formerly Asian American Foods). We've purchased frozen dumplings from (Stinky) Tofu King in Rowland Heights before, stuffed them in stryofoam boxes with bags of ice and ice packs, and they survived the road trip back to the Peninsula Bay Area but then again I did go above speed limit on the 5....

      2. The server seemed a bit perplexed when I asked him what the "I" stood for. He told me it referred to heart or love. I wasn't sure whether he was speculating, so I'd "I" to hear verification from someone else :-)

        I'd forgotten about this thread, and wound up getting the Sauerkraut Noodles that Melanie warned against. I had better success with them. The soup had a bold flavor and the sauerkraut was crispy and fresh. There was something a bit funny about the pork strips though. The overcooked pork didn't seem to mesh well in terms of color or texture with the rest of the dish, and it did have an unpleasant taste.

        I also tried the chicken and corn dumplings. Very good stuff and a healthy portion. The hot sauce is as good as Melanie describes it and it's far more chunky than I've had elsewhere. I'd rank this on the same tier as the house made hot sauce at Mandalay. The sauce tended to overpower the chicken dumplings, but I'd imagine it going perfectly with the pork ones.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hyperbowler

          Thank you for asking! Mystery solved. Yes, phoenetically "I" would mean love. "Wo ai ni" is "I love you" in Mandarin, and I adore you for finding out.

          Was the corn fresh? Recently I tried to order a corn dish on a menu and was told that it wouldn't be available until good quality fresh corn was readily available. Can't remember where, maybe here.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Ha, thanks for the quick confirmation--- I would have felt ridiculous to wait a while only to hear that he was putting me on!

            Hmmm... I'm not sure what boiling inside a dumpling would do to a fresh kernel. Or vice versa--- I also don't know whether fresh, frozen, or canned corn would be ideal for preventing the corn from releasing too much liquid. Based on its pallid color and softness, I would guess the corn was canned, but I didn't notice any metallic flavors. These kinds of dumplings tend to get frozen, so it's also possible that it was fresh when the dumpling got made.

            1. re: hyperbowler

              Sorry for tossing you a corn-ball. You're right, a boiled dumpling is not place to insist on fresh corn.

        2. Finally got to try this place. With your recommendations five of us sampled the sliced pig ear (ok, but not sure I would order it again), garlic cucumber (very good), cilantro salad/bean stick (very good), and lamb dumplings (meh, Old Islamic is much better, IMO).

          And sadly despite your recommendation to the contrary, one of my lunch partners was compelled to order the green onion pancake. Although she claimed it was fine (a bit greasy to me) I did get her to admit that better can be found elsewhere. We also had the XLB (better than average) and the pork & shrimp dumplings (could have done without). Loved the hot sauce too!

          5 Replies
          1. re: Civil Bear

            Thanks for reporting in. It's been a long time since my last visit to Old Mandarin Islamic, what makes the dumplings there better?

            Your colleagues green onion pancake was probably the typical flatbread rather than the stuffed version I had. But good to know what it's like as well.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I think the lamb dumplings at OMI have more herbs and spices mixed in that make them more flavorful. The ones at iDumpling did have a gamier/stronger lamb flavor though.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                i am planning to go to OMI very soon to compare the dumplings. If I can get equally good (or better) lamb dumplings from OMI then it will save me lots of gas and/or Caltrain fares! Will report back.

                Dave MP

            2. re: Civil Bear

              I'll have to try the lamb dumplings next time I'm there. If they have the same northern style wrapper as the chicken corn dumplings, I prefer the wrappers at Old Mandarin. From a few months ago, I remember Old Mandarins being very thick and substantial, yet evenly cooked.

              Yeah, I agree with Dave's view below that iDumpling's XLB are nothing special. None of mine had popped, but they didn't have that much broth inside, and it wasn't very flavorful. The skin was thicker than I like, but thin enough to indicate they were made with some degree of skill. These are definitely fool's gold amidst the other good offerings.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                The green onion pancakes at Crouching Tiger next door are very classic, very tasty. Not what iDumpling specializes in.

              2. I also ate at iDumpling for the first time last weekend, and I loved it. In particular, I loved the lamb dumplings and the wide bean noodles. Three of us had:

                Vegetarian dumplings: Texturally perfect, with pillowy wrappers. The filling was a bit bland though, but these were better dipped in some vinegar.

                Xiao Long Bao: A tad overcooked, and really nothing that special. A few had burst before arriving at the table. I don't think I'd bother ordering when I could instead eat the....

                Lamb Dumplings: I thought these were amazing, and among the best lamb dumplings I've ever tried. The texture of the dough, like in the vegetable dumplings, was perfect, and the filling was juicy and gamey (in fact, nearly as juicy as the XLB). We had some chili sauce w/ Sichuan peppercorn on the table (see below), and dipping these in that chili sauce mixed with vinegar was like heaven.

                Wide bean noodles with cucumber: Not to be confused with the bean stick dish that Melanie describes, these are translucent noodles served with slivered cucumber and LOTS of garlic. What I really wanted was a spicy, Sichuan version of this dish, so when I asked the waiter if the dish included chili sauce, he said "no" but that he'd bring me some. What he brought out was red chili oil mixed with lots of ground sichuan pepper. It was just spicy enough, and didn't leave a big burning sensation, but it was nice and numbing and when added to the noodles, it was amazing. It was pretty great with the lamb dumplings, too. The translucent noodles + garlic + cucumber + Sichuan chili oil brought me back to China! and a nice refreshing cold dish for a warm day in Redwood City.

                Salt+Pepper tofu - Small cubes of tofu, crisply fried. I thought this was pretty good....the interiors were soft and very hot (temperature) when they arrived on the table.

                After we ate all of this, we ended up getting another order of lamb dumplings because we liked them so much. We ate half, and brought the other half home. I did try the chili sauce on the table that Melanie describes, and I agree that it was much better than average, but our chili oil+sichuan peppercorn mixture was so good that I didn't end up using it.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Dave MP

                  Are the Translucent noodles like the soft gelatinous mung bean starch noodles?

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      Ohhhhh. I was thinking of the thick jelly like ones.
                      like these
                      Which are awesommme.

                      1. re: chefj

                        Yeah, those would be better. I love those too. But you should still try the ones at iDumpling, as they were a good substitute

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          I will, they look stretchy and chewy.

                        2. re: chefj

                          I'm the opposite and nearly always disappointed when served the noodle-y, softer ones. I prefer the firmer texture of the sheets as used in liang zhang pi,

                    2. re: Dave MP

                      I tried the Lamb Dumplings tonight. They are as gamey as Melanie and Dave point out. If you like gamey lamb, these will be fine by themselves. I'm not so into the gameyness of lamb, but when paired with the potentially overpowering hot sauce, the gameyness justified itself.

                      I asked my server what the "Beijing Noodles" were and expected him to tell me ingredients. Instead he just said, "Zha jiang mian." Heh, what an honor--- that's definitely the first time a dish listed in English has been clarified to this Jewish boy in Mandarin. I liked the sauce a lot and there was a generous amount of cucumber. The noodles were nicely cooked, but they must not have been drained enough because the dish was very watery. Still, I enjoyed it quite a bit and more than the version I had at Shan Dong in Oakland last week. That one had a minimal amount of sauce and overcooked knife-shaved noodles.

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        Haha, nice. Zha jiang mian is going mainstream! I saw this on other tables when I was eating here, and it looked very good.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          Is the ZJM made with black bean sauce or a reddish-brown mahogony colored saucing?

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Reddish mahogany. In theory, I think I prefer the black bean sauce variety, but that version always seems so greasy.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              Hmm, grease level is not something I've paid attention to. The Shandong or Korean-Chinese style made with black bean sauce tends to be made with diced rather than ground meat. Maybe that's part of the difference, will have to be more observant about this in the future. ZJM might be a good dish of the month candidate.