PDX Dumpling week serves savory to sweet

dumpling pic

A few things seem to be universal across cultures. Your average human comes pre-installed with a desire to tell stories, sing songs and speak a language; most societies have some form of marriage; nearly everyone has superstitions. 

And, of course, every culture has its own kind of dumplings. As soon as people discover cooking, it is rarely very long before they decide to wrap their food in dough.

Nowhere is the universality of dumplings more on display than during Portland’s Dumpling Week, a February tradition now in its 10th year. From Feb. 4-10, dozens of restaurants across the Portland metro area added dumpling specials to their menus. The tradition’s website lists 49 participating locations, from Bamboo House with its chili oil wontons all the way down the alphabet to Zoiglhaus Brewery with its cheese-stuffed “potato kegs.” The site promises “more to come” next year.

There are dumplings from every corner of the Earth on offer here in Portland. Kachka, a Russian fusion place in the Central Eastside, is serving buffalo chicken pelmeni. Beaverton’s Old Asia Teahouse has tea leaf dumplings. ¿Por Que No? Taqueria cooks a crema-drenched masa empanada. Grassa, a local Italian chain, has cheesy, pepperoni-filled offerings. Café Rowan near the Reed campus features bougie dumplings (they do not actually call them that) incorporating Maine lobster. There are cheeseburger dumplings, Cajun dumplings, smoked salmon dumplings and multiple dessert dumplings. At Bring! Treats for Dogs downtown, there is even a dumpling for man’s best friend, consisting of “treat dough” filled with apple and carrot purée.

But are these dumplings any good? The Mossy Log sent an intrepid reporter to do a dumpling crawl and find out from four doughy delicacies across the city.

Hiep Hung Asian Marketplace 

When someone says the word “dumplings” without any further context, you probably think of something like Hiep Hung’s potstickers. The restaurant is located at the south end of 82nd Avenue, the north-south axis of east Portland that has long been the backbone of the area’s Southeast Asian community. Hiep Hung’s cafeteria-style counter serves up crispy, cheap pork-filled potstickers drizzled with sriracha mayo. They are exactly what you would expect, which is to say they are mighty good. While you are there, take some time to browse Hiep Hung’s selection of packaged Asian foods, some quite difficult to find elsewhere. The Mossy Log officially triple-dog-dares you to try a fresh durian.

Boke Bowl

This funky pan-Asian spot near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has dumplings year-round, but nothing beats their Dumpling Week special: Sichuan-style spicy pork and shrimp wontons drowned in oil and crunchy chilis. It is not quite as spicy as what you would get in Sichuan itself — I believe many people in China would call it “bairencai,” or “white people food” — but a couple of squirts of Boke’s signature hot sauce ought to take care of that.

Paddy’s

Moving into slightly more experimental territory, Portland’s oldest Irish pub, downtown near the Morrison Bridge, has attempted to dumpling-ify the venerable Reuben sandwich. While phenomenal in concept — Reubens and dumplings are two of humanity’s greatest inventions — the execution leaves a bit to be desired. Their so-called “Reuben Pillows” feel like, well, pillows. They are puff pastry pockets full of cheese and sauce, with an occasional tiny morsel of corned beef. A Reuben ought to be stuffed to bursting with corned beef and this was not that. Despite that, I still really enjoyed it.

North 45

Up in the trendy Northwest District, my dumpling crawl came to a sweet end. This pub is one of a handful of participants whose entry was a dessert dumpling, in this case an “inside-out peanut butter cup.” Picture a potsticker filled with chocolate sauce and sprinkled with peanut brittle. Also, unfortunately, picture only three very small ones. I could easily have eaten a dozen. 

From Mexican empanadas to Tibetan momos, Brazilian acarajé to Georgian khinkali, few things cross cultures quite like the humble dumpling. This article spotlights just four of the many, many dumplings on offer across Portland during Dumpling Week and beyond, all so different from each other that naming my favorite dumpling would be like choosing a favorite family member. You, reader, must find your own favorite dumpling. Go forth and dumple.

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About Tor Parsons 49 Articles
Tor Parsons '24 is a well-known figure on campus. I interviewed three random LC students to gauge the public opinion on Tor. "Who?" - A student with a really cool backpack "I have no idea who you're talking about." - Some dude on the Pio Express "He's cool, I guess." - Tor's roommate

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