Manjie’s Totally Handmade Dumplings are Stuffing Hearts with Love

A lot of factors make Beijing a great city for food. It’s the capital – people from all over the country come here. Foreign fare is widely available due to the universities and embassies. Rents are high, and competition is fierce, so no matter how good your marketing is, if your food isn’t good, your restaurant will fold almost immediately.

In an environment like this, where “quite good” is already the baseline. To stand out, you have to be really good. Innovation and quality, one or the other, isn’t good enough – you need both. Manjie Dumplings is an example of such a restaurant. The classics, or staples, are all solid; not everything has to have a twist. On top of a base fare of dishes you already know well, you’ll find a range of interesting creations that you won’t encounter elsewhere, which makes a meal here all the more memorable.

Dishes in this review are presented more or less in the order they were ordered and served, the sequencing of which was dictated by the proprietor herself, so you can use this as a guide more or less what to order if you visit with about eight or nine people and want to experience a good slice of the menu. It’s a lot of food.

For the full experience, unless you’re dining in for iftar, start with a bottle of the Man 65 Liquor. At sixty-five percent ABV it’s on the strong side, but you’ll find it’s very smooth – smooth enough to be palatable to those who dislike the taste of most Chinese liquor, yet with enough character to satisfy those who shun western spirits like vodka for their “lack of flavour”. If the idea of overproof liquor on an empty stomach seems a bit too strong for your blood, however, you can opt for the tea – your choices are green, jasmine, chrysanthemum, and pu’er, all of which are quite good.

A meal like this starts cold. Whilst you enjoy a little bit of drink and wait for the hot dishes to arrive, you can chew on some of the soy sauce chicken feet. The ones served here are relatively large, and have a good ratio of soft, tender skin to bone without being overly gummy. A good compliment to this is the mung noodle in sauce – 1-Yuan-coin gelatinous cubes in a sesame paste, mixed in with a bit of greens, for a good chewy starter.

Now that things are rolling, you can move on to some legumes or vegetables – the shredded beans, shredded potato, or shredded tofu in sauce are all good choices, served in a portion size that should allow everyone at the table to have a good small bowl apiece. Round out all the neutral and savoury flavours with a bit of sweet in the form of the red berries, which are also a nice way to cleanse the palette.

Moving into the thicker fare, I recommend the sliced pork with sauce, and the duck blood. The pork is served as it should be – cold, very fatty, in excess of half of the entire slice being fat, with a delicious brown sauce to dip it in. If you’re worried about a heart attack, you can assuage your cardiovascular fears by snagging the leaf of lettuce the dish comes with as a garnish. The duck blood comes in a medium-thick sauce with a lot of chili, a little bit of sesame seed sprinkle, and some blanched greens. It has the right balance of chewy, gummy, and firm; it’s delicious.

If blood and fat aren’t your cup of tea, there’s the much-more middle-of-the-road option of the coke-fried meatballs. Also about the size of a 1-Yuan coin, they’re crispy, medium-mild in flavour, a beautiful red-brown colour, and come with a bit of greenage. Not just a solid choice, I’d go further to say that they were the highlight of the meal for me – memorably good. If you’re looking for a bit of a heavier taste, the haitai fish or quick-fried pork slices, which both come in a heavy, almost slurry-like sauce are good choices. To take it to the next level, go for the braised pork intestines with mashed garlic. The flavour is excellent, and the intestines are cooked just right, with a good texture and solid flavour that’s strong but not overpowering. If you’re not feeling so adventurous, try the potato casserole, which is a good mix of sauce, greens, mushrooms, and just overall heat.

By now, having a decent amount to drink and eat to get things started, most people at the table will be jonesing for the main fare – the dumplings. What should you pick? Looking at the first section of the first page, you’ll see the heading “handmade dumplings”. This is the real main course. For the signature choices, there are two obvious choices: meat, and vegetarian. The specialty pork, being the most basic, isn’t actually that basic at all. In addition to the base meat, it contains leeks, shrimp, egg, and wood ear. It’s a well-balanced mix that while eclectic doesn’t feel overly busy, with a solid meaty flavour and texture that packs a lot of character. The vegetarian dumplings have leek, egg, summer gourd, and vegetarian crab meat. It’s the same idea as the meat option – well balanced, with a good taste and perfectly-executed wrapping.

You came to a dumplings restaurant, so you might as well have more dumplings. Move from the signature offerings to the “heavy launch” section. You’re going to definitely want to try the spicy crayfish which comes in two versions: simply boiled, or boiled then fried. Both are excellent, and come with a chili oil sauce which takes it to the next level. If you have enough members in your party, do try both. The pork intestines with sour sauce is also a good pick in this section if you want some chew all the way through. In terms of more acquired tastes, the stinky tofu dumplings and sea urchin dumplings will prove very satisfying if those fillings are up your lane – some strong flavours in a tight package.

If the meal is feeling a bit soft at this point and you want to change up the texture, some good accompaniment to the dumplings is available. The crispy duck has skin with a good crunch, tender meat, a medium-light flavour, and comes with a bowl of powdered spice for dipping.

If you still have it in you, it will now be time for desert or a light snack or, ideally, both. Don’t miss out on the sweet durian dumplings. The skin is made with pumpkin flour which gives it a nice orange hue, and the filling is durian and soft cheese. The flavour, like the Man 65 liquor, is mild enough that it won’t offend those who hate the smell of durian, yet it will still satisfy durian fans who want a bit of a stinky kick. For the snack, order the meat pies. About the size of an adult’s fist, the skin is crispy, and the filling is plentiful. Both the signature pies and the beef and onion are absolutely delicious. I was so stuffed I couldn’t finish mine, but four days later and I’m thinking about it.

Manjie Dumplings is an excellent restaurant with a well-deserved reputation. The atmosphere is bright and clear, and the décor is low-key, with a good modern feel that makes a meal with friends feel upbeat yet relaxing. It’s non-intrusive. You really feel like you’re there for the food. Visit any of the locations in Beijing when you get the chance, and look forward to the opening of a branch at Hong Kong International Airport in the future.

未经允许不得转载:最美食 » Manjie’s Totally Handmade Dumplings are Stuffing Hearts with Love
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