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Vancouver Foodster’s Dumplings Fest 2023

On this night I was attending the latest Vancouver Foodster’s self-directed, roaming food tour. The Dumpling Fest is an annual celebration of dumplings and one of his most popular events that continues to sell out year after year. This year it brought food fans out to try various dumplings across 5 different restaurants. And not just the traditional definition of dumplings, but a lose interpretation so that attendees are not just looking forward to Chinese cuisine the whole night.

Ticket holders are assigned starting points and the goal was to travel to each one within the 4-hour window of the event. This journey did require a car as restaurants were scattered along West Broadway and downtown’s West End. The restaurants participating were all new to me. The goal is to not only have guests exploring and trying new foods, but also visiting restaurants and cafes they might not otherwise get to or would consider driving down to. The demographic for tonight seemed to be many individuals from the Fraser Valley and surrounding cities coming into town on a night out. Many were in larger groups, taking their time and enjoying each tasting plate with the add-on purchase of drinks.

The following is my personal account of each dumpling stop, in the order we visited them in.

At Z & W Shanghai Kitchen we had a platter that included 2.5 dumplings and a handful of pancakes. The Pan-fried Dumpling was done classically with a starchy wrapper pan fried and charred in oil. It was filled with fish and leek, which is new for me. Most dumplings see red meat as their filling, so the fish was a different and interesting change. As white fish is less flavourful on its own, the peppery nature of the leeks came through well here.

There were 2 varieties of pancakes both with a gummy centre and a chalky, flakey exterior. I preferred the savoury Scallion Pancake, though found that it could have used more fragrant green onion to combat the hints of acrid burnt that I got. Whereas dessert-like Red Bean Pancake was not too sweet and the essence of the red bean really came through against the slightly salted dough.

And lastly, the Sweet Dumpling was a lovely way to end this course. A gooey ball of mochi-like dough stuffed with sugary crushed peanuts and coated in a sesame and shredded coconut dusting. This was fun to eat with the contrast of crunchy and sticky, followed by a nice roasted flavour to finish.

Our next stop was Nostos Taverna, a newer Greek tapas restaurant. Here we too had a platter of smaller bites. There were Keftedakia, small fried meatballs that were a little hard and a lot dense. Seasoned in traditional Greek spices it was still on the blander side, so it was nice to have the 2 generous dollops of Tzatziki adjacent for dipping in to.

I liked the Tyropitakia, small cheese pies wrapped in phyllo dough for a crispy flakey bite hiding a more solid centre of cheese. It could have just been the timing, but it would have been nice to have the cheese stringy and soft at the core of this. I also would have liked a dip of some sort for this as well, perhaps a sweet and spicy chilli to contrast the sharp cheese?

And for a quasi-dessert the Tiganites were like mini apple pie bites. They were doughy and soft with chunks of apple pie at their centre. Smothered in honey and cinnamon, they were as comforting as American-style homemade apple pie, but just a lot more portable.

Our next stop was probably the most dumpling related, and what you think of when you hear the word “dumpling”. Momo Factory on Davie Street downtown specializes in Indian style Chinese cuisine, in a modern setting that includes a serving robot with a cat-like appearance. Here guests were treated to a fabulous display of authentic Momo style dumplings in 4 varieties with 2 types of sauces. I was caught off guard by how spicy the hot one was, it was tasty and gave the dumplings a needed perk up, but the heat lingered on your lips and tongue long after you swallowed. The regular sauce was mild with a slight tomato tang.

As for the dumplings themselves, the Chicken Momo is their most popular offering, fried and steamed with a hearty, thick and chewy skin. The filling of shredded chicken is a little on the dry side.

The Goat Momo was done in a similar fried and steamed dough, but I found it a lot more flavourful with its rich and herbaceous seasoning, and the natural depth of the dark goat meat.

The Shrimp Momo was fried and steamed, with a lovely leaf pattern at its doughy seam. It had a familiar appearance and taste to that of shrimp dumplings available at dim sum.

And the Paneer Momo is their vegetarian dumpling option, fried and steamed. Given the filling they reminded me of a samosa with a similar crispy shell and an as dense and starchy centre.

Out of all the restaurants participating Momo Factory was the most well organized, they got event goers seated and fed with little wait. And the 2 front of house staff were cordial while doing so.

Next, we stopped at Ofra’s Kitchen by English Bay, on the West End. Ofra’s is a newer cafe serving vegetarian Middle Eastern fare. Tonight, they were staffed by a 2-woman team that kept the staff entertained as they waited for their limited seating to clear. They made jokes and were not afraid to be upfront in explaining the need to clear tables and make way for waiting guests. Here, they do not serve alcohol, but did offer a long list of juices and sodas for purchase.

Not quite dumplings, Ofra served up a delicious offering that included a single Falafel in a pool of hummus with a side of pita and pickles. The falafel was dry and hard, the plastic fork struggled to penetrate the rugged skin. I found it bland and in need of salt, but luckily there was plenty of tasty hummus to go around as you smeared it over the ball and dragged your soft pita through it. I did find the pickles out of place as they were so strong and their briny flavour jarring.

Our last stop geographically was Chai Ghai, downtown Granville Street. This cafe only opened 2 days prior to the event and was staying later tonight to host all the Dumpling Fest guests. Chai Ghai is a Chai bar, which hosts a long list of teas and chai mixes to customize your drink to perfection.

Each guest was welcomed to a hot chai beverage of their choosing with a samosa on the side. I liked the concept and the design with its neon lights, positive affirmations, and space with cafe seating up front and a more secluded drink lounge at the back.

We found the chai weak, despite asking for the most pungent blend that would have our mouths on fire. The mix was watery and there were no spices to make it obvious that you were enjoying a cup of chai. This was sadly disappointing given the promise and attempted authenticity of the place. I held the same opinion with the samosa as well. Having had so many and them so fresh and authentic. This one with its stingy filling and lack lustre seasoning didn’t quite cut it. Although in hindsight, it did pair well with the chai. And together the pairing felt like it was meant to serve a general populous, and less for those looking for traditional.

In short, this was another successful Vancouver Foodster Dumpling Fest, we were able to visit all the stops in a fairly leisurely pace and discovered new dining and drinking options we might not otherwise consider. This and all of the tasting tours are always a great way to sample and try new things that Vancouver Foodsters has personal vetted and deemed worth trying. Be sure to check out the next one with the link below.


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