Myung-Ga Sonmandoo (Hand Made Dumplings)
455 329 North Road
In an area already congested with places to eat, its always nice to discover the pending opening of yet another place to try some new food. In the shopping complex anchored by the H-Mart Supermarket, while getting some groceries there in early-December, I noticed a place with some paper up on the windows and some temporary signage signifying something was about to occupy the place shortly. From what I could make of it, it was going to be about dumplings. Yum.
And so at the end of 2010 I was back as the doors were now open and I quickly had my virgin meal at Myung-Ga, which was indeed offering dine-in and takeout service for its sonmandoo (or hand made dumplings). It was a small, narrow space with an open kitchen up front where you can see workers making the various dumplings they have right in front of you. A small window from the sidewalk allows you to peak inside, if they have the shade up. The steaming is also done right there, so if its chilly outside, you can get a noticeable amount of fog indoors with the constant opening and closing of the main entrance causing the ambient air temperature to fluctuate.
The place was very busy, all the tables were occupied aside from one – which we managed to grab – and a steady stream of people waiting in line to get some to go. Seemed like there was a pent up demand for something like this here, especially for those getting groceries across the way and wanting something ready-to-eat that wouldn’t break the bank.
The menu is straight forward. And pasted in various places on the wall where the tables are aligned. Thankfully there is English on them. Essentially its broken up into three parts: “special”, which listed more soups than anything, “dumplings”, and “Korean maki”. 12 items in total. The most expensive thing on the menu is the beef soup with rice at $5.99. Street food prices served indoors. Awesome! Its a word I hear the people at the table next to me (who seemed to be visiting from Calgary) saying they wished something like this was available in that Alberta city.
For $4.50, the large dumplings are these big doughy type mounds, filled with with a meat/veggie mixture. Strangely, these were the first ones to come to our table. I’d assumed the smaller ones would be faster to steam. This bigger type seemed to be quite popular as I could see the one cook busily stuffing more and more of them to keep up with demand.
The thing with dumplings is that most people probably look at the skin/stuffing balance. Here it was very good. Not too thick a casing, while remaining nice and soft and thus easy to chew through. The filling was adequately seasoned, and if you need any soy sauce or hot sauce, its on hand in small bottles for dipping. These were my favorite of the entire lot of food we had this day.
Slices of Korean pickled daikon were available as well, to help cut the richness of the dumplings and generally helpful to cut the oiliness of the meats inside.
Listed as the ” Spicy Rice Cake” in English, the tteokbokki rung in at $3.50 for this plate. Again, a perfect snack food compliment to the dumplings we had for this lunch. Spicy and savory and also stomach filling substantial with the rice cake. Texturally, they were just right. Not overcooked and mushy soft, which is a no-no for me.
The steamed dumplings ($4.99) came as this generous plate of ten. I liked the plastic mesh sheets on top of the metal steamers that came with them. Really helpful in preventing any sticking to the bottom and thus tearing of these delicate thin skin morsels I was about to enjoy. Also, I noticed that having them really prevented any sogginess – I’ve had these served on regular plates and always cringe when I see the puddle of water/moisture that accumulates on the bottom and soaks back into the skin. In terms or proportion, the filling here that was the same as in the large dumplings was perhaps on the skimpier side relative to the thickness of the skin. I think of this thickness, they might be better pan fried.
Figuring all this food we selected would be enough for the two of us initially when we gave our order, some glances back to the menu got us thinking, “why not try the kimchi ones too!”, and so that’s what we did. A call over to the man at the register and our order was in. These took a bit longer to arrive, partly as they were an added order on our part and the other tables were still busy as well as the line up of people getting things to go. I think with the few minutes that passed, the food had settled and we were feeling full from what we had already and thinking we had ordered too much by going with another plate.
More rounder pockets of meat and kimchi that looked more like balls than dumplings, the added volume sure was a stomach filler. Priced at $4.99 for these six.
Split open I think you can see that these were more bang-for-your-buck. And a boost of flavor with the added spicy kimchi as well, which helped balance the fat in the ground pork. A satisfying conclusion to our lunch and inaugural visit to Myung-Ga.
I’m not sure how well these things hold up in a to-go package, especially if you live far away. I’d prefer to eat steamed food right away. So if you go and there are table spots, I’d recommend you dine-in.