Dumplings at the MallThe shopping mall represents, for most New Yorkers, everything that is bad about suburbia. But the Flushing Mall, which caters to a predominantly Chinese clientele, is not your usual mall. It’s a sprawling place, pieced together ad-hoc from several different buildings, and the various stores have a quirky, entrepreneurial feel. Some have no ceilings and resemble stalls in a convention hall; others are cloistered along narrow corridors like doctors’ offices. There’s one place that sells ornately crafted combs, another where kids can paint their own ceramic cartoon characters, and another where you can slip into a “capsule sauna” (30 minutes for $5).

The food court is the main draw though; it provides a wide sampling of cheap and fairly authentic eats. There are counters for hand-drawn noodles, congee, and Szechuan soft tofu. The most interesting food stand here is an unnamed joint that turns out delectable Chinese dumplings (called “jiaozi”).

Located on the upper level, it’s a little kitchen that opens onto the mall’s main atrium. The fridge and stove (both regular home models) as well as the wooden cabinets are all gleaming white. Think Sears showroom setup, circa 1980. The proprietor, a cheery and deep-throated lady, wears a “Country Cats” apron. You can sidle up to the counter and watch as she rolls out the circles of dough and fills countless dumplings by hand. It feels as if you’ve been invited over to eat by a friend’s mom. That would be a mom who wants to stuff you till you burst, since the minimum order is 18 dumplings. You get three different fillings (chicken, pork, and shrimp) for $6.50. For a dollar or two more, the combination ranges to the more exotic like sea cucumber and crab. (The dumplings are also available frozen to take home.)

The wrapper has the perfect texture—substantial yet tenderly yielding to the tooth. Scallions abound in all the stuffings, but that’s a good thing since they help keep the meat moist. As a bonus each plate comes with a side salad of lightly pickled cabbage, which tastes like a refreshing cousin of kimchi. The plump little pockets served here put many Manhattan Chinatown places to shame. They’re enough even to make you reconsider your views about mall culture.

Flushing Mall, stall M38
133-31 39th Avenue, Flushing NY 11354
Tel: 718-358-1478