When the Cheng sisters went off to college, their Taiwanese mother made batches of the dumplings they’d grown up on, froze them, and shipped them to her daughters in coolers.
But Mimi never gave up her secret recipe — even when Hannah (28) and Marian (26) told her they were opening a restaurant. “She finally told us,” says Hannah, “but it was just a list of ingredients—no measurements. She was like, ‘good luck!’”
“Withholding her formula was her way of making sure we always had to come back home for something,” Hannah added.
Hannah, who works in finance, and Marian, who left a job in fashion, are hoping New Yorkers will want to keep coming back to the dumpling spot they’re opening in the East Village today. And they’re also hoping to cure them of a misconception. “True Chinese food is very light,” says Hannah. “New York only has the American version for some reason, though.”
To insure theirs aren’t the greasy dollar-dumplings you’re used to, Mimi Cheng’s uses pasture-raised, local, antibiotic- and hormone-free meats from Fleisher’s. In addition to three classic-ish dumplings (one with chicken and zucchini; another with pork, baby bok choy, and cabbage; and a third with kale, zucchini, free-range egg and shiitake mushrooms), there will also be a daily market vegetable such as sautéed broccoli with garlic, and a dessert such as banana dumplings with powdered sugar.
The dumplings (boiled or pan-fried) go for $8 for six pieces and $10 for eight. And more adventurous fillings may be on the horizon. “I want to do a Kobe beef dumpling, my sister wants to do a Reuben dumpling, and my boyfriend’s really gunning for a chicken parm dumpling,” says Hannah.
In the meantime, check out the family photos and beach scenes that decorate the interior.
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, 179 Second Ave., bet. 11th and 12th Sts., open Tues – Sat 11:30am to 2:30pm, Sun 5:30 pm to 9 pm
Sun 4-8pm, closed Mon.
Correction: The original version of this post and its headline were revised to correct an error. Hannah still works in finance. The restaurant also has new hours.