I am a bit hesitant to out Prosperity Dumpling as the best dumpling place in Manhattan, but I feel fairly confident that my mentioning it will not send such a clamoring hoard to its door that the dumpling man will up the prices and lower the quality. For truly, forget either the Allen or Mosco Fried Dumpling, forget Tasty Dumpling and Dumpling House, Prosperity Dumpling's dumplings are superlative and put all others to shame. First: they are fried to a delicate crisp that crackles when bitten but does not leave coagulated oil in its wake. Second: they are always served so piping hot that you might have to wait to eat them rather than scarf them down with a quickness lest they become gelatinous blobs of lukewarm fry within seconds. Third: the filling is loosely and evenly packed rather than a dense nugget of vacuum-packed-esque pork that belies a recently frozen state:
An even bigger pull than the dumplings are the sesame pancakes, which put most focaccia to shame. The sesame pancake exits the oven as a large salt-infused disk dusted with sesame seeds and dotted with chopped scallions. It is divided into slices and either served as such or filled with beef and/or pickled vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, cilantro). Pleasantly chewy and only so slightly oily, the sesame pancake is a perfect snack to eat with or on your way to some bubble tea.
Though exalting Prosperity Dumpling is no waste of time, there is greater impetus for this entry: the stuffed pancake. While I was conducting hardcore investigative dumpling research when I first arrived in New York and needed extreme motivation to brave the extreme weather conditions, I happened upon a review of Prosperity Dumpling. Discovering that it was practically ungoogleable, with nary a yelp review or other blog entry devoted to it (no longer the case), I decided that I had to give it a try. Thrilled at discovering the best dumplings of the bunch and a stellar sesame pancake to boot, I was nevertheless dismayed at my inability to get my hands on the fabled stuffed pancake. Visit after return visit I was circumvented or outright rebuffed by the otherwise extremely personable proprietor. After the aforementioned visit during which he reduced me to embarrassing sputters of agitation, I was reluctant to return and embarass myself further but filled with even greater dedication to what had morphed from a healthy curiosity to a crusade. Though I had visions of ambushing the dumpling man at 7:30 am and demanding that he apply himself to a stuffed pancake, I soon realized that I'll sooner seek out random food items at all hours of the night than at all hours of the morning. Maybe if I were up until 7:30 hitting up the dumpling man would be an option, but waking up early enough to do so definitely wasn't. My next tactic was to take someone along and hit the guy from two sides: 1) are you going to embarrass and refuse me in front of my friend and 2) will you risk losing the business of two people instead of one (not that he will ever really be in danger of losing mine as long as the sesame pancake stays on the menu).
Rebecca recently moved to a new place so convenient to investigations that I have barely been able to contain myself. My junior year obsession with bubble tea and spicy chicken reared its dormant head, near incoherent demands for cake issued forth and before anything else I dragged her, willing but falling short of annoyingly obsessive, to Prosperity Dumpling. Dumpling Man again tried to give us the runaround, and this time he too had a "second" in the form of a friendly cook, who boisterously echoed his more sheepish statements of "we don't have it?" and "it is hard to make...". Finally, after hearing that we would wait for as long as it took and happily purchase two of the pancakes, the two of them set off to cook some up.
Here's the dismally anticlimactic kicker: the stuffed pancake is not very good. It's not bad, but it doesn't hold a candle to the variety of dumplings or the sesame pancake with beef. The exterior, despite being piping hot, was rather tough and difficult to maneuver, and the filling sat resolutely separate from the dough and was similarly difficult to puncture. This meant that rather than biting into a wonderful melding of the two, we were forced to pry off pieces of dough and eat them separately from chunks of congealed pork-vegetable mix. I wouldn't be surprised if a forced stuffed pancake is destined to take on the characteristics of its producers and consumers and come out leaden, sullen and dispirited, so I'll keep requesting them in the hopes that I wasn't nursing a pipe dream all these months. Or maybe I'll try if I can get them to make me the equally unavailable chive and egg pancake...