My husband and I were having one of those fights that is a refrain in our marriage—the begging for affection (me), the impatience with the begging and wanting to be left alone (him). What was going to be a weekend jaunt together in lower Manhattan saw us storm off our separate ways. As I headed south on a crowded #1 train, the only thing that offered any solace was the thought of a chive pancake at China North Dumpling.
On Essex Street, North is a nondescript literal hole in the wall where a woman is always standing at a long butcher block table in front of a daunting pinkish-grey mound of pork dumpling filling. I can’t help thinking of Rumpelstiltskin, except here the maiden spins pork, chives and slickery eggs into gold, but happily, joking now and then to the woman at the counter or a man who comes in dragging giant sacks of flour. The steamed dumplings, eight for $2.00, are tender and juicy. Spritz soy sauce and Srichacha in the shallow metal bowls and scoot the runaway dumplings into your mouth with chopsticks. We thought it was one of the cheapest, most satisfying meals in New York City—that is, until the discovery of the chive pancake.
To begin with, the chive pancake (2/$1.50!) isn’t really a pancake. Just-greasy-enough puffy bread encapsulates a little packet of vermicelli noodles, bits of hard boiled eggs, chives and perhaps even a hint of cilantro. There’s a ship-in-the bottle or soup dumpling kind of “how did they get THAT inside of THIS?” magic to this toothsome concoction. It’s why I think nothing of taking an hour and three trains and then another half hour of getting lost between Soho and Chinatown, to get there. Especially if my mood is askew.
Thankfully, the little dumpling shop is always busy or its drab surroundings would have played into my disenchantment with my marriage. Yet seeing the two pancakes in the metal bowl made me think of the too-brusque husband, and our strong bond over cooking and eating, and how fun it would be to share with him.
I didn’t share; I don’t have that kind of self control. But reader, I texted him. “Ate two chive pancakes at North. Feel totally happy. Meet at Caffe Roma?” The little grey bubbles percolate on my iPhone screen. A text: “OK. I’m crossing Delancey now.” Marriage, saved from imminent collapse by a delicate chive pancake at North Dumpling.
China North Dumplings
27A Essex Street (btw Grand and Hester)
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