It’s no secret I love Vanessa’s Dumpling. Ideally the one on Eldridge, but they’re all a certain level of good. Everything is cheap, and their frozen vegetable dumplings are a staple in my house (along with my homemade peanut sauce, recipe to come). But, counterintuitively, the best thing about Vanessa’s Dumplings is actually not dumplings at all.
The sesame pancake sandwich is available at many Chinese restaurants, including nearby competitor Prosperity Dumpling, but Vanessa’s is really transcendent. The good ones to get are the roast pork, which has pickled carrots and cilantro, and the roast duck, which has cucumber and some sort of salty/savory sauce. Other kinds are offered, but they’re not as exciting. They cost between 2 and 3 dollars, unless you’re at the pricier Williamsburg location, where duck is $3.50. Still an awesome deal, as one sandwich will sate all but the most severe hunger.
Kimchi is, of course, Korean in origin, but Vanessa’s puts an interesting twist on it. The overarching flavor of traditional kimchi is either spicy or kind of funky; it is an acquired taste. I enjoy it, but mostly as part of a larger meal, since the flavor is so intense. But Vanessa’s kimchi is primarily sweet and vinegary, with a little spicy finish at the very end. There are even little slices of apple along with the cabbage. It is excellent. I will on occasion take an entire serving to the dome and call it a meal.
Those of us who are frequent diners at Vanessa’s have hit upon a little trick: put the kimchi on the sandwich! The sandwich is a little fatty and greasy by itself, so the vinegary kimchi really cuts through. Throw on a little Sriracha (annoyingly watered down in the restaurant, but on the plus side the thinner texture allows it to really soak in) and you have assembled a perfect sandwich, one greater than the sum of its parts. Buy an extra one to take for lunch the next day. I know I did.