Dumplings: Depending on where you’re from or what you like to eat, mention of them might spark the image of doughy soup-filled knots, buttery rounds swimming in chicken gravy, or crisp-bottomed potstickers crimped at the edges.
“The idea of a dumpling is a wrapper with fillings, and the ingredients that are used, the process — that will vary,” said Philly-based hospitality consultant Liz Einhorn, but “dumplings are something that cross several cultures.”
That quality and the arrival of National Dumpling Day on Sept. 26 inspired Einhorn and her friend, baology co-owner and chef Judy Ni, to organize a community-driven effort called Dumplings 4 All, which runs through Sunday.
Einhorn and Ni enlisted nine chefs and restaurants to create dumplings that represent different culinary traditions. There are Ni’s own chicken-and-garlic chive potstickers; squash-filled barbajuan (a ravioli-like fritter from Monaco) in a sumac-walnut sauce from a.kitchen’s Eli Collins; mushroom and huitlacoche empanadas from Cafe Ynez chef Hilario Hernandez; drop dumplings in creamy chicken broth from Rex 1516; deep-fried Korean mandu in five flavors from Crunchik’n, from father-daughter duo John and Jen Choi; Salvadoran cheese and bean papusas from El Merkury’s Sofia DeLeon; mini beef-and-cheese pastelillos from chef Selena Natal; chicken soup studded with braised-beef kreplach from Essen Bakery’s Tova du Plessis; and West African minced meat pies from Fudena chef Ruth Nakaar.
While the various dumplings are offered on different days and made in their respective kitchens, they’re all priced the same. It was an important point for Einhorn and Ni.
“We wanted to make sure the various cultural and culinary traditions of every heritage were equally respected,” Ni said, referencing the difference in price you might see between, say, a plate of ravioli and an order of potstickers. “There’s too often too large of a discrepancy between cultures, despite the fact that ingredients and techniques are just as intricate.”
The $20 across-the-board price-point goes to more than just one serving of dumplings, however. Every order actually pays for two, the second of which will go to volunteers at North Philly Peace Park, a thriving community garden and gathering space at 22nd and Jefferson Streets.
Dumplings and other items can be ordered from all the participants via Tock. Customers who go the dumpling distance and sample all nine will be entered to win a gift card to every restaurant in the lineup.
Einhorn and Ni hope that this five-day event is the first of several, envisioning similar efforts in other cities as well as a post-COVID-19 dumpling festival — harnessing diners' enthusiasm for food to uplift community organizations and to feed people in need.
The hope is “to bring awareness and to dig in and do the work,” Ni said. “The whole point of something like this is just not to leave people and cultures behind, not to leave communities behind. And it’s just a small start, but this is how everything starts.”