March 11, 2015

Everyone is Going Bang Bang for Bing Bing

Jade Shrimp Dumplings
Cheu Noodle Bar founders Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh opened Bing Bing Dim Sum in mid-February. Finally a fun place to get dumplings outside of Chinatown, and it hit East Passyunk with a splash - 250+ people served nightly since opening, according to Shawn. We first attempted to visit two weeks ago on Wednesday to find a 45 minute wait, much too long for the pregnant wife. We went back again on a Saturday, arriving 30 minutes after their 5:00 pm opening and it was already jammed, though we were able to snag two seats at the bar.

Dealing with such demand while working out the typical new restaurant kinks has been a struggle, Shawn admitted, and it showed in some of the initial menu items. Adding to the challenge, Bing Bing has to live up to the success of Cheu, bringing that distinct-but-indescribable Cheunish twist on noodles to the traditional, beloved dumpling.

Dumpling hunters would be wise to leave their comparisons to Chinatown-favorite Dim Sum Garden behind. That’s not a convenient excuse, but rather a deliberate deviation from the need for authenticity that will help align expectations with Bing Bing's interpretations of dim sum. 

Ben and Shawn are committed to evolving and adjusting the menu, so expect some new items soon. They already added pork soup dumplings after initially excluding them, for fear they were too traditional. Plus, finding the right doughy texture to handle both the soup and meat inside is much harder than most might think (1 in 10 typically break in the cooking process). Making it more difficult, the soup dumpling masters in Philly, NYC and really everywhere that Ben and Shawn turned to for guidance held their secrets close to the chest. Even chef friends would not show them the tricks.

Bing Bing’s current iteration of the soup dumpling has been six years and thousands of YouTube-watching hours in the making. Give them another year and I think they will get closer to current soup dumpling king Dim Sum Garden, but for now they are just fine and more convenient to home for South Philadelphians than Chinatown.

Pork Soup Dumplings
Don't get burned! 
Inside the soup dumplings... they'll show you how to eat them if you don't already know!

The pan fried bao buns stuffed with pastrami & swiss (or mushroom & cheddar if you prefer) were winners. The buns had a good consistency and we both enjoyed the Cheunish twist of incorporating Jewish deli flavors. I just wish they would have been more stuffed like a Jewish deli sandwich, especially at the price of $7 for two.

Pan Fried Bao Buns w/ pastrami and swiss
The XO chicken wings and turnip cake rounded out the highlights of our meal. Cilantro and honey flavored wings are coated with sesame seeds to add a crunchiness to the fall-of-the-bone meat. The bartender said the trick is marinating them in buttermilk for several hours. Whatever they gotta do, I loved the wings and the pickled jalapenos that come with the them. They are expensive at $10 for only six, but worth the price.

The turnip cake seemed like the outlier on the menu but sticking to our “everything is better with an egg on top” mantra rarely fails. The polenta-like cake is made with turnips, matzo meal, maple and bonito. Dang is it good. Break the egg and let runny yolk flow throughout the cake to create a little piece of awesome that you aren't going to get anywhere else.
An excellent appetizer.

2 layers of turnip cake is hard to see under that delicious fried egg. Get a little bit of each ingredient in every bite. 

XO Chicken Wings with pickled jalapenos

The jade dumplings and crispy curry dumplings were a mixed bag. Kristy felt the leeks overpowered the shrimp inside some of the jade dumplings, while I liked their flavor. The fact that they were green from a mix of leeks, cilantro and scallion added a fun twist to the traditional shrimp dumpling. Despite being labeled "crispy curry dumplings" for some reason the blast of curry flavoring still surprised us; maybe we expected a variation since it is still a dumpling. This could turn some people off (Kristy wasn't a fan), but the cauliflower and chive filling grew on me over time.

The last two items we tackled were the char siu pork ribs and the bubble waffle dessert. The barbecue ribs were cooked perfectly and didn't even need the tomatillo salsa on top so I was satisfied.

Do you like waffles? How about funnel cake? If so, then you will love the bubble waffle, which is a blend of both with a hint of sweetness. Almond lemongrass dipping sauce was a nice accompaniment. Kristy suggested coating the waffles with even more powdered sugar so you get it in every bite.

Char Siu pork ribs
Bubble waffle, a street food dessert from Hong Kong

It’s going to take some time for Bing Bing to do for dumplings what Cheu did for ramen in Philadelphia. but the potential exists. We’re excited that Shawn and Ben are trying their hand at dumplings and look forward to eating our way through the evolution.

Pass the dumplings!

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