If you are a fan of Asian cuisine or have been to a catered event on campus, you’ve probably heard of Palace Dumplings. Located in Wappingers Falls, a town 15 minutes away from campus, sits the local favorite Chinese restaurant, a neon welcome sign awaiting your warm arrival.
I had first heard of Palace Dumplings from Sara Inoa ’20, the Exploring College Manager, who frequents the restaurant with her daughter. Hearing that the place offered authentic Chinese cuisine, I was suspicious. Though I love American Chinese food, there is a large discrepancy between real Chinese food and what Americans think is Chinese food. Real Chinese food is characterized by finely-chopped ingredients and complex flavor profiles derived from a variety of sauces, whilst in my experience, American Chinese food emerged as chunks of vegetables mixed with overcooked noodles and too much soy sauce. Don’t even get me started on sweet-and-sour sauce—that’s what you dip your McDonald’s nuggets in, not what you cook your chicken with!
Thankfully, Palace Dumplings trumped all my doubts—it is now my preferred restaurant for a satisfying weekend meal. My go-to order at Palace Dumplings is the chicken lo-mein with soy sauce and steamed dumplings. If you’ve only eaten the American version of chicken lo-mein, you’re in for a treat: The high-quality soy sauce gives the perfectly bouncy noodles a strong umami flavor. The vegetables are finely chopped, and the chicken is flavorful. I’ve also had the noodles with bean paste, which is a Chinese version of the Korean dish jajangmyeon. The noodles are covered with lots of meat, vegetables and bean paste to create an edible piece of heaven on Earth. Another recommendation is the noodles with peanut sauce—if you are a fan of Thai food, this Chinese version of the peanut noodle will bring that uniquely nutty yet fresh flavor to your palate.
But the real stars of Palace Dumplings are, obviously, the dumplings. And stars they are indeed. Eat them steamed, not pan-fried. Instead of your normal soy sauce, try the classic pairing—Chinese vinegar with some chili oil. The dumplings are wrapped with dough of perfect thickness—not so thin that the fillings fall out while cooking, but not thick enough to overshadow the fillings inside. When you bite into the dumplings, the filling is perfectly juicy and flavorful.
If you are vegan or have food restrictions, the vegetarian dumplings are deceptively simple but overwhelmingly delicious. The tiny ginger pieces add a surprising kick. As a meat lover, I still find myself ordering the vegetarian dumplings every time I visit. However, you truly can’t go wrong with the pork dumplings: Palace Dumplings offers pork with chives, cabbage, mushroom or Chinese pickled cabbage. While pork with cabbage dumplings have a light, refreshing flavor, pork with mushroom dumplings have a stronger, more umami flavor profile. Each one is great in its own way, though I have to say the pork dumplings with pickled cabbage was an unexpected favorite. Dip the dumplings in Chinese vinegar—it will be a pleasant surprise.
The owner of the restaurant, Zhang Wuyang, noted that Palace Dumplings has been open for over 13 years. Chef Jenny, the soul behind the dumplings, comes from Harbin, a city in northern China. Zhang says that Harbin dumplings follow the tradition of Dongbei dumplings, which are characterized by thin wrappers and a lot of filling. I asked if they ever considered integrating American taste into their menu, or if they are insistent on authentic Chinese flavor. Zhang replied, “We don’t really consider changing the taste of our food. We focus on serving authentic Dongbei cuisine and dumplings, and Americans enjoy them anyway.” Perhaps this is why I’ve found so much comfort at Palace Dumplings as a kid missing flavors from home. There, I can speak Mandarin, my home language, and taste authentic Chinese food, its flavors untainted by outside influence.
If you do decide to visit (and you should!), take note: The restaurant is small, and it gets busy quickly. Quite a few people choose to order online and pick up their meals (they don’t deliver). I’ve also spotted some notable Vassar faculty there, so don’t be surprised if you run into your English professor with his entire family.
If you like Chinese food, or if you are just interested in trying restaurants in the Poughkeepsie area, I highly recommend Palace Dumplings—support a local business while satisfying your taste buds!