A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of a No Reservations Netflix marathon, Kevin and I learned about a fascinating Asian food called the soup dumpling. I am a huge fan of any sort of dumpling—Pierogies, Chinese dumplings, Cornish Pasties … Show me a dumpling, and I will likely enjoy it. The soup dumpling is especially intriguing because it is magically filled with soup! According to Anthony Bourdain, this feat of broth encapsulated by tender dough is achieved by using a solidified gelatin rich stock (like the one I made here). The stock is worked in to the filling in its chilled, solid state, but melts into delightful broth within the dough as it steams. You can see for yourself how it is made in Shanghai here:
Cut to last week: As we were driving out to Keepsake Farm in Nazareth, we passed a sign for the Prince Palace Dumpling House in the no man’s land stretch of route 512 between the industrial park and the sprawling new development of “little boxes on the hillside” at the edge of Hanover Township, just before Bath. Set back off the road next to a diner with a motel attached, with no cars in the parking lot, this place looked a little sketchy.
However, the notion of a restaurant devoted to dumplings in Bethlehem still piqued my interest. So, this past weekend, I looked up the place online, and was pleasantly, and somewhat skeptically, surprised to see several shining reviews on Yelp. Numerous people claimed that this is the place where all of the Chinese exchange students from Lehigh University go to eat, which is always a sign of a good ethnic restaurant. So, we decided to try it out. After a long day of cleaning, we hopped in the car and drove straight out Center Street to get there.
We arrived in late afternoon, so it wasn’t all that surprising to only see one other table full in the restaurant. We were immediately greeted by a blend of tasty aromas. Since we were ordering takeout, the hostess presented us with a paper menu to order from, but also suggested that we look at the picture menu, so we could see what the different kinds of dumplings looked like.
The prices were so incredibly inexpensive. I don’t think there was anything on the menu for more than $6, and there were several items that were just a dollar! Also, we saw that you can purchase 50 frozen dumplings for $15. I know what I am serving at our next party!
We placed an immense takeout order (lunches for the week!) and sat down in the clean, large dining room to wait for our food. Looking around, I observed several things. First, I saw the collection of intriguing Asian beverages available. There was soy milk in cans, various juices, and some sort of soda that included the word “jelly” in the name. There was also a shelf lined with various components for bubble tea and trays full of assorted Chinese pastries.
The restaurant itself is fairly stark, with the exception of some modern, geometric light fixtures that seem like they should be hanging in a hipster coffee shop. Most unique, though, is the wall decor. Framed posters featuring Christian imagery adorn the walls, typeset with Bible verses in Chinese. After noticing the artwork, I also noticed that the music playing in the restaurant was an instrumental hymnal album. I thought this was kind of a strange, but according to my friend Joe, the Christian undertones to the restaurant mean that the owners are likely from southern China.
After about 10 minutes, our giant bag of dumplings were brought out from the back. We grabbed some lychee candies on our way out the door and drove back home to give the little pockets a try!
As we unpacked our bag of delicious smelling dumplings, we were amazed at the quantity we received! Having only spent $32, we ended up with several days worth of food. The plate in the center of this picture holds our appetizers: two crispy scallion cakes, one crispy sesame cake and some fried curly dough. The cakes were all amazing, with a layer of savory filling inside a flaky crust. The fried dough reminded me of a churro, minus the cinnamon and sugar. It was good, but I think I’d choose a scallion cake over the dough any day.
As for dumplings, we ordered three varieties, all steamed: pork & chive, beef & scallion, and chicken curry. The fillings were perfectly prepared in tender, delicate dough. The chicken curry was my favorite, but all of them were delicious and fresh tasting. It was mild, yet very flavorful. We also ordered some wontons in spicy sauce. These are SPICY, in a very garlicky sort of way, as the wontons are smothered in a sauce that largely consists of minced garlic. Lastly, we ordered some soup buns. On the Prince Palace menu, these are called Juicy Pork Buns (how can you not be tempted to try that?). We didn’t realize they would be soup buns until we bit into them and leaked broth all over the place. These were my favorite thing from all that we ordered. Simply amazing. The rich broth, savory filling and soft dough were cooked to perfection. Finally, for dessert, we ordered some coconut cakes, which were nothing at all like what I imagined a cake to be. Shaped kind of like dumplings and coated with coconut, I think these three-bite treats are steamed. They have a delicate coconut flavor and a texture like a dense Jello.
We enjoyed sampling all the different kinds of dumplings we brought home. The food seemed authentic, not drowned in sugary, corn-starchy sauces or loaded with MSG. The menu also included things like noodle dishes and vegetarian options, all at affordable prices.
I really want this place to stay open so that I can keep buying their dumplings! They’ve only been open about three months, so they really need your support. It’s really great to have a place in Bethlehem striving to serve authentic Chinese food. So, go get your dumpling on!
Prince Palace Dumpling House
5000 Bath Pike
Bethlehem, PA 18017