Patty Chen’s Dumpling Room — with a sunnier and more chic aesthetic than its previous tenant, the dining cult favorite Pu Pu Hot Pot — is little more than a few weeks old, but the pocket-sized dining room is already buzzing with a substantial lunch crowd.
Chen herself soon pokes her head out from the busy hum of the kitchen, a wide grin plastered on her face, sporting a traditional chef’s apron ensemble that’s been fashioned into a dress. She beckons us towards the prep station, scooting us towards a table of women deftly folding pouches full of chicken and cabbage. She is an eager, enthusiastic teacher, the singular motor behind the fledgling dumpling classes held here.
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At the age of 12, Chen became a professional (as professional as one can be as a preteen) dumpling maker in her parents’ first restaurant, and honed her mastery of Taiwanese folk cuisine at culinary school in 2008. Moreover, Chen has had her spoon in almost every major dumpling pot around here since 1992, including the aforementioned Pu Pu Hot Pot (R.I.P.), Taiwan Café and All Asia. This time around, she went right ahead and named the whole operation after the plump delights, so there’s no mistaking what you’re getting.
“I want to offer the freshness of traditional dishes, and the rich ethnicity of dumplings from different regions,” she explains. “So food lovers will [better understand] the technique and textures.”
Whatever region the Nutella and banana dumpling ($5) hails from, its main export must be deliciousness — there is brilliance in the insanity of that creation. Don’t let yourself gorge on the hazelnut-chocolate spread-filled morsels, however; you’d do well to leave room for the savory menu. Specifically, don’t miss the kimchi and pork ($6) or the soupy pork bun ($7.50). The dough is perfectly pliant, the fillings fresh, and they’re priced just low enough to justify ordering more than you might be able to handle. Most importantly, Patty Chen’s is open until midnight every day of the week, guaranteeing that you’ll never wander Cambridge hungry again.
Patty Chen’s Dumpling Room
907 Main St., Cambridge