Last week, I talked about my move to the other side of downtown, and the resulting vistas of Tunnel dining opened up to me. Commenter Fatty FatBastard, ever helpful, suggested Doozo Dumplings and Noodles as the go-to spot near my new digs. Kylejack countered with a Baoz proposal, and a heated debate ensued over downtown dumpling destinations.
While I may be exaggerating the vehemence of the (admittedly small) contingent of dumpling fans, it did remind me that I've been meaning to put this conflict to bed. Doozo has been a favorite for a long time. It was only recently that I'd started hearing talk of Baoz as a potential usurper. A few days later, I set out to determine the victor.
For the sake of fairness, I placed identical dumpling orders at the two shops, differing only in quantity. Doozo offers dumplings in five or ten piece sizes, and Baoz goes with a factor-of-six methodology. I ordered ten from Doozo, an even dozen from Baoz. They were of the steamed variety, evenly split between pork and vegetable for each order. For the sake of my stomach, I ordered them on consecutive days, rather than eating 22 dumplings in a sitting. These are my findings.
These dumplings are generously sized, but with slightly thick dumpling dough, especially at the top of the "purse" shape. I like the chunky grind in the pork dumpling filling, and the lack of gristly fat nodules. Spinach intermixed in the lump of pork keeps the texture from being overly dense and spongy, as does the loose grind. The pork dumplings have a nice ginger punch, but not overpowering, leaving a clean pork flavor, nice and lean, with no heaviness.
The vegetable dumplings are filled with nice, vibrantly green spinach that's perfectly cooked, still retaining plenty of texture and vegetal flavor, with a very slight earthiness. Glass noodles add some texture, and tofu blends nicely with the the slick greens to give a luxuriousness to the texture. The filling has a deep savoriness, which is very satisfying, especially for vegetarian dumplings. Both the pork and vegetable dumplings have a slight sweetness, coming from the dumpling wrap itself, that's quite nice.
The spicy sauce is nice and light and blessedly thin. Some might complain about the viscosity, but I personally hate getting a dumpling dipping sauce that's gloppy. It should provide a light sheen on the dumplings, highlighting their flavor rather than overwhelming it with thick sauce. I would guess that this sauce is composed of soy, mirin or rice wine vinegar, plenty of ginger, chile oil (nice sheen), and perhaps honey for its touch of sweetness.
These dumplings are much smaller, pinched half moon shapes, and slightly gyoza-like. They provide a more manageable mouthful, and the wrapper itself is much thinner, too. You can actually see the filling through the skin. Some were not pinched fully closed, so the filling got kind of watery.
The vegetable dumplings are primarily filled with tofu/bean curd, glass noodles, carrot shreds, and just a bit of spinach. The decrease in greenery and increase in other elements results in a much coarser texture. Individual flavors don't stand out, but there is a sort of synergistic relationship with the sauce, which makes the flavor come across as balanced and deeply savory. Unfortunately, the filling also tastes a little stale. The pork dumplings feature a finer grind, and plenty of green onion flavor. There is no ginger zing, just pork and green onion. It's very simple, but delicious.
Baoz's sauce is thicker, which is key in helping pump up the flavor on the kind of wan vegetable dumplings, but the extra oil also muddies the flavor a bit. It is spicier and less sweet. I taste mostly soy and chile oil, with not much balancing acid keeping everything in check. It's also kind of a salt bomb.
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I know you don't want to hear this, but both are good. If I could do a mash-up of the two, (Baoozo, anyone?), I'd go with Baoz's wrappers (please pinch them fully so they're water-tight!), Doozo's vegetable filling, a marriage of the two for pork (loved the green onion from Baoz, but missed Doozo's ginger bite), and Doozo's sauce. Of course, that's never going to happen, and you guys don't want that kind of answer, anyway. So, in the name of answering unanswerable questions, I have to go with Doozo as the victor. There were too few quibbles with their dumplings, and too few highlights with Baoz's, to choose otherwise.