Beyond Dumplings at Auntie Chang's

Auntie Chang's Dumpling House is one of the best inner-loop Chinese(-American) restaurants and their namesake specials are very good. Skip the pan-fried pork, similar versions of which can easily be found elsewhere, and focus instead on the delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, whose diaphanous dough casing houses plump, perfectly cooked prawns. Also praiseworthy are the steamed vegetable dumplings, the interior of which tastes much fresher and less limp than other garden-variety (pun intended) veggie dumplings available at mediocre establishments.

And while it's tempting to let dumplings dominate your order, the restaurant also boasts a terrific version of the formidable Sino-Western classic, egg foo young. This entree finds its origins in colonial cuisine of nineteenth-century Shanghai, where Western expat demand for omelets collided with cooked egg dishes already extant in in Asian cooking to produce a fusion ova pancake of protein and vegetables.

Order egg foo young Asia (known better as fu yung hai) and you're likely to be served a light, fluffy circle of cooked egg heavy on the vegetables and light on meat and oil.

The proportions in the standard American egg foo young are, unsurprisingly, reversed, which is perhaps why trying a less-than-stellar version might turn you off from the dish. If you've experienced Egg Foo Young Fail in the past, go for a second round at Auntie Chang's. By way of some unknown tantular touch, the restaurant manages to produce succulent yet non-greasy egg patties whose landscape is dotted with lettuce, onion, garlic, and your choice of meat (props to the shrimp).

Like most egg foo young, Auntie Chang's rendition is accompanied by a thick brown gravy, which you should ask for on the side lest an overzealous food runner apply too much, thereby making your patties soggy. A little gravy goes a long way.

The ubiquitous Christmas lights and cool dimmed interior make dining in at Auntie Chang's a relaxing experience, more serene than any dinner you're likely to have during the real holiday season. However, their promise of free delivery within a five-mile radius is also useful when you just cannot deal with the congested artery that is South Shepherd under construction.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joanna O'Leary