If you ever had to guess what food I was craving at any moment, nine times out of ten you’d be correct if you answered dumplings from Prosperity Dumpling. In the last year alone, I ordered over 700 dumplings (for my office) despite the cab ride from Chinatown to the Upper East Side. Prosperity Dumpling is by no means a hidden gem, although it does comfortably fit within the category of “dingy hole-in-the-wall.” No list of Best Dumplings in Chinatown is legitimate without reference to this tiny dumpling shack. Although I have the owner’s phone number, there’s very little history to easily discover about Prosperity. He also doesn’t seem to remember who I am despite my exclusive VIP-customer status. My guess is that instead of making small talk, he’d rather deal with the large crowd standing in an area the size of my closet.
On a few occasions, I’ve found myself down to my last dollars on an empty stomach. My first and only stop has always been to go straight to Prosperity and take advantage of the unbelievably cheap dumplings. At five plump dumplings for only $1, it’s easily one of the best deals in New York City. Given the fact that there’s no limit to how much of their watered-down Sriracha you can smother your plate with, it’s quite an impressive feat that they stay profitable at such a low price. Interestingly enough, the closest competitor two blocks up, Vanessa’s Dumplings, raised their prices to four for $1 (perhaps to fund their Williamsburg expansion). Vanessa’s retains a cult following, and is a bit more refined in terms of seating and the overall presentation of the restaurant. However, when I’m craving fried dumplings, there’s not much else on my mind.
The high turnover at Prosperity means that the pan-fried dumplings are certain to be fresh at almost any time. The dumplings are cooked in a large, round cast iron pot coated with oil and one side is fried until it becomes crispy. There really is no guarantee that your dumplings will be consistent, but the juicy pork and chives stuffing these treasures are the real reason I’ve frequented Prosperity above all else. The dumplings almost have the juiciness of xiao long bao (soup dumplings) with the meatiness of fried dumplings. The meat is packed in a way that avoids a mushy texture when its bitten into. The greasiness of the dumplings is slightly noticeable, and I’m sure that I would never return if this changes. The dough wrapping the entire dumpling is appropriately thick, not exceptionally chewy, and perfect for frying. A friend once compared these dumplings to eating dollar pizza: filling, satisfying, cheap. Even if this understatement were true, I would much rather order these dumplings than the overpriced, gourmet garbage parading around in a truck.
There are thin stools available in the already cramped seating area at Prosperity, and I would suggest always getting your meal to go. There’s a park nearby where you can enjoy your lunch and sit. You should consider using the money you saved to splurge on bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea nearby. If you want some variety in your meal, try their sesame pancake with either duck or beef, though it might be better at Vanessa’s.
*(Heads Up: In the next month, I’ll do a special post comparing the five or six top-favorited dumpling houses in Chinatown. The idea is not to find the “best,” since they’re all exceptional. I’m hoping to pin down the real differences between the styles and tastes. I can’t do this project on my own and will need a friend to help me eat the rest of the meals. If you’re interested, let me know. Free lunch!)*