Monday, March 4, 2024

A Taiwanese Restaurant Family Opens a Brooklyn Dumpling Shop

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For decades, Hsin Chang Lee, a Taiwanese chef, has been making dumplings with yellow chives. A cousin to the green chive, the long, stalky alliums are grown in the shadows and are therefore quite pale. When they are sliced, and mixed with pork in a dumpling wrapper, the taste is mellow and slightly sweet.

The recipe dates back to 1993, when Lee opened Overseas Dragon, a dumpling chain with locations in China and Taiwan. When moved to New York three years ago, he brought the recipe with him. He’s one of several founders behind Sanmiwago, a popular dumpling shop with a following in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It has more locations coming soon.

A decade ago the city only had a handful of Taiwanese restaurants. But more have opened in the past few years; they serve oyster omelets, three-cup chicken, and flaming cocktails.

Now Bushwick has one, too. Earlier this month, Lee and his daughter Chuya Lee opened Formosa at 144 Evergreen Avenue, at Jefferson Street. It’s a neighborhood dumpling shop, not another chain. The business serves Taiwanese staples like lu rou fan, a braised pork over rice dish, and scallion noodles with tofu. Beef noodle soup is on the menu, and soon there will be fried pork chops, too.

Scallion noodles.

A bowl of dumplings with scallion, cilantro, fried garlic, and chili oil.

Dumplings come with scallion, cilantro, and fried garlic.

The menu at Formosa, a new Taiwanese restaurant in Bushwick.

Most dishes cost under $15.

Save room for dumplings: The restaurant has seven kinds. They come with pork and glass noodles, chicken and cabbage, and yes, yellow chives. My favorite, a seafood dumpling, has octopus, tilapia, shrimp, and celery all in one. The dumplings can be boiled or pan-fried. Either way, they are covered in chili oil, scallions, cilantro, and fried garlic. An order with eight of them costs $12 to $15.

Chuya Lee opened Formosa in Bushwick because she’s lived in the neighborhood for years. That, and the area has become home to a growing collection of Taiwanese businesses: A-Pou’s Taste, Win Son, Fan Fried Rice Bar, Yun Hai Shop, Mama Lee, and Wenwen further north. In a city without a proper Taiwantown, this stretch of Brooklyn is starting to feel like a great contender.

The restaurant has the feel of an old friend’s living room, except for maybe the bar counter with red swivel stools. The mismatched furniture comes from Facebook Marketplace, not Restaurant Depot: You order at the counter, then wait on a couch that was in East Harlem a few months ago. If you told me there was a stash of board games lying around, I would believe you.

The restaurant serves iced winter melon tea and canned drinks. When its liquor license comes through, there will be beer and wine, too.

Formosa is open Tuesday to Thursday, from noon to 8 p.m., and Friday to Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

Two people walk in front of a restaurant in Brooklyn, Formosa.

Formosa opened on November 18.

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