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Feast on dumplings starting Monday when Laoban Dumplings makes its debut in a Foggy Bottom storefront after a run of pop-ups throughout D.C. The space near George Washington University’s campus has one counter with just six stools, making the dumpling shop mostly a to-go pit stop.
Patrick Coyne got the idea for the business after getting sucked into Chinese food and culture while working abroad there as a middle school English teacher. The word lǎobǎn is Chinese for “boss,” and the name is a tribute to those who run traditional shops.
“One of my favorite activities was hanging out in the dumpling shop outside the school,” Coyne said. “I just like that it was always so accessible and kind of a friendly atmosphere. I appreciated that singular focus on one item and this notion of doing that one thing really well.”
Coyne plans to start small and hopes to capitalize on the idea of mastering a few dishes. Two dumplings will be available for purchase: Pork cilantro and the “Livin’ on the Vedge,” with bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. A plate of six steamed dumplings costs $10. Sides include various salads like cucumber cilantro, roasted cauliflower, and spicy watermelon mint cost $2.50 each.
The menu will rotate in two new flavors every couple of weeks, always with one meat and one vegetarian option, for a total of about 10 different flavors. Laoban Dumplings are wrapped in a homemade dough called ěrchuí, which means “earlobe,” and is a reference to the dough’s pillowy, soft texture.
All of the dumplings are steamed, which, coupled with the high-quality ingredients Coyne says Laoban uses, makes for a healthier dumpling experience. He makes fillings out of Berkshire pork, shiitake mushrooms, and king oyster mushrooms, for example. Some of the ingredients are locally sourced and organic.
“The concept for the menu is starting with Chinese ingredients, but then doing new combinations,” Coyne said. You wouldn’t see the “Livin on the Vedge” dumpling in China, he explains, “But you would see those ingredients.”
Laoban Dumplings will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Laoban Dumplings, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; laobandumplings.com