The Dumpling Has Its Day

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Move over hot dog -- this Saturday, the humble dumpling is getting its day in the competitive eating spotlight. The 2009 Dumpling Festival is going down this Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. at Sarah D. Rooselvelt Park on E. Houston and Bowery (you know, the park next to Whole Foods where drunks are always sprawled out on the stairs).

There is going to be all kinds of crazy dumplingness going on, but the highlight of the day is definitely the dumpling eating contest, which is in it's sixth year. One participant from last year said that he consumed 30 dumplings before realizing he could actually get hurt. Is he ready for this year? "Oh, yeah. I've been training all year." And for good reason: The first place prize is $1,000. If Cool Hand Luke can eat 50 eggs you can put down some pierogi (which is very much a dumpling).
For those who prefer to enjoy their dumplings in moderation, there will be plenty of sweet and savory International varieties to sample. In his book "Dumplings: A Seasonal Guide" (hitting bookstores October 27),  Wai Hon Chu defines a dumpling as "a portion of dough, batter, or starchy plant fare, solid or filled, that is cooked through wet heat, and is not a strand or a ribbon." Mmmm, sounds delicious when you explain it like that. And they are certainly, as he explores in the book, not limited to the popular Chinese variety.  The Poles will be there with their peirogi, Italians with their gnocchi and ravioli and maybe even the Scandanavian-style dumpling will make an appearance (we Americans, particularly in South, have since claimed the floury balls of dough that float in chicken soup as our own).

But no matter. This isn't about who stole from what from whom: This is the dumpling's day. Mr. Chu will be on hand to answer all dumpling-related inquiries and to sign copies of his book.You can all go back to making noises over bacon or fried chicken on Sunday. Or maybe you'll get lucky and there will be a deep-fried pork belly-stuffed ravioli served over fried chicken to tide you over.

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