Episode 17: Mimi Cheng’s + Taiwanese Dumplings with a Modern Spin

Photo credit: Nicole Franzen

Hannah Cheng, co-founder of the popular Mimi Cheng’s, joins us on the show to talk about her story, what it’s like building a business with her sister, and of course, all things dumplings.

But first, new segment alert! Lynda and Iris will be kicking off each episode by asking each other what's the best thing they ate in the last week. Tune in to hear Iris divulge her dirty secret about her diet, and what savory delicacy Lynda's mom made.

Iris and Lynda start the show by going into a quick definition of dumplings (yes, really) and talk about the anecdotal history of how the first stuffed dumplings in China came about. With parents from Beijing, Lynda shares her experience with dumplings at family gatherings and holidays.

Lynda then turns the conversation to Hannah Cheng and the wildly successful Mimi Cheng's, with locations in East Village and NoLita that focuses on healthy, ingredient-driven, Taiwanese-inspired dumplings. Hannah tells us about her interesting family cultural background and how that influenced the food she ate growing up.

11:45 "I think that food is often times a reflection of the environment that you're in. Taiwan is actually a tropical island. So the food is a lot lighter because the climate is hotter. So, thin skins, the fillings are lighter, not as heavy." -- Hannah on Taiwanese dumplings and how food reflects the place that its from.

With endless combinations and possibilities, Lynda asks Hannah how they decided on their selection of dumplings offered. Hannah talks about "the Mimi Cheng": the signature chicken dumplings that her mom made when the sisters were in middle school and fell in love with, and how their vegetable-heavy diet influenced Mimi Cheng's menu. She also talks about what makes a good dumpling, and her tips on how to make great dumplings.

Then Lynda and Hannah go into some dumpling real talk. Just how many dumplings does Hannah eat a week? Hannah also talks about the other dumplings she eats outside of Mimi Cheng's, the different perception Asians and New Yorkers have when it comes to how dumplings can be a full meal vs. a snack, and how Mimi Cheng's stands out in the competitive NYC dumpling scene.

They then talk about family--what it's like going into business with a sibling, and what her mom thinks about their dumplings business. Hannah also talks about the clientele they get at Mimi Cheng's and the importance of regulars. They end the conversation with a discussion of what's next for dumplings and Mimi Cheng's, and their experiences eating in Taiwan. Hit Hannah up at info@mimichengs.com for their Taiwan best eats list!

Check out Mimi Cheng's when you're in NYC. And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and listen to all the other excellent shows on Heritage Radio Network.