One Dish: Savoring Unexpected Chinese Comfort Food at Middlebury’s Yogurt City | One Dish | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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One Dish: Savoring Unexpected Chinese Comfort Food at Middlebury’s Yogurt City


Published May 23, 2023 at 3:00 p.m.
Updated May 24, 2023 at 10:03 a.m.

Dumplings at Yogurt City - SOPHIA AFSAR-KESHMIRI
  • Sophia Afsar-Keshmiri
  • Dumplings at Yogurt City

I'm a regular at Yogurt City in Middlebury, but not once have I had its frozen yogurt. I go for the dumplings — and the 2000s pop music that's always playing in the shop.

Although the candies, cookies and gummy worms at the frozen yogurt topping bar are enticing, the overloaded concoction I'd create couldn't possibly compete with the dumplings that owner Andy Li has perfected.

$12.99 gets you 10 artfully folded pouches of dough served in a black to-go container. Pop the top, and the vessel-turned-dumpling-sauna will release enticing aromas of ginger and garlic.

These dumplings set Li's shop apart from other Yogurt City locations, including one in Williston. Added to the menu after customers asked for additional food options, they're easy to miss amid the plethora of smoothies, bubble teas, yogurts and candy toppings. Advertised only on an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of printer paper posted on the wall behind the cash register are three dumpling varieties: pork and leek; chicken with peas and corn; and vegetarian, which are filled with purple and white cabbage, corn, and noodles.

All three share one common denominator: ginger. Generous amounts of the fresh, fragrant root are a trait unique to Li's recipe.

Li's culinary career long predates the opening of his Yogurt City shop eight years ago. After emigrating from China in 1997, he started out in the kitchen of his family's business, Number One Chinese Restaurant in Burlington. The restaurant is now called Fu Da and owned by Li's brother.

Inheriting his family's entrepreneurial spirit, Li made his way to Middlebury and opened China House. He later sold the establishment, having grown weary of the long hours of the restaurant business. He switched to retail, purchasing Middlebury's Ben Franklin store and building with his sister and her husband in 2009. While running the store, which closed in 2018, Li saw the potential success of a Yogurt City franchise shop amid the treat's growing popularity elsewhere. He launched that biz in 2014 and still runs it out of a portion of the Ben Franklin building.

At Yogurt City, my go-to dumpling is the chicken. The peas and crisp corn snap and pop with each bite. The ginger complements the sweetness of the corn and contrasts the savory flavors of garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce and onion powder.

There's nothing sweet about the pork variety, and the ginger shines in a different way, turning savory. It adds depth to the subtle oniony green leeks and the pink pork. Steamed just enough to be soft and chewy, yet still sufficiently sturdy to maintain their structural integrity in the face of my subpar chopstick skills, both the pork and chicken dumplings feature a thin, almost translucent skin of dough, per customers' requests.

The veggie version requires a thicker dough. Full of skinny noodles and slightly crunchy cabbage, its ginger is more subdued — a warm, aromatic zing in each bite.

When asked if he has plans for future menu expansions, Li mentioned the possibility of adding noodle soup to the menu.

Likely nodding my head or tapping my foot to Demi Lovato, Katy Perry or Karmin, I'll be the first in line to try any new dish.

"One Dish" is a series that samples a single menu item — new, classic or fleeting — at a Vermont restaurant or other food venue. Know of a great plate we should feature? Drop us a line: [email protected].

The original print version of this article was headlined "Dumpling Discovery | Savoring unexpected Chinese comfort food at Middlebury's Yogurt City"

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