Nestled in the heart of Bushwick, a new gem has emerged on the culinary map — Formosa Dumplings, a Taiwanese dumpling house that promises to offer a slice of Taipei’s vibrant food scene right in Brooklyn. With an array of authentic flavors and a homely ambiance, Formosa is quickly becoming a staple for the locals craving a taste of the East.
As you step into Formosa Dumplings at 144 Evergreen Avenue, the aroma of spices and freshly steamed buns welcomes you. The Lee family, Hsin Chang Lee and his daughter Chuya Lee, are the visionaries behind this quaint eatery. Their journey began decades ago when Hsin Chang crafted a dumpling recipe that would one day captivate the palates of New Yorkers.
The specialty of the house is, undoubtedly, the yellow chive dumplings. These delicacies are a testament to the Lee family’s dedication to tradition, with a recipe dating back to 1993. The yellow chives, a paler and milder cousin to the common green chive, are meticulously grown in the shaded regions of Taiwan to preserve their delicate flavor. Once harvested, they are thinly sliced and intermingled with succulent pork in a tender dumpling wrapper, creating a harmonious blend that is both mellow and subtly sweet.
But the repertoire extends beyond this unique offering. Formosa Dumplings serves an enticing array of Taiwanese staples, such as lu rou fan — a hearty dish of braised pork over rice that comforts the soul, and scallion noodles mingled with tofu, offering a refreshing yet satisfying meal. The beef noodle soup is a nod to Taiwan’s national dish, a rich broth that is both nourishing and deep in flavor.
The culinary experience at Formosa is crafted to be as diverse as the island’s own food culture. There are seven different kinds of dumplings on the menu, each filled with an exquisite blend of ingredients — from the classic pork and glass noodles to an adventurous seafood dumpling bursting with octopus, tilapia, shrimp, and celery. These pockets of joy can be enjoyed boiled or pan-fried, each version draped in a lively chili oil and garnished with scallions, cilantro, and crispy fried garlic. An order of these delicacies, containing eight generous pieces, is priced between $12 to $15, a modest sum for a journey through Taiwan’s culinary landscape.
Chuya Lee’s decision to open Formosa in Bushwick was not merely a business move; it was a heartfelt choice. Having lived in the area for years, she witnessed the neighborhood’s transformation into a hub for Taiwanese culture and community. Bushwick, with no official ‘Taiwantown’ to its name, has naturally evolved into a cultural enclave with a burgeoning collection of Taiwanese establishments, from eateries to specialty stores. Formosa Dumplings joins this cultural tapestry, contributing to the area’s rich and diverse food scene.
The ambiance of Formosa is reminiscent of an old friend’s living room — cozy, inviting, and filled with stories. The 40-seat space is dotted with red swivel chairs and mismatched furniture, each piece with a history, procured not from commercial suppliers but from local marketplaces and previous homes. It’s a place where you can order at the front and relax on a couch with a backstory, possibly next to a stack of board games, creating a sense of community and nostalgia.
While currently offering iced winter melon tea and a selection of canned beverages, Formosa eagerly anticipates the approval of its liquor license to introduce a curated selection of beers and wines, perfect companions to the rich flavors of their dishes.
Formosa Dumplings operates Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., and Friday to Sunday until 9 p.m., providing ample opportunity for Bushwick residents and visitors alike to indulge in the delights of Taiwanese cuisine. It’s more than just a restaurant; it’s a gateway to Taiwan, a place where each bite is a connection to tradition, and every visit feels like coming home.
In 2024, as New Yorkers continue to seek out authentic and affordable culinary experiences, Formosa Dumplings stands as a beacon of traditional Taiwanese cooking, inviting all to partake in the simple joy of a dumpling — a small, but profound, pleasure.
Author: Marcus Lee