If dumplings don’t seem like wellness food, you’re eating the wrong dumplings. Sisters Hannah and Marian Cheng are the founders of cult-status dumpling shop, Mimi Cheng’s in New York City. Taking on the challenge of making food as good as their mom’s, they opened Mimi Cheng’s as a passion project — and that personal touch shows in every bite.
Ingredients are everything to the sisters, who were born 18-months apart and previously worked in fashion and finance before starting Mimi Cheng’s together. “We use pasture-raised pork, organic chicken, organic vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, non-gmo sunflower oil, and never use any MSG. Mimi taught us to never take shortcuts. Two locations later, we are still sticklers on cooking food the right way.” We love their approach (and their food) — which is why we thought they would be the perfect fit for our fave foodie series, In My Fridge…
Food Philosophy in one sentence:
Hannah: We are what we eat.
Marian: Eat colorfully and mindfully.
Always in my fridge:
Hannah: House of Matcha (I make an iced matcha straight up with water every morning), pasture-raised eggs, avocado, homemade or very high-quality jam, kimchi, a loaf of nutritionally-dense seed bread, chili oil, almond milk, and frozen organic fruit.
Marian: Lemon, Japanese matcha, coffee beans, garlic, pasture-raised eggs, avocado, Mimi Cheng chicken dumplings (in the freezer).
7 recipe staples always on hand:
Hannah: Organic extra virgin olive oil, organic garlic, onion, eggs, soy sauce, white pepper, and crushed red chili pepper flakes.
Marian: Lemon, garlic, quality olive oil, sea salt, San Marzano tomatoes, organic chicken broth, fresh herbs.
Hannah: Salt and pepper pistachios, raw cashews, fresh dark berries, organic baby carrots, and kind peanut butter granola.
Marian: White cheddar popcorn (and really any snack with white cheddar), raw almonds, roasted pistachios, fresh fruit, baby carrots.
Hannah: Sir Kensington’s ketchup, Tabasco, and garlic chili oil. Almost every dish benefits from adding one of the above.
Marian: Tabasco sauce, Calabrian chili paste, Sir Kensington’s ketchup and their dijon mustard to make salad dressings, olive oil.
Ingredient that makes everything taste better:
Hannah: Freshly ground black pepper and Maldon sea salt flakes. Why do people buy pre-ground black pepper? Fresh tastes so much better, and it’s so much better for you.
Hannah: Thorne amino acid complex and vegan protein powder.
Marian: Eggs, mushrooms, fish, and a juicy grass-fed rib-eye.
Hannah: Organic frozen fruit. It’s cheaper, most likely fresher than the fruit that has traveled and has been sitting on the grocery shelves, and it lasts for longer.
Marian: Frozen fruit! They get frozen at their peak sweetness and are great to have on hand to make smoothies whenever you want.
Best label-reading tip:
Hannah: Companies are legally required to list ingredients in order of composition percentage. If you can pronounce the first few ingredients and recognize them as being healthy, you’ll probably be okay. Also, check how many grams of sugar are in the item. I don’t like having more than 5g of additional sugar (besides fruit).
Marian: Try to buy items that only have wholesome ingredients in it and no preservatives or processed ingredients.
Fave veggie + what you make with it:
Hannah: I love all veggies so this is a tough question. I love organic broccoli sprouts on top of my breakfast sandwich. Also, I especially love Chinese broccoli because it’s so easy to make a quick and delicious stir-fry. Butter lettuce is also another favorite for breakfast sandwiches.
Marian: When they’re in season, my favorite is ramps. I love sauteeing them or blending them into a ramp pesto. In general my favorite is broccoli, and my go-to is roasting them so they’re nice and crispy.
Must-have pantry staples:
Hannah: Organic red lentils, bianco di Napoli organic crushed tomatoes, white pepper, whole black pepper, and a sharp organic extra virgin olive oil.
Marian: Whole black peppercorns, sea salt, cannellini beans, a loaf of bread with locally-milled grains.
Craziest thing I buy:
Hannah: Usually a food item from abroad like Spanish iberico bellota ham.
Marian: Mezcal de pechuga from Oaxaca; it’s distilled with fruits, grains, nuts… and raw chicken breast.
Sweets and other indulgences:
Hannah: We generally don’t keep sweets in the house because we have zero self-control.
Marian: Dark chocolate, pistachio gelato, cornbread, almond chocolate croissants.
Dairy or non-dairy faves:
Hannah: We always have a good block of Parmesan from Di Palo’s for grating over salads or pasta.
Marian: Oatly milk, homemade nut milks, aged parmesan cheese, marzipan, Hudson Valley Fresh chocolate milk, cultured butter.
Skip labels that read:
Hannah: Anything that looks like a science experiment or has some type of sugar in the first 5 ingredients.
Marian: with ingredients that are difficult to pronounce
Hannah: Good champagne. One of our favorite bottles is from La Caravelle.
Marian: A special food or bottle of wine from an international trip. I discovered wine that was brought by pirates. The wine had traveled the waters from France to the Caribbean and then back to the final destination in Europe to age in barrels in the cargo deck of their ships.
For last minute entertaining:
Hannah: We keep a bag of truffle potato chips in our pantry. Who doesn’t enjoy some truffle chips with champagne? It seems like a small luxury without the splurge.
Marian: Murray’s cheese shop is a one-stop shop for aperitivo bites.
Favorite places to shop:
Hannah: Union square farmers market, especially in the summer. Di Palo’s for all your Italian needs. Dual Specialty for spices.
Marian: Union Square Farmers’ Market, Di Palo’s, Murray’s cheese shop, Whole Foods, and artisanal food shops.
Simple go-to recipe
Hannah: Okra Stew. This recipe also works with great northern white beans or fresh green string beans of sorts. Here’s how to make it:
1 can of crushed organic tomato
1 generous glug of extra virgin olive oil
finely minced Garlic cloves (to taste)
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
Over medium flame, heat up the olive oil and sautee the garlic until fragrant. Add chili flakes and then the crushed tomatoes. Add in the okra and simmer until easily pierced with a fork. Serve over freshly steamed rice (with or without dill).
Marian: Simple roasted chicken and seasonal vegetables from a cast iron pan with fresh herbs, garlic, sea salt, pepper and olive oil.
Best food memory:
Hannah: Summer break in elementary school, eating an entire pan of pan-fried dumplings while looking out into our backyard. Then asking my mom for more dumplings to her semi-fake horror that a small child could eat 25 dumplings.
Marian: Very difficult to choose as I get so inspired by and love soaking in the indigenous cuisines when I travel — from eating the greatest pad thai for 25 cents in the basement of a mall in Bangkok to rummaging through Tokyo alleyways in search for the best ramen or eating at a World’s 50 Best restaurant. However, an extremely fond memory is traveling a day and a half to the desolate countryside of Järpen, Sweden to dine at Fäviken. It’s winter about 70% of the year, so they resort to a lot of pickling and fermentation techniques to preserve ingredients over the cold months. Majority of their food is foraged/caught in the neighboring grounds, and cooked delicately to let the ingredient shine on its own. It also has a cozy cabin scented by cloudberry aromatics to stay at overnight, and then a scrumptious breakfast the next morning.