At a popular dumpling shop in Manhattan, the newest dumpling on the menu is made with food waste.
Mimi Cheng's, a restaurant with locations in the East Village and Nolita, is known for pork and chicken dumplings based on family recipes. But a limited-edition offering served in February will be made with scraps that would normally be composted.
The owners partnered with the chef Dan Barber, who has been leading a movement to help restaurants begin to address the problem of food waste; by one estimate, a single restaurant can throw out 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food every year. In 2015, Barber temporarily converted the menu at his restaurant Blue Hill to feature food waste. In January 2017, he opened another iteration of the pop-up, called Wasted, in London.
For the new dumplings, the chefs at Blue Hill collaborated with chefs at Mimi Cheng's. "The creative process started with the chef asking us what we had on hand that we would normally consider waste," says Hannah Cheng, co-founder of Mimi Cheng's.
Though the dumpling restaurants had already tried to radically reduce waste—and compost everything thrown out, including chopsticks and disposable cups—they easily discovered unused ingredients. The new dumpling is stuffed with the ends of zucchini and baby bok choy, carrot skin peels, outer cabbage leaves, and a peanut-ginger-miso sauce.
"We all have preconceived notions of what is considered 'good', edible food versus trash," Cheng says. Everyone eats apple skins, for example, but carrot skins are typically discarded. She wants the dumplings to help shift those perceptions.
"I'm hoping it really challenges the way people think about food, just like it challenged the way we think about food," she says.
Correction: This article previously stated that Mimi Cheng's had locations in the East Village and Tribeca, but they are actually in the East Village and Nolita.