Dumpling Soup for the Soul at Yi Ryo on Bank
Bank Street in Ottawa stretches the length of the city. As you travel down the street, each area offers a unique and appealing array of shops, businesses, and restaurants. It is almost impossible to visit all of them, so foodies and restaurant goers have an endless variety to choose from.
As you head north from the Glebe, making your way towards downtown through Centretown, you witness a cultural shift in the variety of food available.
From the Glebe to downtown, through Centretown, you notice a cultural change in the variety of food. The national chains and trendy upscale restaurants shift into a melting pot of walk-up windows, take-out food, and small-seating restaurants with influence from all over the world. Yi Ryo is no exception but is unique in its own way.
For years, Ottawa dumpling lovers have been asking for soup dumplings to make their appearance in the capital, and for years, we’ve been left waiting. But Yi Ryo on Bank Street has finally answered our soup dumpling prayers with their pan-fried soup buns!
Upon entering Yi Ryo, you’ll sense two things right away. The first is relief. You are lucky to get a spot to sit, as it only seats about ten people, and the second is awe as you watch the dumpling masters at work rolling, filling, and crimping their masterpieces at a shockingly quick pace.
The menu is small but diverse: three kinds of dumplings, five noodle dishes, and three soups. My partner and I, although mainly there for the star of the show, decided on an array of food to get the big picture of what Yi Ryo has to offer.
We started with the trio of dumplings: two pork soup buns, two beef soup buns, and two cheese and shrimp buns (no soup here). As we waited for our buns, we set up the obligatory dipping stations of chilli sauce and vinegar and viewed the suggested eating pattern printed on each menu. To start, you make a small hole in your soup dumpling, draining it onto your spoon and slurping it up. This is followed by enjoying a bite of the heavily seasoned meat on its own and finally dipping the dumpling in your choice of sauce and eating it in one giant bite.
The shrimp dumpling was the first I tried, as it lacked the soup and was, therefore, the least exciting to me. The shrimp was well seasoned and nicely cooked, giving it a great texture. Paired with the creamy cheese, it was a very nice bite.
Next, I tried the beef soup bun, followed by the pork soup bun, which was so similar that it was worth just noting them together and breaking down their components. Across both buns, the meat was juicy and well-seasoned, and the buns were crispy on the bottom and perfectly chewy throughout the exterior, perfectly mopping up any sauces used to enhance the flavour.
However, the star of both buns was the internal broth — a punch of savoury goodness greets your tastebuds and warms your insides as you drink it from the spoon. A melange of herbs and spices blend together, creating a liquid I would happily inject directly into my veins.
Together, these parcels of joy are giving the capital city exactly what it’s been asking for in a soup dumpling and should be on everyone’s “must-try in Ottawa” list.
Unsurprisingly, the noodles and soups have reached the same level of delight. We opted for the scallion noodles and the chilli oil wonton soup (because we love some heat!)
Scallion noodles are an incredibly simple dish, but when done right, they can satisfy even the largest of cravings. Bouncy noodles are cooked to perfection, and oil is heated on the stove, while on the side, a bowl filled with scallions, chillies, and other spices waits patiently. Once the oil is heated, it is poured over the scallion mixture and tossed with the noodles to make a light and flavourful dish that doesn’t feel too heavy on the stomach and is perfect for the vegan friend you care about most.
The chilli oil wonton soup was equally as satisfying. Steamed wontons, stuffed with the same delicious pork as the pan-fried buns, float in a flavourful broth that is laced with scallions, sesame seeds, and a spicy oil that leaves the broth with a bright red colour, almost pre-warning you of what’s to come.
As a man of Italian descent, take my spice recommendations with a grain of salt. Here goes: In my humble opinion, the level of heat on this soup is not too bad; you feel it, and it lingers, but it enhances the dish as opposed to masking it. That being said, this is not for the spice-faint-of-heart! It definitely packs a kick that might shock you if you’re not a regular spicy food enjoyer. I recommended enjoying this dish with a few splashes of the black vinegar mixture for an added acidic kick.
Yi Ryo is becoming an increasingly popular destination for foodies in the capital, and for good reason. The struggle to find parking on Bank Street is worth it if that journey ends with a pan-fried soup bun as a reward for your bravery.
Get in your car, hop on a bus, or walk to Yi Ryo on Bank. As always, you can thank me later.
Find Yi Ryo Pan Fried Buns at 252 Bank Street and online at yiropanfriedbuns.com