Sometimes you just crave food like your mama makes — especially when she was perhaps ahead of her time and used organic and fresh-from-the-garden ingredients in her home cooking! Such was the case for Hannah and Marian Cheng, whose bright, beloved dumpling house, Mimi Cheng’s, was born after their parents moved to the West Coast and their mom’s handcrafted Taiwanese dumplings were no longer in reach.
The happy little eatery, named after their mother, whose nickname is Mimi, serves up their mom’s secret dumpling recipe and uses organic and local ingredients. And fun fact: Hannah and Marian’s backgrounds are in finance at J.P. Morgan and fashion at Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry, respectively. (Instant kinship — we love it when people don’t stick to just one thing in their careers.)
Read on for the pair’s refreshing summer roll recipe, and to learn more about them and the inspiration behind their restaurant — their mama, Mimi.
NAME: Hannah and Marian Cheng
PROFESSION: Co-founders of Mimi Cheng’s in NYC.
PHILOSOPHY ON FOOD? What you eat should make you feel vibrant inside and out.
COOKING MAKES ME FEEL… Content and satisfied. It’s important for us to know what goes into our food and our bodies, which is why home-cooked meals are our favorite.
I CAN NEVER RESIST… Good-looking french fries with Sir Kensington’s ketchup is a major weakness. We avoid high-fructose corn syrup and “ingredients” that sound like science experiments. A homemade fruit pie is one of our major obsessions.
BIGGEST SINGLE INFLUENCE ON YOUR COOKING STYLE? Mimi! She grew up in Northern Thailand, where they are known for incorporating a rainbow of vibrant and fiery ingredients. When she later moved to Taiwan, she was exposed to Taiwanese cuisine firsthand. Its cuisine’s trademark is simple deliciousness, letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
THREE INGREDIENTS YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? Garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and Himalayan pink sea salt. You can make just about anything taste good with these three ingredients.
QUIRKY FOOD HABITS? Mixing savory and sweet flavors like avocado and eggs on raisin walnut bread.
SOUNDTRACK IN YOUR KITCHEN? Usually Brazilian jazz or Drake.
MIDNIGHT SNACK? A slice or two of Joe’s Pizza or Prince Street Pizza with spicy honey drizzled on top and crushed red chili pepper flakes.
BEST SOURCE FOR FOOD AND RECIPE INSPIRATION? We gather ideas from traveling to local spots, meals cooked by friends, restaurants, everywhere. We get energized from discovering new things and are always thinking about how we can bring new and fresh creations to Mimi Cheng’s.
MOST SWOON-WORTHY RESTAURANT? Pasquale Jones in Nolita is a very solid meal all around, and the wine list is great. They cook everything in huge ovens, and if you sit at the bar, you can watch the chefs work. Outside the city, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is magical. Start the meal off with a drink on the patio, overlooking the farm as the sun sets.
ESSENTIAL KITCHEN TOOL? A Chinese butcher knife and a cast iron skillet.
TRIED-AND- TRUE ENTERTAINING TIP? Have a drink that’s easily pourable upon arrival. We love a crisp glass of lambrusco or rose in the summer. If you want something a little different, aperol spritzes are refreshing and easy to make.
THEY SAY YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT — WHAT ARE YOU? Dumplings would be the obvious answer! Besides that, we would be a mixture of avocado and egg sandwiches, caesar salads, acai bowls, lambrusco, tacos, pizza, and spicy dan dan noodles.