News Feature

Making riders hungry for social activism



April 14, 2017 | Rahoul Ghose | photos: The Dumpling Tour

Two wheels, a variety of boiled, fried, simmered, or steamed fillings wrapped in dough … and a common social cause.

For organizer Tom Nguyen the three ingredients which make up The Dumpling Tour — a motorcycle charity run next month benefiting the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) — go together like pierogies and sour cream.

“There are hundreds of versions of dumplings in different countries all over the world,” says Nguyen, one of three owners at Brooklyn’s Phumpling Co, which has showcased its Chinese/Vietnamese pho-packed, bite-sized soup dumplings at Popup New York for the past two years.

“The reason why we as New Yorkers are able to enjoy gyoza from Japan, pelmeni from Russia, pierogi from Poland, momos from Tibet, empanadas from Latin America — just to name a few — is because of the immigrants who came to this country and shared their incredible food with us. Diversity in food, culture, and thought is what makes this country thrive.”

For Nguyen, a 34-year-old graphic artist and food enthusiast, this year's ride benefactor has special significance. The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) graduate is the son of immigrants, Vietnamese War refugees who sought safety in the United States during the 1970s; Nguyen’s mother, father and grandparents fled Vũng Tàu province for their freedom and endured great hardships before finally finding safety and a home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“They created a life for themselves here; they worked hard at their jobs, contributed to their community, had children, and sent them to college,” Nguyen says. “They and the greater community of immigrants help weave the fabric of our country.”

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  The reason why we as New Yorkers are able to enjoy gyoza from Japan, pelmeni from Russia, pierogi from Poland, momos from Tibet, empanadas from Latin America — just to name a few — is because of the immigrants who came to this country and shared their incredible food with us. Diversity in food, culture, and thought is what makes this country thrive.  

-- Tom Nguyen
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More recently, Nguyen witnessed a Peruvian friend who had spend his entire adult life in the US — more than a quarter century — being deported.

"I didn't know what to do," he says, adding this prompted him to seek out what resources are available to immigrants in need of help, particularly at the local level.

In order to help fight discrimination against immigrants, all proceeds from 2017 Dumpling Tour merchandise sales will go to the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), whose leadership and services will provide a unified voice for New York's diverse immigrant communities, Nguyen says.

Items on offer include logo-branded t-shirts, tanks, mugs, caps, tote bags … and even a premium bamboo, laser cut, mini café racer for your office tabletop or bookshelf.

The Dumpling Tour logo is designed by Nguyen, who rides a 1968 Honda CL350 Scrambler and admits to always having an affinity for café racer styling.

Last year's inaugural event hit the mean streets of New York in October, with 16 riders making several food stops around the city. Funds collected were donated to City Harvest NYC, an organization which helps feed the hungry.

“Leading up to the first Dumpling Tour in 2016, we sold t-shirts and donated all profits,” Nguyen says, adding the ride hit six stops, including the Tibetan Dumpling Cafe, Dillinger’s, the East Wind Snack Shop, Baba’s Pierogies, Dotory and Kings County Imperial.

This year’s event — with almosy 40 people already signed up — will kick off at Union Garage NYC (103 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231) at 11:30 AM on Sunday, May 21, for coffee, and will run until about 7 PM.

ON THE MENU (route map)

Mimi Chengs (Taiwanese-Chinese dumplings)
380 Broome Street, New York, New York (Vegan option available here)

Beard Papa's (Japanese cream puffs)
2167 Broadway, New York, New York

Empanada's Cafe (Latin American stuffed empanadas)
5627 Van Doren Street, Queens, New York (Vegetarian option available here)

Masha & The Bear (Russian pelmeni)
771 Grand Street, Brooklyn, New York

As someone who has worked in the food industry, Nguyen said it was also important for him to support smaller "mom and pop" restaurants and local businesses ... giving back to the home grown gems in the community.

Speaking of culinary secrets, Nguyen is even generous in discussing his own creations with Phumpling Co, which he runs with his sister and a close friend. For those lucky enough to sample their pho-packed, bite-sized soup dumplings, the mystery of how you get liquid inside a dumpling is really a "bit of a science experiment," he admits.

The 'secret' is gelatin in the soup base which solidifies when cooled down so it can be cut into tablets which are then put in the dumplings ... when the dumplings are boiled the tablet become soup again. The exact recipe, though ... still a secret.

Come out on May 21 to celebrate people who enrich lives with wonderful food and culture from around the world. You can register for the ride and make a donation on Eventbite.

For more info on The Dumpling Tour visit the event's official sites online at:     

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