For decades, Hsin Chang Lee, a Taiwanese chef, has been making dumplings with yellow chives. A cousin to the green chive, the long, stalky alliums are grown in the shadows and are therefore quite pale. When they are sliced, and mixed with pork in a dumpling wrapper, the taste is mellow and slightly sweet.
The recipe dates back to 1993, when Lee opened Overseas Dragon, a dumpling chain with locations in China and Taiwan. When moved to New York three years ago, he brought the recipe with him. He’s one of several founders behind Sanmiwago, a popular dumpling shop with a following in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It has more locations coming soon.
A decade ago the city only had a handful of Taiwanese restaurants. But more have opened in the past few years; they serve oyster omelets, three-cup chicken, and flaming cocktails.
Now Bushwick has one, too. Earlier this month, Lee and his daughter Chuya Lee opened Formosa at 144 Evergreen Avenue, at Jefferson Street. It’s a neighborhood dumpling shop, not another chain. The business serves Taiwanese staples like lu rou fan, a braised pork over rice dish, and scallion noodles with tofu. Beef noodle soup is on the menu, and soon there will be fried pork chops, too.
Save room for dumplings: The restaurant has seven kinds. They come with pork and glass noodles, chicken and cabbage, and yes, yellow chives. My favorite, a seafood dumpling, has octopus, tilapia, shrimp, and celery all in one. The dumplings can be boiled or pan-fried. Either way, they are covered in chili oil, scallions, cilantro, and fried garlic. An order with eight of them costs $12 to $15.
Chuya Lee opened Formosa in Bushwick because she’s lived in the neighborhood for years. That, and the area has become home to a growing collection of Taiwanese businesses: A-Pou’s Taste, Win Son, Fan Fried Rice Bar, Yun Hai Shop, Mama Lee, and Wenwen further north. In a city without a proper Taiwantown, this stretch of Brooklyn is starting to feel like a great contender.
The restaurant has the feel of an old friend’s living room. There are about 40 seats, including some red swivel chairs at the bar. The mismatched furniture comes from Facebook Marketplace, not Restaurant Depot. You order at the front, then wait for your dumplings on a couch that was in an East Harlem apartment a few months ago. If you told me there was a stash of board games lying around, I’d believe you.
The restaurant serves iced winter melon tea and canned drinks. When its liquor license comes through, there will be beer and wine, too.
Formosa is open Tuesday to Thursday, from noon to 8 p.m., and Friday to Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.