The Best Dumplings in Melbourne
There are certain foods around the world that bring back cravings you can’t deceive or destroy, until you’ve had a bite. Queue in – the almighty dumpling, a culinary pillow of pleasure that whets the appetite perfectly. You could say a dumpling is just filling wrapped in dough, but this is blasphemy (if you ask us). Thankfully, dumplings in Melbourne are abundant! There’s many authentic Chinese restaurants around to educate you about these little morsels of goodness.
Follow our tips and we’ll guide you on a gastronomic dumpling adventure through the city centre and the suburbs. From xiang long bao and har gow, to gyoza and momos, we recommend dining out to taste the best dumplings in Melbourne. Because eating a fried potsticker from the freezer does not equate to a dignified dumpling experience. This is simplified, satisfying and slightly guilty dining at its best.
What to Order and Where to Eat
Xiang Long Bao
Hailing from Shanghai and the Jiangnan region of China, xiao long bao are broth-filled pork dumplings traditionally steamed in a bamboo basket. Often referred to as the soup dumpling, these guys showcase the craft and detail of dumpling making. Skilled dumpling chefs mix pork stock jelly with the filling and when steamed, the jelly melts to create a delicious pocket of piping hot fatty broth. To avoid scalding your mouth, you should follow the advised procedure – sit the xiao long bao in a spoon and take a small bite to pierce the dough, slurping out the broth. Dunk and dip in your accompanying vinegar and ginger sauce and enjoy! Check out one of Melbourne’s six branches of Shanghai Street or Shanghai Dragon Dumpling House in Prahan to taste this speciality in its purest form.
Shuǐ Jiǎo (Boiled Dumplings)
Shui jiao are often considered the OG of Chinese dumplings. They don’t look pretty, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? This boiled variety is simple and offers a wide range of meat, vegetable and herb fillings wrapped inside a thick wheat dough. Eaten throughout the whole of China (and now the world), dine at a low-key restaurant like ShanDong MaMa and order a large plate of homemade shui jiao wonders. This unassuming joint serves some of the best dumplings in Melbourne. Expect to see the likes of prawns with chopped chives and black fungus, fresh mackerel with coriander and ginger, and pork mince with dill and spring onions.
Zhēng Jiǎo (Steamed Dumplings)
The slimmer and slightly more classy version of the boiled variety, zheng jiao steamed dumplings come with thin and delicate wrappers. When cooked with steam, they retain an aesthetically-pleasing and delicate appearance in contrast to their sister jiao dumplings. To dive into these delicacies, we recommend paying I Love Dumplings a visit. They serve classic combination dumplings like seafood, beef and lamb or chicken and sweet corn. Even better, their Flemington and Richmond branches are BYO!
Jiān Jiǎo (Pan-fried Dumplings)
Commonly known as potstickers in America, these guys are dumplings in its guiltiest form. Chefs shallow fry them in woks to create a contrast of textures – a crispy golden base and softer steamed top. We think this is dumpling heaven and you absolutely must eat them with chilli oil and soy sauce or vinegar. A no-frills place like Ping’s Dumpling Kitchen in Preston or Clayton is perfect for checking them out. Order a dozen pan-fried dumplings for as cheap as $10 and we promise you’ll wolf them down in no time. Northern China have a slightly different version called guō tiē, hugely popular as a street snack and served with open ends. ShanDong MaMa do an excellent and authentic version.
No, we are not talking about deep-fried wontons from your local Chinese takeout. We’re referring to the real deal, the wet and humble hun tun dumpling. Traditional wontons should always be served in soup or broth and will often have large amounts of excess dough. Each region of China has their own version, but our personal favourite is the spicy Sichuan chao shou. It’s essentially wontons sitting in a soup of Sichuan pepper chilli oil, and you can taste the fire at Hu Tong in Melbourne. For a milder version, the flavoursome wonton soups from Shanghai are well-known and can be tasted at New Shanghai.
Made famous by Cantonese yum cha brunch sessions, har gow are filled with shrimp and have a translucent skin made from tapioca starch. Delectable to look at with the shrimp’s pink colour showing through, these steamed dumplings are a dim sum classic. The number of pleats achieved by the chef is a true measure of their dim sum skills. Some of the best places for weekend yum cha in Melbourne – and therefore the best har gow – is the traditional Golden Dragon Palace in Templestowe or the sophisticated and contemporary David’s in Prahran.
Siu mai is the other iconic dim sum dumpling. This Cantonese steamed version is the most colourful and interesting dumpling to look at, not to mention delicious. Dim sum chef masters wrap the pork and shrimp filling with a thin yellow dough, before topping with orange crab roe garnish. There are different kinds throughout China, yet its origins lie in inner Mongolia where the lamb and ginger combination is prevalent. Visit Secret Kitchen for the traditional pork siu mai, as well as scallop, scallop and prawn or chicken and mushroom varieties.
China is no doubt the worldwide king of dumplings. But other tasty dumplings pop up throughout the Eastern Asian region. The Korean peninsula is the home of mandu, ear-shaped pockets of joy that can be tried at Mahn Doo (we recommend the kimchi and pork). Momos are all the talk in Nepalese and Tibetan cuisines and are a doughy steamed dumpling we advise sampling at Momo Station or Magic Momo Kafe. Gyoza is the famous and Japanese version of potstickers, slightly smaller and more delicate in flavour. Check out Gyoza Douraku Bar on Bourke Street for over 10 flavours that can be pan-fried, steamed, served with soup or with wasabi gomaae. If you’re after some Western fusion, look no further than Drumplings in the Melbourne CBD. Pure hell for purists, their signature dumplings include cheeseburger, pepperoni pizza, Aussie beef pie and nutella with banana.