When the words ‘Balmoral dumpling tour’ appeared on my Facebook newsfeed, I knew I had to be there. Like every good Aucklander, I love me some dumplings. I mean, how could you not?
The tour is operated by Eat Auckland Tours. They currently run two walking tours around Auckland: Sandringham food and spice tour and Balmoral dumplings and more tour. The purpose of the tours? To eat delicious food while learning about said food.
The dumpling tour explores Dominion Road in all its glory—showcasing Chinese food and culture along the way. The three-hour tour stops at six restaurants and three shops. Now THAT’S my idea of a good time. I secured tickets for my boyfriend and I and we eagerly counted down the days until the tour came around.
When we rocked up to Shaolin Kung Fu Noodles on a recent Sunday arvo, we were greeted by Lisa Loveday (Eat Auckland Tours’ co-founder and director) and Shannon Chen (Chinese-born foodie), who were our guides for the afternoon.
There was a certain buzz between the group of 14 as we entered the restaurant. Yup, it was the moment we’d all been anticipating: we were officially on a dumpling tour!
As we worked our way through serves of steamed and pan-fried dumplings (shout out to the lamb and fennel offering), Lisa told us “Dominion Road” translates to “Bad Luck Road” in Chinese. It has therefore been given a Chinese name—“Duo Mei Lu”—meaning “a road with lots of beauty”. I’d learnt something new already and it was only stop number one!
It was then on to a Chinese medical shop where we learnt about the use of herbal medicine and sampled some health-benefiting tea. We were told the tea would help us to lose weight—something I would need post-dumpling tour!
We crossed the road and entered stop number three: Okashi House. The small shop was filled with plastic bins brimming with Chinese sweets and snacks. Think dried fish and squid amongst candies and chocolate.
I watched in awe as my boyfriend bravely munched on a sizeable piece of fish. Not to be outdone by him, I had a nibble on a piece of squid. Let’s just say it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Speaking of which, we then popped into neighbouring shop, Tekkoon Tea Shop, where we sipped on oolong tea and learnt about tea-drinking customs—the Chinese love their tea and I was certainly getting a taste for it.
The fourth stop of the day was up a narrow staircase and into hidden restaurant, My Kitchen. Without wanting to spoil the fun and mystery of the trip, this is the part where I keep my lips sealed and don’t disclose what you eat here. Spoiler: it involves tofu but that’s all I’m going to say. You’ll have to go on the tour yourself (or bribe me) if want to know more.
It was then on to Hulu Cat Tea House where we sipped on samples of bubble tea. The stand-out flavour of the day was taro milk tea with chewy tapioca balls. Try it before you judge it. I’ve since been back for more—it was that good!
We crossed Dominion Road once more and entered Xi’an Food Bar, where we were served Chinese burgers. They weren’t like the burgers I was familiar with, though.
Instead, we were dished up two types of ‘burgers’: braised beef and cumin-spiced lamb (my personal fave). The melt-in-your-mouth meat tasted as if had been slow-cooked for hours before being stuffed in a house-made flatbread. Quite simply, it was delicious. I think I have a new favourite type of burger.
Feeling full, we made our way to Flavour House—our eighth (!) stop of the afternoon. We were here to try xiao long bao aka ‘soup dumplings’. They were really that—dumplings with soup inside them. Half the fun was trying to consume the morsel without squirting dumpling juice on the person sitting opposite. The dish was followed by a dessert of toffee kumara—like toffee apple but tastier!
Last (but in no ways least) we rocked up to Jiuzhou BBQ for the final meal of the day. We watched a demonstration on how hand-pulled noodles are made—they really are hand-pulled! The noodles were then whisked off and served up in a steaming bowl of seafood noodle soup. We feasted on this and a pancake noodle dish while we reflected on the afternoon we’d had.
I felt like I’d be whisked around all four corners of China—without the hefty plane ticket! As cheesy as it sounds, the dumpling tour was so much more than dumplings—it exposed how wonderful the vibrant suburb of Balmoral really is. You’re on to a good thing, Eat Auckland. Until we meet again.
Love ya dumplings? Check out Auckland’s Best Dumplings for your next fix.
Image credit: The Woks Of Life