Good things come in small packages, and so do great things, such as xiao long bao. Our city is spoilt for choice when it comes to these often-steamed, sometimes-fried pockets of flavour, so much so that you’ll be left doing laps of Chinatown until everything shuts up shop for the night.
That’s where we come in. Yep, we’re lessening the effects of the dreaded choice-paradox with this list of the best dumplings in Melbourne and the restaurants that house them.
Hutong Dumpling Bar
PRAHRAN & CBD
HuTong is synonymous with xiao long bao, Melbourne's favourite pork-and-soup-filled parcels of dumpling goodness. The restaurants are usually full up, so if there's any silver lining in this world of delivery and pick up only, it's that you'll never miss out.
After dunking an XLB in a mixture of black vinegar and ginger, bite a hole in the tender wrapper, suck out the meaty broth, then shove the whole delicious lot in your mouth and quickly reach for another before your dining companions snaffle them all. And don't miss the wontons in chilli oil, which are just as addictive as the dumplings.
SOUTH YARRA & CBD
For a dumpling pig out you can't beat yum cha, and for good-value yum cha it's hard to beat Oriental Teahouse. The football dumplings should be ordered immediately. We're talking juicy pork mince encased in a deep-fried, pleasantly chewy and slightly sweet glutinous rice flour pastry.
The char siu bao isn't a bad place to start with just the right balance between the thick, fluffy dough along with barbecued pork filling. You can even have dumplings for dessert, with custard bao being the traditional choice, but the chocolate dumplings are also worth a look in. Choose between the two, or, maybe, order both.
Tomoya Kawasaki, the owner of local favourite Neko Neko (who would have thought) opened up the doors to gyoza house Chotto Motto earlier in 2019, and it’s quickly become a staple for some of the best dumplings in Melbourne.
The team serve up a specific type of gyoza from a small, central region of Japan called Hamamatsu. They’re crispy, they’re cheesy (if you choose so) and the flavour kicks with a healthy serving of ginger, cabbage, kimchi and mushroom. The drinks selection is unapologetically Japanese, with several highball options available along with the occasional Strong 9, a 9% premix found in the many convenience stores of Tokyo and beyond.
Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung is meticulous in the preparation of their dumplings, and right now, you can get them in bulk for serving at home. These aren’t your boozy, cheap and cheerful style dumplings that you’ll find in the backstreets of Chinatown. Instead, you’ll find a refined steamy pocket, one which has had much thought put into its flavour and its presentation alike.
Whilst this is technically not a standalone dumpling destination the menu at Andrew McConnell’s Supernormal features some of the best dumplings in Melbourne.
Kick off with the prawn and chicken dumplings that are bathing in a perfectly mouth-numbing black vinegar and chilli sauce, then move onto the potsticker dumplings which are a classic pork and cabbage combination with a grilled lattice that provides plenty of crispiness with each bite. They’ve also got the incredible vegetable dumplings with ginger vinegar covering all dietary preferences.
CBD AND HIGHPOINT
Here you'll find some of Melbourne's best dumplings, and the hardest decision is whether to have the Northern Chinese-style pan-fried pork and chive dumplings (they're like gyoza on steroids—bigger and with thicker skin), the delicately steamed prawn and chive dumplings, or the xiao long bao. Squeeze in a sweet bean-paste-filled sesame ball for dessert—the glutinous rice dough is pleasantly chewy, while the sesame seeds add flavour and crunch.
Like the last dumpling in your chilli oil soup that you don’t expect to find, ShanDong Mama is truly a hidden surprise tucked away in Bourke Street’s Mid City Arcade. Now steeped in popularity, Shandog has risen to become one of the key spots to head to for the best dumplings in Melbourne.
The menu comes from a long lineage of traditional cooking techniques imported from the tip of China’s Shandong peninsula, so it’s understandably seafood-focused. With that in mind, a serving of the ‘fish’ dumplings is a great place to start.
Taking an ultra-refined approach to Modern Chinese cuisine, Ruyi is a worthy mention when discussing the best dumplings in Melbourne. The sleek tiled diner on Liverpool street in the CBD took out the award for the best Chinese restaurant for 2017, and after tasting their dumplings there is no surprise as to why. Their widely popular pork and crab xiao long bao burst full of flavour with each bite and then there are their house-made pork wontons which come swimming in a signature Ruyi chilli sauce which alone is out of this world.
Image credit: Caitlin Hicks