Melbourne Dumpling Crawl

It was a special occasion…
Vicky had just completed her PhD after what seemed like eons, and we decided that the most apt way to celebrate was to go on a Dumpling Crawl around Melbourne.
I was uber excited and mapped out an excellent route to visit the following dumpling joints:
  1. North East China Family, Flinders Lane
  2. Dumpling Plus, Swanston Street
  3. Camy’s Shanghai Dumphouse, Tattersalls Lane
  4. Noodle Kingdom, Russell Street
  5. Chin Chin, Flinders Lane
However, after some expert advice the night before, and as we crawled through the evening, the itinerary changed, as you will soon discover…

1. North East China Family
We all met at North East China Family at 6pm, and were the first people to sit down for dinner.  I truly believed that if we were going to make it through the night, we needed to install a Dumpling Management Plan, whereby we only ordered one plate of dumplings per location, as well as another dish from the menu.  There was unanimous agreement on this idea as we didn’t want to fill up before the finish line.

The first plate of dumplings we ordered were steamed chicken and prawn dumplings.  I ate my first dumpling without the strong flavours of soy sauce so that I could appreciate the flavour of the skin and filling.  Unfortunately, without soy sauce, these steamed dumplings didn’t deliver any sort of punch – the skin was bland and the filling could have done with some extra oomph.

We also got a plate of Salt Squid with chilli.  I love this dish – the squid is never rubbery and the salted crust, spring onion and chilli provide excellent flavour and burn.

North East China Family will always have a place in my heart as being a great place to meet for decent Chinese food! And I love the little quote they have at each table – make pieces of happiness together!

North East China Family on Urbanspoon

Our walk to the next location was excellent, as we soaked in the post-work atmosphere of the CBD.  We were also pleasantly treated with the joyous sounds of the Hare Krishna dancing crew.  I stopped briefly to listen, remembering that time I went to a Hare Krishna temple to observe their worship.  What a happy bunch of people.

2. Shanghai Noodle House
On the way, we made the executive decision to skip both Dumpling Plus and Camy’s and instead go to Shanghai Noodle House, the modest uni student favourite a few doors down from Camy’s.

The interior is super modest, with seating for approximately 50 people, compared to the two storeys next door at Camy’s.  This place was the expert recommendation I had received the night before.

Vicky had been here before and recommended the plate of fried pork dumplings.  As usual, I had my first without soy sauce so that I could appreciate it bare and naked.  It didn’t disappoint.

The casing was fresh with a wholesome bread flavour.  The steamed bit on top was soft but not doughy or raw, and the fried section underneath was crisp and crunchy.  The filling was well seasoned and succulent, despite it being unrecognisable as any particular meat.  These were absolutely delicious! Pure perfection!

We also ordered garlic with cucumber, and I didn’t really know what to expect.  The plate that arrived was self-explanatory – sticks of cucumber with garlic.  The cucumbers were also dressed with a glutinous glaze with the subtle flavours of sesame oil.  This was a surprisingly refreshing dish that went down easily.

I think I’m going to have to give Camy’s the flick and start a new love affair with this place.  Modest, humble and delicious!

Shanghai Noodle House on Urbanspoon

On the way to the next location, I noticed a new piece of art along the China Town strip that caught my eye – colourful vertical signs hanging.  I took a photo so we can all enjoy them!

3. Noodle Kingdom
Next up was a familiar place, Noodle Kingdom, but I usually frequent at the Preston location.  The city site had the same glass room at the front where you can watch them make dumplings and noodles at lightning speed, and even the seating was similar!

The wallpaper was just gorgeous, with golden patterns of dragons on a red background.  I definitely liked the décor of this place the best.  Very warm and inviting.

This time around we ordered two servings of dumplings – vegetable and mushroom, and Shanghai steamed pork dumplings (aka soup bags).

The first to come out was the vegetable and mushroom ones.  They were ok – not particularly my cup of tea.    The casing was weak and sticky so they tore as you pulled them apart from each other.  The filing was mostly vegetables, with pieces that reminded me of dehydrated carrot in Vegeta.  I didn’t see much mushroom inside.  The flavour was greatly improved with some soy sauce.

I was excited to have some soup bags but disappointed with these.  The casing was dry so the dumpling had held it’s shape as you picked it up from the pinched top; the contents didn’t drop and sag like a ball sack.  Despite that, when I bit the top off and sucked out the soup, the flavour was just as expected – warming and salty, and the meat inside was juicy and moist.  I have to say that Hu Tong’s rendition is a lot better.

I reckon the Preston location delivers better quality products that the CBD site, which is a shame.  I’m so lucky to have a good dumpling joint near home.

Noodle Kingdom on Urbanspoon

After Noodle Kingdom, we still had room left for more, so we marched down towards Chin Chin.  I advised the girls that this relatively new restaurant was the hottest thing right now, voted #1 Talk of the Town on, so there is a very possible chance that we’ll have trouble getting a table for four.

On arrival, it was evident that we’d have no chance on eating the next round of dumplings within the hour.  The place was packed, and the door bitch told us it’d be about an hour before a table was available.  Fuck that… we left.

4. Passionflower
As we walked away from Chin Chin defiantly, we realised that our dumpling crawl was coming to an end, so  for the next course, we opted for dessert instead.  We had such a delicious time during our last dining adventure when we finished at Passionflower, so we returned to relive the delight.

After sampling some of the more exotic flavours, I settled on the Azuki Red Bean and Sticky Rice flavours.  Looking through their menu, I found an item that suited me perfectly – the Superstar! Black Sesame, Azuki Red Bean and Sticky Rice ice cream with homemade glutinous rice balls rolled in ground black sesame, sprinkled with peanuts.  I want that…

It came out looking pretty sexy – three balls of ice cream in a martini glass with the bits and bobs on the side.  Let me talk about each element individually:

  • Azuki Red Bean ice cream:  comparable to a very rich vanilla ice cream, but with a sweet nutty element.
  • Sticky Rice ice cream:  a milder vanilla flavour, the ice cream was very creamy, dotted with hard, sticky rice pieces that were a little hard to chew, but it still had a great flavour.
  • Black Sesame ice cream:  a very mild and milky chocolate flavour but with a slightly bitter element from the burnt flavour of the black sesame seeds.  Really yummy!
  • Glutinous balls covered in ground black sesame:  eating a glutinous ball was like running towards the light at the end of the tunnel but it would move further and further away.  I’d sink my teeth in, but once retracted, the ball was come together again.  I eventually had to smoosh it against the roof of my mouth.  The texture of the black sesame reminded me of cookies and cream, and on it’s own, the bitter burnt flavour really stood out.  If I had some of the black sesame with the sweet ice cream, the bitterness went away and you’re left with a sweet, moorish, earthy sensation.  Once I discovered the combination, I couldn’t get enough of it!

The girls got two balls of ice cream each.  Joanna’s Espresso ice cream was fantastic with a straight up punch of coffee flavour – no sugar coating.  The blackcurrant sorbet that Vicky got was both subtly sweet and refreshing, and the deviation away from typical raspberry or strawberries was wonderful.  A great alternative.  Vera got the flavours I had last time – black sesame and pandan, both elegantly delicious in their own right.

I really like Passionflower.  They take a simple treat and turn it into an exotic cocktail of flavours.  You can still have the regular flavours like hokey pokey and butterscotch, but why would you when you have flavours like black sesame, Japanese green tea and durian, which actually stinks but is yum in the mouth.

Passionflower on Urbanspoon

The Dumpling Crawl Winners
Service: North East China Family – the sweet girl was very attentive, refilled our tea pot and even looked worried that we were only ordering two dishes for four people.

Atmosphere: Noodle Kingdom – the wallpaper was stunning and the surroundings was a lot more dynamic, like watching the dumplings being made.

Dumplings: Shanghai Noodle House – those fried pork dumplings were just perfect. The skin had a great flavour and the filling was luscious.  I’m going to be thinking about those guys for a long time.

The awesome thing about this event was that it only cost $25 per person!  We had such an amazing night of trying yummy food from different establishments and having a nice stroll between courses.  I love Melbourne!

2 thoughts on “Melbourne Dumpling Crawl

  1. Awesome night out! Shanghai Noodle House is a favourite of mine- next time try their spicy chicken noodles. Very nom nom.

    It was great also because it only cost us $25 each. WIN!

    Great blog post as always Jus :-)

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