Monday, October 17, 2011

Shanghai Street Dumplings

There was an interesting debate on the Melbourne food bloggers' Facebook group recently about queuing for food.  More restaurants are now doing a no-reservations policy where it's first in, best dressed.  This can create long waits which put people off, but personally I don't mind it.  More time to catch up and chat while the anticipation grows...  More drinks at the bar!  In some ways it's more democratic - everyone has to wait their turn.

shanghai street ext

I do love Hu Tong but have not been there for eons, although not for lack of trying.  Spontaneous dumpling cravings lead to me dragging people up there only to be constantly turned away for not booking.  Especially as these gorgeous daylight savings evenings just keep rolling in, I am just as happy to join the orderly line at Shanghai Street when the xiao long bao craving strikes.

SS QV HF 024

Shanghai Street is a functional shop serving dumplings and "mini juicy buns" that has swooped in to capitalise on the collective swoon Melbourne has for xiao long bao in particular.  As Nina Rousseau writes, husband and wife team Min Shi and Wayna Zhu have much experience making dumplings back in Shanghai.  You may indeed have to queue but both times I have been, arriving at 6pm meant that we first waited five minutes and the second time walked straight in.

SS QV HF 048
Homemade traditional steamed Shanghai xiao long bao (pork), $8.80

Xiao long bao are a type of steamed dumpling from eastern China.  The classic version is made with pork mince with gelatinous meat stock that upon heating melts to create the magical experience of a dumpling filled with hot soup.

SS QV HF 051

To eat, place in spoon, pierce with tooth or chopstick and allow the soup to drain out before slurping.  OH SO GOOD - it's almost like the stock has been double-cooked, once on its own and secondly upon steaming and melting, it has picked up more intense porky flavour from the filling.  The minced filling itself is clean-tasting, gingery, soft and consistently textured.  These are really fabulous - hard for me to compare to Hu Tong as it's been so long, but really, really great.

SS QV HF 023
Homemade steamed Shanghai xiao long bao (veg), $8.80

An interesting feature of the menu is xiao long baos of many sorts - crab and pork, chicken and pork, even panfried.  These vegetarian ones were interesting - a carefully-made filling of lovingly chopped greens with a little rice vermicelli and occasional umami pops of shiitake mushroom.  Normally I only get vegetarian dumplings fried as the nondescript filling needs to be offset by some oily crunch, but these were good steamed.  No classic xiao long bao soup but good nonetheless.  Sorry no mid-bite shot in which you would have seen the vibrant, emerald-green filling!

SS QV HF 047
Pork & prawn wonton in chili oil with peanut & sesame butter sauce, $8.30

Fantastic pork and prawn wontons.  While the xiao long bao filling was pillow soft, here the filling was bouncy yet still juicy with chunks of prawn in slippery, seductive wrappers.  They came in a light broth just tinged with chilli oil but with the interesting addition of "sesame butter" (like tahini!) and chopped peanuts.  A taste sensation - the springy, juicy prawn with delicate, silky pastry, complemented by dobs of rich, thick sesame paste.  Hard to describe but I think an absolute classic.

SS QV HF 022
Fried pork dumpling, $8.50

The classic jiao zi dumpling - these can come either boiled or fried.  These fried pork examples were pretty good.  The filling was honest and of good quality, minced pork with visible ginger and spring onions.  The skins were good with appreciably crusty bottoms, perfect dunked in a little black vinegar.  They weren't overly juicy though - I think I might prefer the super-crispy, rich and juicy ones at Dumplings Plus.

SS QV HF 046
Homemade golden sesame seeded bacon & spring onion cakes, $4.50

Oh lordy, these were awesome.  Short, flaky, lardy pastry enclosing little smidgens of bacon and onion, the top rippling with sesame seeds.  Delicious!!

This place is pretty unreal.  You can really taste the freshness, helped by the massive turnover every day.  Each filling was unique, each skin texturally different and I was particularly impressed by the care evident in the vegetarian dumplings, which can often just be a cabbagey mush fest.  The only drawback to the queue outside is you feel somewhat pressured to eat and leave - I must say never by the staff, who are friendly and professional, but I had a sense of pity for all the hungry people waiting outside.  Nevertheless, my advice is to stagger your ordering as between chatting and eating, two plates of dumplings can cool fast and they are much better piping hot.  Sorry people in the queue for delaying you further - but as you will find out soon, when it is this good, it's worth waiting for.

Thanks Billy and Dan for the original tip (via this post).  Dan Kuseta is an all-round lovely, genuine person who has poured his heart and soul into Milk Bar Mag, "an independent guide to the best of Melbourne.  Updated daily and covering everything from food to freebies to art to architecture, the Milk Bar is your cultural and creative guide to the city".  Check it out!

Shanghai Street Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Street
342 Little Bourke Street, City
Hours:  Mon-Sat 11.30am-8.30pm
Licensed and BYO (no corkage, woohoo!)
Cash only

View Footscrayfoodblog reviews in a larger map


  1. Blimey - dumpling heaven all-round! Good job going half-full on the waiting issue. I hear you. But the joint about which the earlier discussion was initiated has waiting times of an hour and half! No way! :)

  2. Yay! A new XLB place is always welcome! Like you, I love love love XLB's!

  3. Fabulous post. Definitely worth going back for a second trip to get all those photos.

    Lovely, lovely, lovely to meet you, and great to share a meal at Shanghai Street, too. Def up for it again soon, perhaps with a few more drinks at 1000 £ BEND :)

  4. Oh! I heard a lot about this place too and tried it the other day for the first time. But I didn't have my camera with me. Waited quite a bit during lunch too. Apparently this place boomed after it was featured on The Age or something. Ohh, the things we do for dumplings. Still preferred Hu Tong though, but this place is still a very good alternative for good old fashioned dumplings! =D

  5. 9:46am and i'm ready to line up. This is must do before Christmas Ms Baklover

  6. I've passed this place a million times and written it off as just another student-centric dumpling house. Shame on me!

  7. If you get turned away at Hu Tong it's a pretty safe bet to head to China Red and try your luck - there are more tables and it's usually less busy, despite being exactly the same restaurant (same owners, same menu, same chefs).

  8. Ooh Anon I have to disagree. Hu Tong and China Red are DEFINITELY not exactly the same restaurant! XLB can't compare and from my recollection, the menus aren't the same. Sure, there might be some of the same dishes on both but that would be expected as they both serve Chinese cuisine. Totally different vibe too. Can't comment on ownership or chefs, however.

  9. I love this dumpling place! However they do shut quite early!! Not a huge fan of Hu Tong, tried there twice and have found the stock in their xiao long bao quite greasy :| Another two places that I have come across for good homemade xiao long bao (and other awesome dumplings) is Shanghai Master Dumplings in King Street and I love Dumplings on Racecourse Road in Flemington. Being a west sider as well I Love Dumplings is a FIND :) they also do some really unusual traditional fare as well (the preserved eggs and tofu is really unusual but so delicious. Hopefully these will be helpful suggestions next time you need a dumpling fix.

  10. I'm a long time fan of this dumpling restaurant. For me, dumplings are like the synonym of "Shanghai". Getting hungry after this post!! :P


I love getting your comments! They're what make blogging worthwhile. Unfortunately, the amount of spam I get is obscene and it is so tiresome to have to moderate every comment, so I have had to turn on annoying word verification. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please know how much I love you having your say!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Related Posts with Thumbnails