Brisbane seems to be hosting a battle of the dumplings at the moment, with dumpling houses and stands popping up left, right and centre. It remains to be seen if the growing popularity of dumplings is a fad, a bright star destined to burn out, or if they're here to stay. Personally I'm a big fan of these tiny, little bundles of joy!
Traditionally dumplings are small enough to be eaten in two mouthfuls, hence the name, which is the same Chinese character as dim sum and loosely translates as 'touch the heart lightly'; in other words they are but a light, fleeting moment of enjoyment (well that's my interpretation!).
The Chinese call them jiaozi (Mandarin), gau gee or gow gee (Cantonese) and the Japanese, gyoza. There are different types and methods of preparation including steamed, pan fried, deep fried and boiled - each as delicious as the next depending on your mood and tastes.
Of course Sunnybank and Chinatown have dozens of Asian restaurants that have been serving authentic, quality dumplings for many years. It's only recently however that the trend has caught on with Westerners jumping on board, backing the development of a smattering of dumpling houses that have opened in Brisbane.
A lot of time and money has gone into the Harajuku Gyoza concept, design and marketing and there is a steady lineup outside the door every time I go past. A beer and dumpling house is definitely a new and exciting addition to Brisbane but beyond the novelty factor, are the actual dumplings worth the wait? In my opinion no, they're not. For me they lacked flavour and there appeared to be some inconsistencies in the cooking times with each plate that came out. It's unlikely I'll go back, although in saying that they do have a new Nutella Banana Gyoza which sounds rather tempting.
Brunswick Social expands on the concept with their bar and dumpling house at 367 Brunswick St, New Farm. They set themselves apart by serving dumplings until the wee hours of the morning alongside some very pricey, very un-Japanese cocktails. It's a fantastic, fresh concept that is proving to be very popular, but again the dumplings don't stand out and are no better or worse than the ones you can get elsewhere. And at $8 for 3 pieces you certainly wouldn't visit here for value; so if you want overpriced, average dumplings in a nightclub setting this is the place for you.
A lot of people seem to be heading to Dragonfly for the Wednesday night all you can eat buffet - but not many people seem to be returning. I haven't personally been to this one but the majority of the reviews are negative and mention bad/slow service and overpriced, below average food. Open since August 2011 at 235 Edward St, Brisbane CBD, Dragonfly Dim Sum House also has a bar, a cocktail lounge and function rooms. Admittedly the setting, lighting and decor looks as if it creates an enchanting atmosphere. If you've been to Dragonfly, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know if the dumplings stack up against what else is out there.
Bamboo Basket on Grey St, Southbank is a winner in my book. Aside from the stunning black and red themed decor, the dumplings are fabulous. They don't adhere to the 2 mouthfuls credo, more like 4 or 5 mouthfuls for me, but at 4 for $6.90 I certainly felt as if I got my moneys worth. Beautifully presented the steamed variety were soft, bursting with both flavour and filling, while maintaining their structure. The deep fried had a soft, chewy casing with crispy edges, and again the fillings were tasty and abundant. I don't usually consider dumplings a meal but after two plates of these incredibly more-ish delights at Bamboo Basket I walked away both satisfied and full. Pan fried varieties are also available.
The suburbs haven't missed out either with market stall turned fully fledged dumpling cafe Happy Little Dumplings recently opening on Princess St, Bulimba. This funky little yum cha cafe is going great guns and it's no wonder; the menu is small but there is something to be said for doing one thing and doing it really well. The dumplings are fresh and soft with the favourites being the Prawn & Coriander and the Chilli Duck. At $11 for 6 pieces or $2 each these little beauties are worth their weight in gold. Vegetarians often miss out when it comes to dumplings but Happy Little Dumplings offers 3 vegetarian varieties; Tofu & Veg, Pumpkin, and Mushroom - unfortunately they are a little bland and need a bit a bit of a flavour tweak.
But all these fun, exciting and gorgous new dumpling houses aside, for me the best dumplings have virtually come off the street! I'm talking about the stalls at your local farmers market - there seems to be at least one dumpling stall at every market I visit. So far there are two standouts for me; Dumpling Envy at Jan Powers and Eagle Farm Markets (and others, check calendar for a market near you) and Michael's Steamed Dumplings at Boggo Rd and Kelvin Grove markets. Both vendors offer tasty, handmade little morsels at bargain prices - Michael's in particular at 10 for $8 or 6 for $5 they are probably the best priced dumplings around. Michael's only has 2 varieties at the moment, vegetarian and pork (alongside steamed buns and dim sum), but they are both scrumptious little treats. Dumpling Envy also offer gluten free dumplings, and has an online ordering system whereby you can have goods delivered or pick them up from Greenslopes.
I agree that Bamboo Basket and Happy Little Dumplings are the pick. Happy Little Dumplings often have a stall at the West End Twilight markets, which is great. There's also a good dumpling stall at the Boggo Road Markets, but I've forgotten its name...
I second recommendation for Bamboo basket. The dumplings are fresh and tasty. Highlights were the duck steamed buns. Their noodles are also super delicious! They also do a really reasonable lunch time priced menu.
Dumpling Envy!!! Great price, Great dumplings. I have been getting these from the Jan Powers Markets for over a year now and I always keep the freezer stocked with some for an easy, healthy, filling, quick meal. Phil is continuing to develop with new dumpling flavours and also providing Gluten Free. Love the chilli jam too!
I ate at Happy Little Dumplings with my wife on Saturday. Great little shop doing a cracking trade. The dumplings were excellent. The chilli duck was amazing. Thanks for the heads up on this great little eatery.
I only eat dumplings for yum cha brunch and Shangri La at Sunnybank is my pick.
I've also been to Dragonfly when they had the 2 for 1 Tuesday special but even then have not returned. Our pork buns were cold in the middle, and the dumplings are overpriced and average. The place would have been fab if the concept was executed well.
Ginga at Emporium also have dumplings as part of their sushi train offerings which aren't bad.