Shanghai Street Dumplings, Melbourne.
Updated: Feb 23
I remember once queueing for the opening night of a taco place in Melbourne. I said at that point I would never in my life queue for street food again, given how prolific it is. I think standing in a long line, for an uncomfortable amount of time, waiting to eat something as simple as a taco or dumpling is a folly, and on my way to this very venue, I stated that to my two dining companions. I. Dont. Queue. For. Food!
I take that back. I would and did join a conga line of hungry diners waiting to try some dumplings. I used to watch this happen at other better known houses, including Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung, and wondered for the sanity of those in line. Now I get it. I think I enjoyed a dish so much that I would queue for ten times longer to have it again.
One of three venues with the full name of Shanghai Street Dumplings and Juicy Mini Buns in the Melbourne CBD, this is a no fuss kind of place. It doesn't have a fancy fit out nor does it scream haute cuisine, but the food speaks for itself.
Their Xiao Long Bao have a reputation in Melbourne as the best, in a town where the competition is fierce. Melbourne has a great Xiao Long Bao game, so it is a tall order to name a best in show. It's not for me to do so we went off piste and enjoyed some other stunning offerings. Mapo Tofu with minced pork on dry noodle was a fragrant mix of mild spice, rich, deep flavour and beautifully soft and pliant silken tofu. Also on our menu, a spring onion pancake with bacon (hello, where have you been all my life?), and some old school pan fried dumplings.
Without doubt, however, the best dumpling dish I have eaten in Melbourne since Moses played full back for Jerusalem, was a plate of boiled dumplings in chili oil with sesame and peanut butter sauce. If this was the only food I could eat until heart disease takes me to the crematorium, then sign me up. The dumpling outer was thick enough to hold the contents, yielding and yet thin enough to allow the filling of pork, Chinese mushroom and herbs to be perfectly steamed. But the sauce... oh the sauce. I am not quite sure if there was something illegal in it but I haven't stopped tasting it for 2 weeks. It was sublime. The cuisine of Shanghai with its Kung Pao Chicken and Beggars chicken is generally well balanced melange of heat and spices. This is no exception. Toasted sesame oil, peanut butter, sesame seed and a little chili with crushed peanuts and sliced spring onions - this could get very addictive. I have since tried to replicate it at home but like the eleven secret herbs and spices, I can't quite put my finger on what is missing in mine.
With four beers and a couple of ciders, our bill reached the princely sum of $81 and was worth every hard earned brass razoo. If we handed out stars for food, this would be five. Dont expect a palace or even a fancy dining room, but do expect food that is absolutely bang on.
Open 7 days 11.45am - 2.15pm and 4.45pm - 8.15pm
Shanghai Street 342 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Shanghai Street (Chinatown) 146-148 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Shanghai Street 303-305 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne https://www.shanghaistreet.com.au/