Shop 2, 551 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9670 8881
A McDonalds-like kiosk that serves dumplings in pizza boxes? Sounds awesome to me! And the best bit? It’s only half a block from my work.
Panstickers is the newest dumpling joint in the city, as far as I know. They haven’t been open for very long and I probably would not have heard of it had it not been for my colleague, Sean, who often walks up and down Little Lonsdale Street several lunchtimes a week looking for a meal that’s more exciting than his usual sardines and spinach.
Walking into Panstickers is like walking into a McDonalds restaurant. Behind the counter, there is an illuminated board displaying the available items for sale. It’s pretty much dumplings, dumplings and more dumplings. The dumplings come in boxes of nine, twelve or fifteen and each box comes with sauce and topping (and by topping, I mean chopped spring onions or furikake. For those wanting a bit more, however, the option of purchasing a combo box, which includes a drink and a side dish, is also available. Just like Maccas.
On my first visit, I ordered a box of Grandma’s Secret dumplings (nine for $6.95). The dumplings, which contained pork and Chinese pickles, were decidedly less dirty than they sounded (… am I the only person who thought the name sounded dirty?). I had them fried and brought them back to my office with a tub of vinegar.
The dumplings were slightly smaller than what I’m used to. While I liked the texture of their delicate skins, I was less impressed by the filling. It didn’t have the amount of flavour that you find in dumplings at other places. I felt like I was literally just eating cooked minced pork. Hell, I couldn’t even taste the piquancy of the Chinese pickles.
Furthermore, the filling was very coarse and crumbly – like they forgot to add cornflour or used lean pork mince instead of the good fatty stuff. They were also pretty damn oily.
Still, I decided to give them another chance this afternoon after my mid-week lunchtime city driving lesson. I decided to go steamed this time, and with the Old Peking dumplings. Although the menu says that $6.95 will give me nine pieces, I actually got twelve which was a delightful surprise. Again I helped myself to a tub of vinegar and again, I brought the dumplings back to the office so I could eat my lunch while reading The Age online.
The Old Peking dumplings contained pork and green beans, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between them and the Grandma’s Secret dumplings. Both versions looked and tasted homogenous, just like the burgers at McDonalds. I did, however, enjoy the steamed dumplings better than the fried ones though because they had less oil and also because they were less crumbly.
While I do welcome a dumpling kiosk near my work and while I do love the whole dumplings-in-pizza-boxes concept, these are not the best dumplings I’ve ever had. This is because they are slightly pricy for what they are (taste-wise and size-wise). The thing is, the area around my work sucks when it comes to good food options so Panstickers will get customers by default. I, for one, will certainly be coming back every time a dumpling craving strikes (which is pretty much every second day). I will definitely try one of the non-pork options to see if they are any better, though I’m not too keen on the idea of the Aussie dumpling which contains ‘Aussie sausage’ (whatever that is) and bacon.