Disclaimer: Libby and Daisy attended this event as guests of Chan’s Yum Cha at Home and Spice & Soul.
After delicately stuffing my face with barbecued meat for breakfast, I made my way back into the city for my second Melbourne Food & Wine Festival event of the day, Chan’s Dumpling Festival.
Now, rocking up to two massive foodie events on the day isn’t something I’d normally do, especially given how busy I am these days and especially given my limited stomach capacity these days. However, no self-respecting dumpling lover was going to miss this event for the world – especially since I got given two complimentary tickets (RRP $20 per head) by the kind folk at Spice & Soul. And to sweeten the deal, we had the chance to break a Guinness World Record – that sounded good to me!
With Melbourne’s sunshine and clear blue skies and the beautifully green Treasury Gardens providing a perfect backdrop, the dumpling festival began in the morning of March 3rd. When I arrived, there was entertainment in the form of dancing, music and activities for the kids.
Family-owned Australian company Chan’s Yum Cha at Home were the ones who were going to supply the thousands of dumplings for this event. If you’re not too familiar with them, this is probably a good thing as it’s never a good idea to eat too much frozen supermarket goodies. That said, Chan’s actually churn out decent yum cha delicacies that I wouldn’t mind buying from time to time. At the very least, their dumplings are a lot better than the ones I once ate on a boat cruise on the Gold Coast (which you’ll hear ALLL about in the not too distant future).
But anyway, back to the event.
Our host Dani Venn (apparently she was on Masterchef… I wouldn’t know as I don’t watch it) gave us a brief run-down of the event. The whole point of the event (besides to have fun under the sun and to promote brand awareness for Chan’s Yum Cha at Home) was to break the world record (which was around 500 people) for the biggest outdoor yum cha.
There were 20 tables set up, each designed to sit 40 people; given that all seats were sold out, the organisers were very confident that we’d smash it. In the end, 771 people showed up though 21 of them were given the big DQ (probably including the wannabe cougar from Brisbane and her kids who were absent for half the lunch). Still, that meant that 750 people were eating dumplings which meant that we pretty much in the home stretch before we even began our first course.
Oh yeah, there was dragon dancing and a bit of wushu. While the dragons added to the lively vibe of the festival, I did find it hard to hear what Daisy and our table mates were saying above all the noise (or maybe I’m just getting old, owwww dear!)
Our first course (out of five!) was the hargow (prawn) dumplings. They are pretty much everyone’s favourite dumplings so I was glad to see them come out first. For frozen supermarket fare, they tasted almost like the real thing.
Next, we had some deliciously crispy prawn toasts. A huge plate of them was placed on the table and we were free to grab whatever we could handle (I ate two). An official then came around to count how many we ate for recording purposes.
We then got a plate of two vegetarian dumplings and three prawn and ginger dumplings. The vegetarian dumplings would have been bland if they weren’t accentuated by the sweet carrots and shiitake mushrooms and while the prawn and ginger dumplings didn’t rate as high as the hargow dumplings, I thought they were still alright.
The weakest course was the fourth one, the BBQ pork buns. Daisy and I found them too ‘dough-y’ and I thought the filling was too sweet.
The chilli sauce did make them taste bearable though.
You couldn’t finish off a dumpling festival without a serve of suburban Australia’s favourite dessert: banana fritters and ice cream. The lady finger banana fritters were still warm and crispy when they arrived at our table and the Bulla-supplied ice cream (in their cute little tubs) still frozen, a testament to the very good logistics ability of the crew that served this final course.
There were several things that I reckon could have been done better. The wait between courses was way too long (more than half an hour for some) and while we were told that there WOULD be a wait, I couldn’t blame people for leaving halfway. Additionally, our tea didn’t arrive until well after the fourth course. Meanwhile, some tables got theirs at the start while others missed out completely (I guess we should be so lucky?).
Despite all that though, I still thought the event was a roaring success given that it was the first time they’ve staged it. Even though Daisy and I were separated from all the other food bloggers that attended, we still had a great time. We enjoyed the sunshine, we got to meet some lovely people (a couple who gave us parenting advice – no, don’t get any ideas!) and we got a giggle out of seeing a handful of people pour soy and chilli sauces into tea cups to dip their food in. I definitely wouldn’t mind going again next year; in the meantime, I know I’ll be steaming up some Chan’s hargow dumplings this winter.