Shop 7, 200 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9650 3818
There’s nothing else I like in life than a plate of hot fried dumplings… well, except for sharing plates of said hot fried dumplings with amazing food blogger friends. And with that, I caught up with Dave, Winston and Amy (nice to FINALLY meet you, Ames!) for a mid-week dinner at what was then Melbourne’s newest dumpling darling (since then, there’s probably been about five new dumpling restaurants that have opened in the city… who knows).
ShanDong Mama arrived in Chinatown quietly not too long ago before being caught up in a bit of a social media flurry once everyone found out about it. Instead of the northern Chinese-style dumplings that we’re used to in Melbourne, diners are treated to Shandong-style dumplings which, due to its eastern China location, is heavy on the seafood. Hmm seafood dumplings in a restaurant that will no doubt lend itself to ‘your mum’-type jokes? Count me in!
I couldn’t help but laugh at Dave who ordered what was probably the most exotic thing on the drinks menu, the eight-treasure tea (or something like that). Unbeknownst to him (and well, us), the tea actually arrived hot. And because Dave was too polite to take it back to the kitchen, he diplomatically drank the whole thing while suffering in silence (haha, it’s not that the tea tasted bad – it just wasn’t the right weather for it!).
We ordered several plates of dumplings and one non-dumpling dish, the homemade noodles with shredded pork, egg and seasonal vegetable in sesame sauce ($10.80). I said that this dish reminded me of one of my favourite Korean dishes, bibimbap, and the others agreed.
Unfortunately, I’d choose a hot bowl of bibimbap over this when it comes to taste. The noodles were chewy in texture and I couldn’t fault the other ingredients. It was the sesame sauce that let everyone down – it was just too bland. And not even a dash of chilli oil could save it. A bit of fish sauce or even sesame oil in the mix would have made the dish taste a LOT better.
We ordered three different dumplings, all of them fried. And they all looked like that (above).I took photos of each plate but because I’m an idiot, forgot to note which was which – not that it mattered anyway because they all looked the same on the outside. I have to admit that the dumplings’ long bodies and open ends tripped me out a little but pretty soon, we were all silently nibbling on these beauties.
These are the mackerel dumplings (10 pieces for $13.80), recommended by many a food blogger. The filling was a lovely mousse-like mix of mackerel fillet with coriander, ginger and chives. I liked the soft texture of the filling and the coriander, ginger and chives kept things fresh.
Meanwhile, the Melbourne dumplings (also 10 pieces for $13.80) sounded epic on paper. Inspired by the ‘Australian multicultural food scene’, the filling was mad out of a seafood medley of prawn, calamari, mussel, fish before being mixed in with chicken mince, lemon rind, olive oil, parsley and garlic. I liked that the owner ‘Ma Ma’ chucked in lemon rind and olive oil as a nod to the wogs who migrated to Australia decades ago and have contributed significantly to our society. The dumplings were nice enough but given the heavy list of ingredients, I did expect them to be a lot tastier than they actually were.
Our favourite, however, had to be the good ol’ classic pork dumplings (10 pieces for $9.80). The filling was excellent – minced pork mixed with cooking wine, coriander, black fungus, cabbage and dried shrimp, all tied together with dashes of sesame oil. It was beautiful.
Apart from the mediocre noodles, we all thought that the dumplings at ShanDong Mama were great. While I still prefer my Northern-style pan-fried dumplings and Shanghai xiaolongbao, I was glad to have tasted a different style of dumplings and hope that ShanDong Mama do very well. I will definitely come back should I get tired of all the ‘standard’ dumpling offerings elsewhere in the city.