Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

ShanDong Mama

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!

wp1 Because it was in the middle of February and bloody hot, I quickly ordered an iced lemon tea to soothe my parched throat.

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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!).

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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.

wp4 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.

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We ordered three different dumplings, all of them fried. And they all looked like that (above).wp6I 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.

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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.

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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.

Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon

14 Comments on ShanDong Mama

  1. msihua
    March 31, 2013 at 17:56 (1 year ago)

    Hey where was my invite? :P I feel left out! I love the dumplings here.. i prefer the skins here, so thin!

    Reply
    • libishski
      March 31, 2013 at 22:41 (1 year ago)

      Next time, I-Hua! Woohoo!

      Reply
  2. Sarah
    March 31, 2013 at 19:37 (1 year ago)

    I’ve visited here too recently. Like you, I liked the dumplings more than the noodles. I really like the open-style fried dumplings! :)

    Reply
  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    March 31, 2013 at 20:00 (1 year ago)

    What interesting dumplings! We have lots of Northern Chinese dumplings here but not really the Shandong ones! And the Melbourne ones sound good-a shame about the flavour but the idea is a good one.

    Reply
    • libishski
      March 31, 2013 at 22:40 (1 year ago)

      Definitely a great idea. Tempted to make my own ones!

      Reply
  4. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    April 1, 2013 at 01:45 (1 year ago)

    Living in a small place up here, we miss restaurants like this. I’m not ready to move back to Melbourne but these photos make me wish I was there now.

    Reply
  5. Cara @ Gourmet Chick
    April 1, 2013 at 19:24 (1 year ago)

    I haven’t tried the noodles at Shandong Mama but I loved the dumplings – especially the Melbourne ones

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 6, 2013 at 14:14 (1 year ago)

      The dumplings are definitely better than the noodles :)

      Reply
  6. The Squishy Monster
    April 2, 2013 at 05:31 (1 year ago)

    Poor guy but what a trooper! and those mackerel dumplings have my name allll over it!

    Reply
  7. Catherine
    April 2, 2013 at 09:12 (1 year ago)

    I liked the fried dumplings and had the same sentiments in regards to the sesame noodles (urgh).. but still I love my XLBs!!

    Reply
  8. Hotly Spiced
    April 2, 2013 at 12:01 (1 year ago)

    It’s always so nice to catch up with bloggers. Shame about the noodles but the dumplings look really good xx

    Reply
  9. Daisy@Nevertoosweet
    April 5, 2013 at 23:32 (1 year ago)

    I’m still sad that I couldn’t go :( I was super sick then with a horrible infection damnnn and then I have been meaning to go try but haven’t had the chance, mainly because it’s so hard to find parking around Shan Dong Mama ~ The dumplings look good and quite different from the normal ones we usually get :D

    Reply
    • libishski
      April 6, 2013 at 12:51 (1 year ago)

      Yeah, we really missed you that night! :(

      More important for you to rest up than to eat dumplings though! And yeah, parking in that area is kinda crazy. Hopefully another one of these types of restaurants will open in an area that has more ample parking :D

      Reply
  10. Paul
    December 19, 2013 at 01:54 (4 months ago)

    Open style dumpling craze started in Taiwan long ago in street markets. if the dumpling is open then all the juicy goodness disappear would it? i don’t understand why they have bibimbap style noodle. Is it a korean Chinese fusion restaurant?

    Reply

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