Review: Melbourne dumpling tour offers a tasty insight into inner-city life
Melbourne food tours are a great way to explore the city's culinary scene, and pick up tips for places to eat during your stay. This delicious walking tour will introduce you to some of the best inner-city purveyors of the humble dumpling. Review: Louise Reynolds
Join a guided walking tour of some of the finest inner-city dumpling houses in Melbourne. Along the way you’ll learn the history of the city’s diverse Asian community, and taste-test the wares of four contrasting kitchens. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
In a city renowned for its impeccable culinary credentials, it seems counterintuitive that the humble dumpling should be one of Melbourne’s hottest trends.
However, it’s true. Whether steamed, boiled or pan-fried, Melbourne has become infatuated with these little dough balls filled with vegetables and meat. Dumpling houses have sprung up all over town, but knowing where to get the best dumplings takes expert knowledge — which you’ll certainly benefit from on the Melbourne dumpling tour led by local foodie Monique Bayer at Walk Melbourne.
Monique shares the love between several carefully selected dumpling houses on her tours. Each tour visits four venues, and this evening Monique promises us her ‘Chinese All Stars’ — four top dumpling houses that each deliver authentic flavours from a different region of China.
Our first stop is North East China Family on Flinders Lane. Before we get stuck into our inaugural dumpling, Monique gives us some tips on how to mix a dipping sauce from chilli oil, soy sauce and vinegar produced from fermented rice. The chilli oil here is billed as the hottest in Melbourne, and Monique suggests that a single drop is sufficient. Everyone gets to work mixing sauces in their little white bowls. A plate of jiaozi arrives, which we proceed to devour. This simple vegetarian dumpling originated in China’s mountainous north-east. The filling of carrot, cabbage, tofu and sesame oil is delicious, and Monique isn’t wrong about that chilli!
Our next stop is Shandong Mama Mini. It’s a tiny dumpling bar in Centre Place — one of Melbourne’s most fashionable laneways, where former garages have been transformed into cool hole-in-the-wall eateries. This venue is an outpost of the larger Shandong Mama in Bourke Street.
We’re treated to Shandong Mama’s famous mackerel dumpling. It comes with a big reputation. In 2016 Gourmet Traveller magazine described this dumpling as one of the fifty defining dishes in Australia. The dumpling is filled with fluffy mackerel mousse, and it’s super yummy.
A short walk into the heart of Chinatown brings us to our third stop. Hidden away in a small arcade, China Red offers diners the traditionally spicy flavours of Szechuan. The pork dumplings in a spicy sauce are sensational.
After the three servings of dumplings so far, the walk to the final stop on this Melbourne dumpling tour becomes more of a waddle. As we takes our seats at Shanghai Street, Monique tells us it’s time to attain the advanced diploma of dumpling eating by taking on the soup-filled xiao long bao — a Shanghai specialty. The trick, we’re told, is to get the soup out of the dumpling and into your mouth without wearing it. Monique suggests biting a hole in the top of the dumpling to allow the steam to escape and the filling to cool. Once the temperature is right, you can slurp the soup up through the hole and then eat the rest of the dumpling.
It sounds good in theory. Somehow I manage to coax a delicate dumpling onto my spoon without breaking it. I successfully bite a hole in the top and wait for it to cool. I fail dismally at the slurping but at least I haven’t disgraced myself completely. I’m also very full, so it’s just as well that the tour wraps up here. Everyone leaves satiated and surprisingly clean after three hours of chopsticks, sauces and soup.
Monique’s well-researched information and anecdotes about Melbourne, its Asian community, and the eateries we’ve visited add a layer to this Melbourne dumpling tour that you wouldn’t get if you were out exploring on your own. You get a generous meal along the way, which makes the tour good value for money too.
Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world, and has so far visited more than 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love of visiting France. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and she has walked famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand. Louise also has a passion for exploring her home state of Victoria.