Dumplings Plus

Name: Dumplings Plus
Location: 269 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Cost: $15-25 per meal, but dumplings and small eats are under $10
Cost rating: 4/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

Another rainy night and late dinner with some friends from my local strategy board games club  (A strategic board game called Go/Weiqi/Baduk, it’s  played on a grid with black and white stones.) We wanted a quick hot meal, and walked into Dumplings Plus hoping they would have a table for 5.

They did.

JASMINE TEA
Taste: 5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Stories have a start/ And so do meals. Have some tea./ And then will we start.

We all know what tea looks like. But I like this photo so I thought to share it with you. Hot jasmine tea is just one of those things I have to order at chinese restaurants.

HARGAO (PRAWN DUMPLINGS)
Taste: 10/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

My fav'rite dumpling/ Do you dip them in soy sauce?/ Or eat them as is?

Let me think of something to say. Nope, nothing. They’re really good.
SPRING ONION PANCAKE
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

No snail shapes here/ 'round and round it unravels/ Alas, not tonight

I liked these spring onion pancakes better than the ones at China Red. The main difference is the texture of the dough. China Red’s spring onion pancake was deep fried snail-shape with a less chewy dough. Dumpling Plus is thin and flat like a biscuit, pan fried and has more chew. As more fun it is to unravel the snail at China Red, I like the crispy crunchiness from panfrying.
SILKEN TOFU AND CENTURY EGG
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Lovely in Summer/ Cool respite from muggy days/ Or from spicy food

Simplicity is underestimated. This is just cold silken tofu cut thinly, and a chopped century egg with some seasoned broth for flavour. It’s a cold dish, but the flavours were clean and it was refreshing after all those hot dumplings and wontons in chilli sauce.
Century egg is a pickled egg. Unlike those terrible vinegar-pickled eggs, century eggs don’t have a strong taste. It doesn’t even taste of egg anymore. It’s just a cola-coloured egg with forest green oozy goo where the yolk was. The colour puts people off, but it is very mild and the texture is delightful. It’s like aspic with just-congealed yolk inside.

PICKLED JELLYFISH IN CHILLI SAUCE
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

'They are cold noodles'/ Leaps into the taste abyss/ '...made of jellyfish'

Yes, jellyfish can be pickled and eaten. They don’t really have a taste of their own, so it is eaten mostly for its texture and ability to soak up the flavour of the dressing. It’s crunchy like any other pickled vegetable. (But jellyfish aren’t vegetables.) Sometimes you’ll see pickled jellyfish on the side with roast suckling pig. But not with chilli sauce. The sauce is a spicy and sweet, but in no way crippling spicy. (It rates about a 5/10 on my scale.)

Sometimes I like to say they’re like noodles, just to get people to try it. Then tell them they’re made of jellyfish. I am a terrible person.

PORK AND PRAWN DUMPLINGS IN CHILLI BROTH
Taste: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

They are so tasty/ Why are dumplings so tasty?/ Another bowl, please.

Instead of a chilli broth, it is boiled dumplings with a thick chilli sauce on the bottom. These were so good we had to order several bowls, and one more for the person who didn’t like spicy food but still kept coming back for more.
PORK POTSTICKERS
Taste: 7/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

Potstickers are great/ Piping hot: don't burn your mouth/ Crunchy crispy base

Eh, they’re okay. I’d order them again because they’re potstickers, and everybody loves potstickers. It gives variety from wontons and dumplings in soup, and dumplings in chilli paste! They’re average for potstickers. The filling is pork mince, ginger, garlic and spring onions, which rarely goes wrong. The panfrying could have been better (some are barely golden, others are dark brown) but when there are a lot of dumplings to be panfried at a cheapish-eats restaurant, I can forgive them for the neglect of small details.
PORK AND PRAWN WONTONS IN SOUP
Taste: 7.5/10
Would I order it again? Yes.

As light as a cloud/ If only clouds were tasty/ Hm, hailing wontons?

Wontons in chilli paste with soup. The wonton skins are soft and the wontons are juicy. It is much the same as the dumplings with chilli broth but with wontons and more broth.
RED BEAN PANCAKES
Taste: 8/10
Would I order it again?

Crispy and chewy/ It's odd, but enjoyable/ For your sweet tooth friend

Yes.I hadn’t seen anything like this before, so the novelty was great. It is red bean paste (seems to be from a can) inside a glutinous rice pancake, then panfried. The end result is a crispy but meltingly chewy pancake with sweet bean paste inside. They’re moreish.

I’d come back and order everything listed above. Yes, it’s noisy and not the cleanest restaurant I’ve been to, but the food is cheap and tasty, comes out fairly quickly, and hosts a fantastic har gao and silken tofu/century egg dish.
_Dumplings Plus on Urbanspoon

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China Red

Name: China Red
Location: Shop 6, 206 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Prices: Meals $15-25, Drinks $3-5 (more for wine)
Cost rating: 3/5
Taste rating: 8.5/10
Overall rating: 8.5/10

China Red specialises in dumplings, but Chinese side dishes are also available. There is a kitchen at the back, and you can watch the chefs prepare dumplings in the window. Also, how many restaurants do you know of where you can make orders via a touchscreen computer? Yes, you can do that at China Red. It is lots of fun, but it becomes easy to order more things than you can eat because it is so much fun. (Who doesn’t like touchscreens? Beep boop, hey presto, food.)

Who scrolls over these pictures?

Not a TV screen/ Sit down, and watch food programme/ Press button, receive food

Ginger: also called/ Zingibar offinale/ Good for many things

Impressive ginger julienning. While this isn’t difficult to prepare, so many dumplings places neglect to place out finely sliced ginger. Instead, the ginger comes pre-steeped in vinegar. Or forgo ginger altogether.

SHANGHAI DUMPLINGS ($11.80/ 8pc)
Score: 9/10
Would I order it again? Yes

Like dumplings in soup/ But the other way around/ Shanghai shao long bao

Unfold wheat wrapping/ Somewhat like a boxed present/ Find pork broth inside

Shanghai dumplings (also known as ‘shao long bao’) are a steamed dumpling, but unlike most other dumplings it is more ‘bun-shaped’ (bun-shaped things are ‘bao’.). The bao should be able to hold its hot meaty juices when you pick it up with chopsticks, but the skin should not be so thick that it is chewy. I daresay that balance has been reached at China Red. Inside the bao is pork mince with a rich pork broth formed during the steaming process. The idea is to bite off the top of the bao so that the soup inside remains inside the bao, but now you have a little opening to drink the soup from. Or if you prefer, to let the soup trickle out onto your spoon so it cools down more quickly, drink the soup, and slowly nibble around the bao taking care not to burn your mouth. Addition of julienned ginger makes it even tastier.

PANFRIED PORK DUMPLINGS ($10.80/ 8 pc)
Score: 8/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Dumplings or meat buns?/ Maybe both at the same time?/ No need to pick one

Inside a pork bun/ or a dumpling, as it were?/ Har gao cameo

These dumplings are a mixture between being a dumpling, and being a bun. The outer layer is more bread than the thin unleavened dumpling skin. I find this lends itself better for panfrying because it is more textural than the thin dumpling skin. It is crunchy on the bottom, but fluffy and has more chew from leavening.

SZECHUAN STYLE SPICY CHICKEN ($11.80)
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Brace yourself oh tongue/ Against the capsaicin tides*/ *I am no poet

It was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and I’m not a seasoned in the ways of chilli and szechuan cuisine. It strikes me as odd that eating something so spicy that it bludgeons your tastebuds and other sensory nerve endings into temporary(?) non-functionality would be enjoyable. While it’s not bad, it’s not particularly interesting or impressive either.The chicken is steamed separately from the sauce, then the sauce and garnishes are added at the last minute. The peanuts add texture, and spring onions add more visual appeal. If szechuan style spicy chicken is a dish you’ve a hankering for, then by all means order this dish. But there are better szechuan style spicy chicken dishes, one of them being from the szechuan restaurant around the corner.

DEEP-FRIED SQUID IN SALT & PEPPER ($18.80)
Score: 7/10
Would I order this again? No.

Salt and pepper squid/ One of the seafood classics/ but why so much salt?

Rice not pictured, but imagine a big bowl of rice that would serve 2-4 people. Batter isn’t as thick as it looks in the picture, but there is a massive air bubble separating the batter from the squid. I am not sure what that would mean, but both batter and squid are crunchy. There are also slices of red chilli and some fried shallots. So far so good until you realise how salty it is. So, so salty.

PRAWN & CHIVE DUMPLING ($6.50 / 4 pc)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Delicious har gao/ Addition of chinese chives/ Even more delicious

Prawn and chinese chive dumplings are one of my favourites. I can’t find anything to fault.

VEGETARIAN DUMPLING ($12.50/ 12 pc)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes.

Spinach-green dumplings/ Is it Pantone patented?/ I don't see why not

Go on, take a bite/ See for yourself, what's inside?/ I... am not quite sure

Usually I find vegetarian dumplings to be dull and tasteless after eating dumplings with pork or prawn inside, but China Red’s vegetarian dumpling was surprisingly tasty. I think the difficulty with vegetarian dumplings is finding things with an umami taste and making sure the overall taste and texture of the dumpling is balanced. The major components of this dumpling is shiitake mushroom and finely diced chinese cabbage (moisture squeezed out to ensure that the filling doesn’t get too soggy). There seems to be wood-ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) in there too.

SPRING ONION PANCAKE ($6.50)
Score: 10/10
Would I order this again? Yes

Spring onion pancake/ Misnomer! Not a pancake/ Eh, but close enough

It was piping hot when it arrived onto our table, the outside was an even golden colour and crunchy in a way that can’t be achieved by shallow frying. The inside was soft, the layers were very thin and elastic. The spring onion was finely sliced and added a delicious sweetness to the layered pancake.
To say it’s a pancake is a bit misleading. It is a sheet of very thin dough, much like phyllo pastry, with salt and finely sliced spring onions sprinkled across it, then tightly rolled up like a swiss roll. Then the long roll is rolled around itself to make a snail-shape. Then fried (or panfried). Then consumed.

ICED MILK TEA ($4.50)
Score: ?
Would I order this? No.

Drink and ice in bowl/ Ice won't fit into vessel/ A psuedo chem flask

I could pop outside to he bubbletea place and order a milk tea for the same price, and larger volume. But the presentation is interesting.

ICED RED BEAN IN SYRUP ($4)
Score: ?

Whole sweetened red beans/ Similar to ais kacang/ But no green cendol

Sweetened red beans, ice and condensed milk (?). This’ll fill you up. It’s not a particularly refreshing drink, but it seems tasty as a dessert.

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