Shop 7, 200 Bourke St
+61 3 9650 3818
ShanDong Mama is located in the Mid-City Arcade of Chinatown. I figured, like most other dumpling joints, the turnover would be quick, and I could easily get a seat even during peak dinner hours on a Saturday evening. Boy was I wrong. The place was pumping, and I had to wait for at least half an hour for a table for two.
Similar to other dumpling joints, ShanDong Mama offers her special fare steamed, boiled or fried. There are a few mains and rice/noodles dishes to add to your meal, if dumplings do not seem to be adequate. The cuisine hails from Shan Dong, and the food and ingredients reflect this difference to the other mainstream dumpling restaurants in Melbourne. Take the vinegar for instance: Mama offers red rice vinegar, as compared to the more commonly seen black rice vinegar. The former is lighter, and has a slightly sweet finish to round off the initial sharp tartness.
The Angmoh and I decided to share an entree of fried eggplant and sample both boiled and panfried dumplings. The eggplant came crisp and hot with soft melty flesh. While the filling of mince was slightly on the bland side, I wasn’t one to complain as I enjoyed dunking them in my vinegar/chilli-oil mix.
The mackerel dumplings are what Mama is renowned for. Handmade daily from fresh mackerel, the dumplings are smooth and sweet. While the initial taste of the dumplings may seem inconspicuous, patience will slowly allow the taste of the sweet fish and fresh herbs to come through. Wrapped in thin soft silky skins, these dumplings are an absolute must-have.
The panfried dumplings were the tastiest of all. The filling of pork mince and julienned black fungus was accentuated with generous chunks of prawn.
ShanDong Mama is not your typical dumpling joint and they certainly deliver. The dumplings are different and they stand out. Just remember to make a booking!