ShanDong MaMa

September 26, 2013

Shop 7, 200 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Regular readers will notice that I haven’t been posting very regularly lately – unfortunately it’s a rather awful time of semester where mid-semester exams, assignments, and work commitments have all come to a head at once. Once things calms down a bit next week I’ll make an effort to get through the considerable backlog of places I’ve yet to write about, but this week it’s a quickie – ShanDong MaMa, a recent and very welcome addition to Melbourne’s dumpling scene.

Mr N and I have eaten here a few times and are always suitably impressed – the quality here is up there with Shanghai Street and HuTong. Last Thursday after classes we strolled along Bourke, walking quickly to try and escape the cold, finally ducking into a small and harshly lit arcade, filled with nondescript telephone shops and nail salons. In this uninspiring setting sits a dumpling haven: ShanDong MaMa, attracting both city workers and students alike.

We began with our regular order of steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (‘It makes me feel healthy’, said Mr N). Pretty good, although a couple of the larger stalks were a bit tough towards the end.

Next up, a fantastic plate of pan fried pork dumplings, in the unusual purse-shaped dumpling skins. Pork mince is combined with coriander, black fungus, cabbage, dried shrimp and Chinese cooking wine. They are crispy and moist and sensational, especially when dunked in a heady mix of soy and the fantastic spicy-sweet chilli paste they have on every table.

Mmm, crispy and delicious.

Finally, a plate of Mama’s now-famous mackerel dumplings. They arrive, large and pale and steaming, on a black plate, and despite looking at bit cumbersome and unattractive, they really are the highlight of the menu. Mackerel is mixed by hand with coriander, ginger and chives into a beautifully fragrant and uplifting mousse, which is gently packaged inside a thin dumpling skin and boiled until steaming.

I’ve never had dumplings like this before – they are ethereally light and feel like they’re good for your soul, not to mention your body. The cold winds on Bourke street and the cheap arcade outside the windows disappear, and you and your dining partner are in a little dumpling haven.

Mr N and I spent a little while trying to get an action shot of me holding up a dumpling, having taken a bite out of it to show the filling, but alas my chopstick skills failed me and the slippery little dumpling kept on sliding out of my grip! It all got a bit silly with many a blurry photo, but we eventually got a decent shot (see below).

These mackerel dumplings are a specialty of the coastal city of Yan Tai in ShanDong province, which is where Mama is from. It’s just one point of difference that lifts ShanDong MaMa above the usual dumpling place, making it well worth a visit. I highly recommend you try it.

Finally, watch this soothing video of Mama making her famous fish dumplings, and feel the love.


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