I dined as a guest of The Hungry Buddha, but all opinions remain my own. I can’t believe I’ve never eaten at The Hungry Buddha – when owner Lachhu invited me to the soft launch of their new Belconnen store, I jumped at the chance. We started our Nepalese feast with mo mo, traditional chicken dumplings served with a homemade pickle ($9), and the makkai fry ($8.50), a tasty, hot serve of corn stir-fried with onion and spices. Both were perfect to whet our appetites, with paired well for textural contrast. Next up were the curries, the main game. We shared a range of curries between the group, and I started with the butter chicken ($19.50) – rich, incredibly tasty and with perfectly tender chicken, this dish is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Next up was the jhaneko daal ($17.50) – one of the spicier dishes of the evening, the yellow daal had perfectly cooked lentils matched with a cocktail of herbs and spices (including Himalayan herb jimbu) – highly recommended. We rounded the evening off with a bowl of khasi ko masu ($20), a Nepalese-style goat (on the bone) curry with a vibrant, although slightly heavier flavour. Definitely a great way to eat, trying a range of flavours with friends.
The Hungry Buddha, 8/8 Luxton Street (top floor), Belconnen ACT, http://thehungrybuddha.com.au/
I knew I had to eat here when I saw the Instagram pictures of the hedgehog dumplings – could something so cute really be edible? Could it really be delicious? Yes, and yes. My friend and I ordered both serves of the cute dumplings – the Snow White Rabbit Dumplings ($13.80) and the Manga Dumpling (‘Hedgehog’) ($12.80), plus a serve of roast duck with plum and basil ($25.80). Firstly, this is way too much food for two people – we couldn’t finish the duck. The rabbit dumplings were packed full of prawn (yay, my favourite!), asparagus, bamboo shoots and homemade creamy soup, with a chrysanthemum-infused dough. I found the flavour of this dumpling to be much better than the hedgehogs, although the skin was a little bit thick for my liking. The Hedgehogs had a surprisingly sweet flavour from the baked dough skin, which overpowered the subtle flavour of the various mushrooms inside. Whilst both were cute for the novelty factor, for quality they don’t have a patch on Lotus. We absolutely loved the duck, though – tender, incredibly tasty and fun to eat, I would order this again for sure. Overall the food was nice, but a little overpriced for what you get.
Luyu & Yum Yum, 196 King Street, Newtown NSW, http://luyu.com.au/
Suke Suke is the coolest new kid on the block, bringing a bar-like feel to the idea of a Japanese izakaya (drinks and little bites to eat). We started with cocktails – I ordered the Hello Kitty Sour ($16), with lychee, yuzu, lemon and peach bitters. This was really well-balanced, with strong citrus tones and just enough sweetness. Next were the gyoza ($8 for 4), which were probably our favourite – perfectly charred bases, thin skin and great pork and prawn flavour inside, these were great with the accompanying dipping sauce. Dish 2 was the takoyaki ($8 for 5) – these were tasty, but seem to have been crumbed and fried, rather than cooked traditionally, and only had tiny pieces of octopus inside. However, the toppings were on point with heaps of bonito flakes and sauces. The popcorn chicken kara-age ($13) was fabulous, with perfect morsels of lightly battered chicken and heaps of mayo for dunking. I also really enjoyed the agedashi tofu ($8), but would have liked less spicy togarashi seasoning and more seaweed. Finally, we tried the beef yakitori ($11 for 4 skewers). Sadly these were lukewarm, but the beef was tasty and topped with sesame, which matched well. A tad pricey for the serves, but with great service and atmosphere, I’ll be back.
Suke Suke, Verity Lane, Sydney Building, Civic ACT, http://www.sukesuke.com.au/
A friend and I ducked in for a quick dinner at Yat Bun Tong on a Thursday night – we were the only ones there, and ordered four fun dishes from the menu (apologies, I didn’t record the prices). I was feeling a bit under the weather, so my favourite dish was definitely the chicken and corn soup, which was HUGE and probably the most comforting thing to eat when sick – delicious. Next up was the prawn toast, which came with four triangles and a bowl of sweet plum sauce for dipping. Whilst not the absolute best prawn toast ever, it was really tasty and had plenty of sesame seeds and great crunch. Dish three was the xiao long bao (10 to a serve), which had lovely, salty soup inside. I found the skins a bit thick for my taste, and the dumpling filling was a tad small, but given the rarity of this dish in town, quite reasonable. By this point we were getting full, but the shallot pancake came out and was again more than I expected. The texture was a bit heavy on the batter side, but we devoured it – really moreish. A really enjoyable spread of consistently good dishes.
Yat Bun Tong, 10-12 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT, no website
Ding Hao and I go way back. This is where I used to come for yum cha as a uni student, and thankfully it hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still overcrowded, packed to the brim, and dishing up fast, fresh Chinese food. I actually went to catch up with friends from uni – the six of us got stuck right in, with no shortage of dishes coming around to enjoy. I am a sucker for prawn dumplings, and the seafood ones that Ding Hao serve are huge, tasty and definitely not full of mush. You can feel the disparate textures of the filling – so good. We indulged in a plate of salt and pepper calamari, deep-fried and full of flavour, not rubbery at all. The crispy beef was another favourite, coated in a thick sauce and with a slight chilli kick, they vanished pretty quickly. No yum cha is complete without prawn-filled long rolls (not the technical name, but hopefully you know what I mean), and I devoured my share of those before munching on some oyster sauce-drenched greens. Finally, it was time for mango pudding (more, please!) and farewells. Yum.
Ding Hao, 26-28 Gouger Street, Adelaide SA, no website
Oh dumplings, how I love you. There aren’t a huge number of restaurant offering dumplings in Canberra, but the CBD Dumpling House is (obviously) one of them. We went early on a weeknight and were seated in the window towards the back of the large, airy space. We started with a plate of prawn and pumpkin dumplings, which had a generous 14 dumplings in the serve. The prawns were whole and really tasty, with the tender pumpkin complementing the flavour nicely. The dumpling skins are a bit thick for my taste, but that was my only complaint. Dish number two was the steamed vegetables in a peanut sauce – I think this was actually the highlight of the meal, with perfectly crisp carrots, bok choy, mushrooms and broccoli that was so good it tasted creamy, doused in a heavenly peanut sauce. More please! We finished off with a plate of the shantung lamb, which is definitely not the sort of dish to have if you’re on a health kick. The pieces of spicy lamb are fried to crispy and sandwiched with fat – but gosh it tastes amazing! Reliably good food.
CBD Dumpling House, Scott’s Crossing, Canberra ACT, no website
I know people rave about Ding Tai Fung, but to me, Lotus make the best dumplings in Sydney. Yep, I called it. This title was definitely reinforced on a recent visit. We started out with a Jade Forest cocktail – Citron Absolut, mint, lemon juice and soda blended into a perfectly integrated, light and refreshing drink that was dangerously delicious – be warned, you will probably want more than one. We had two dumpling courses, and as the serves normally include four dumplings (and there were three of us), the waitress asked if we wanted portions of six (yes) – great service. The jade prawn dumplings were the standout. With two-toned, thin, sticky skins, these are the closest thing I’ve found to the dumplings I had in Guangzhou. The filling had fabulous identifiable individual textures (i.e. it wasn’t a blended mush) – plus the prawns were super juicy. Oh yum. Next were the pork xiao long bao, which were as silky and lovely as I remember. We then had the black pepper beef, which was incredibly tender and slathered in a delicious marinade, served with perfectly steamed asparagus and baby corn, and the crispy eggplant, which was deep fried, crispy on the outside and pillowy soft inside. Mmm. Lotus, you are undoubtedly my favourite.
Lotus Dumpling Bar, 3/16 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW, http://www.lotusrestaurant.com.au/
Walking into XO feels like stepping into downtown Melbourne – the space is modern, fresh and very stylish. The menu is equally exciting, organised into starters, small and large plates, sides and desserts. We started with the bao ($8 each), which had the most incredibly fluffy texture and were served as burgers, rather than wrap-arounds. Co-owner Kent told us that he and the chef spent months perfecting the recipe, so that they stayed fresh upon service – I can confirm, they certainly do! The combination of the pickled daikon, the unctuous pork belly and the freshness of the cucumber was magical and set our palettes up for the rest of the night. Dish two was the steamed prawn and pork dumplings ($16, includes 4), served with the most delicious soy vinagrette – it had a perfect balance of spice, sweet and vinegar flavours and I may or may not have drunk the leftovers with my spoon. The dumpling filling was fresh and had great, distinct textures – I adore prawns in dumplings and could taste them loud and clear. Yum. My dish of the night was the Asian Bolognaise – fried udon served with a ragout and a 60 degree egg, this is comfort food at its best.
XO, 16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah ACT, http://www.xo-restaurant.com.au
When my friend mentioned that she’d found a place I’d love in Melbourne, I was expecting some kind of dessert mecca. Instead, she took me to the Oriental Teahouse, a place that combines two of my favourite things – tea and dumplings. It was a quiet Friday afternoon and we were the only ones in the store. We both started out with the sparkling iced tea special – raspberry and vanilla. It came out in a jar with a handle and was refreshing, sweet and fizzy with a couple of raspberries inside. On to the dumplings. I started with the prawn dumplings and then had the xiao long bao, both of which were served piping hot with three pieces each. The soup inside the xiao long bao wasn’t as flavoursome as the one at Lotus, but the skin was a bit thicker and there was a nice amount of filling inside. Prawn dumplings are my favourite, and these were pretty high up on the list of delicious ones with plenty of prawn inside. We finished with the chocolate dessert dumplings, which were deep-fried and coated in sesame – yum! Check it out for great tea and nice dumplings.
Oriental Teahouse, 378 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC http://orientalteahouse.com.au/
Dining alone can be a strange experience. Some people find it very uncomfortable – I find that if I have something to do (book to read, notes to write etc.), I can eat out alone comfortably at dinnertime. This is what I ended up doing after arriving quite late in Sydney one night for a conference in Darling Harbour. Not much was open, but a quick google threw up Home Thai as a trendy option that was open at 9:30pm for dinner. I waited a while for a table, but was excited to see how much the place was buzzing – always a good sign. I am a sucker for dumplings, and on a cool evening I wanted something warming, so opted for steamed dim sum and a bowl of tom yum goong soup. The plate of dumplings came out with a mound of corriander and drizzled with black vinegar, which suited the pork and prawn mix. The tom yum was fresh but unbelieveably spicy – sadly, but it was a bit too much for me and I needed some rice to be able to eat it – I’d recommend asking for a mild version. Home Thai gets a tick in the solo traveller box!
Home Thai, Shop 1-2, 299 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW http://www.homethaisussex.com.au