In some shape or form, most cultures boast a dumpling as part of their national cuisine - from the hearty "knoedel" of Bavaria to the rustic momo of the Himalayas. In Australia, we've always looked to our Asian neighbours for our dumpling fix, embracing the pan-fried jiaozi from Southern China or xiao long bao, soup-filled dumplings from Shanghai. Then there are the yum cha standards - har gow, shiny, almost translucent skins encasing minced prawn or the yellow-tinged open flowers of pork siu mai. Japan offers gyoza, a more delicate version of the jiaozi, steamed, then pan-fried.
The subject of where the best are to be found is still a hot topic around the water cooler. After eating through Brisbane's city and the suburbs, here are our favourites:
Lan Zhou Noodles
Don't expect flash decor or a huge range of choices here, as the name suggests, Lan Zhou is principally a noodle shop but the dumplings are very good. Watch the dexterous chefs hand-pull noodles in a glass fronted kitchen while you wait. The soft, slippery dumpling wrappers are made by the same hands, encasing a generous crescent-shaped filling of finely minced pork and chives, kept moist with a hit of savoury liquid before being given a pan-crisping on one side.
Sunnypark Shopping Centre, Shop 46, 342 McCullough Street, Sunnybank, 3423 7222
Taro's Ramen and Cafe
Although it's famous for ramen, Taro's also serves excellent gyoza. You'll have to come at night though which is the only time they serve them. Dipped in "flour water" to achieve that essential crisp-bottomed perfection, these gyoza are made with premium ingredients including Bangalow Sweet Pork, with a well-balanced meat to vegetable ratio and a little shochu soup that creates a burst of liquid inside to keep the meat moist.
Ground floor, 363 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, 3832 6358, taros.com.au
There's a something for everyone range here from pan-fried "Shang Dong" pork to their signature dumpling - neatly-pleated xiao long bao with a pleasantly coarse pork filling and a good burst of light stock. The way to eat them is to pick them up with chopsticks and put them onto the spoon. Poke a hole with your chopstick to let the liquid out, then eat the whole thing from the spoon. All the dumplings are made in-house in a glass fronted kitchen facing the street.
Shop 1003 - 1004/199 Grey St, South Brisbane, 3844 008, bamboobasket.com.au
There are some very untraditional combos here, but these precision-pleated dumplings definitely get the vote for the prettiest in town. The wrappers are not made in house, but all of the excellent sauces that automatically accompany them are and are made with the same attention to detail. With well-seasoned, coarse textured meat inside and pleasantly crisp bottoms, these dumplings at this casual little spot are served up by the Japanese owner herself with irrepressible enthusiasm.
Shop 1/60 Vulture Street, West End, 3844 669, zagyoza.com
This place serves the best dumplings in town. Xiao long bao can be found on the menu as "small steamed bun" and are made to order in the glass fronted dumpling kitchen. Liquid bombs of rich, complex pork stock surround well-seasoned meat with a subtle hits of ginger. The crisp-skinned pan fried dumplings are excellent too, the wrappers almost translucent, tinted with green from fresh chives showing through.
Market Square, Shop 20B/334 Main Road, Sunnybank, 3423 8483, tastegallery.com.au
The lovely thin wrappers are a plus. Fillings are equally delicate and the grilled duck gyoza, (the best-seller apparently) while tasty and a very pleasant texture, definitely benefits a flavour hit with the addition of a DIY sauce,the elements of which - soy, chilli oil and black vinegar - are on the table. There are also gyoza of apple, and Nutella and banana if you want to continue the gyoza gorging to a sweet conclusion.
394 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 38524624, harajukugyoza.com
This venue is themed like a Hong Kong tea house. You can watch New Shanghai's dumpling makers as they roll wrappers then stuff and pleat a wide range of dumplings, from their signature xiao long bao to pork with chives, or a very good crisp bottomed pan-fried pork dumpling. Fillings are well balanced and the dumplings taste very fresh (as they should), but if we were being picky, we reckon the wrappers could be just a little thinner.
LG23 Queens Plaza, 226 Queen Street, Brisbane, 3108 7652, newshanghai.com.au
Gyoza Bar Ann
Dumplings come as conjoined sextuplets with soft, delicate wrappers and are sizzling hot, served on a cast iron tray on a bed of onion pieces. They have a perfect balance of vegetable to meat, with a pleasant texture from finely chopped cabbage as well as a judicious hit of ginger. Quite light in flavour and texture, they actually feel surprisingly healthy.
Shop 26, 1000 Emporium Ann St, Fortitude Valley, 3172 3020, gyozabarann.com.au
What's your favourite dumpling spot? Jump on the comments and share your recommendation.