From dumplings to duck: Good Food's five favourite dishes in Melbourne's Chinatown

The Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at HuTong Dumpling Bar.
The Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at HuTong Dumpling Bar. Photo: Supplied

Always colourful, always fun and always excellent value, a slap up meal in Chinatown is one of Melbourne's essential - and most enduring - experiences. Here are five of the Good Food team's go-to dishes. Grab the gang and get stuck in.

Shandong Mama's mackerel pot-sticker dumplings, $18.80 for 10

Why we love it: In a departure from the usual pork, prawn or chicken Chinese dumpling playlist, ShanDong Mama's greatest hits are its Spanish mackerel pot-stickers, and vegan parcels filled with zucchini, tofu, coriander and ginger. Seafood dishes are a speciality of Shandong Peninsula, in north-eastern China, which explains the kitchen's irresistible way with mackerel. It's blended into a delicate herb-flecked mousse, swaddled in dough, cannoli-style, then pan-fried until crisp and golden. Roslyn Grundy

Mid City Arcade, shop 7, 200 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Roslyn's Grundy's favourite pan-fried dumplings at ShanDong MaMa.

Roslyn Grundy's favourite pan-fried dumplings at ShanDong MaMa. Photo: Paul Jeffers

HuTong Dumpling Bar's Xiao long bao, $10.90 for six

Why we love it: There are many excellent dishes at HuTong, as is plain to see if you press your nose up against the glass fronted kitchen to watch chefs weaving magic with wontons and noodles of every shape and size. But this place is a temple to one bao alone - the mighty xiao long bao. You must delicately pick up this slippery parcel of pork mince with your chopsticks. Then, as etiquette and common sense dictate, nibble a hole in the silky dough and slurp out the steaming broth before jamming the whole dumpling in your kisser. It is one of the most joyous odes to China in Melbourne. Ardyn Bernoth

4-16 Market Ln, Melbourne, 03 9650 8128, hutong.com.au

Peking duck at Bamboo House, $42 half; $79 whole

Why we love it: Sure, Flower Drum gets all the attention. But Bamboo House, a favourite of pollies, gets my vote. Open since 1984, it's retro fine-dining Canto. As for that signature duck. There's theatre: waistcoated waiters present and then whisk the bird away; before carving and assembling paper-thin pancakes with precision. There's texture: an air pocket between the skin and the juicy meat creates a cracking skin, that, dare I say, rivals pork crackling. There's really nothing better. Annabel Smith

47 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 03 9662 1565, bamboohouse.com.au

The Peking duck with pancakes at Bamboo House.

The Peking duck with pancakes at Bamboo House. Photo: Eddie Jim

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Pipis (and beers) at Ling Nan

Why we love it: The pink walls, crisp beers and spicy, steaming plates of pipis have the combined effect of a defibrillator when your night out in the CBD is veering off course. A huge mountain of clams arrives in that trademark shiny sauce packing firepower, that you know is going to keep you awake. Alongside, come crisp golden Chinese doughnuts for dunking. Service is perfunctory. Prawn toasts are 1990s perfection. Gemima Cody

204 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, daily 5.30pm-3.30am

Spicy dumplings at China Red ($11.90 for eight)

Why we love it: Oh how I love touch screen ordering - your drink often lands before you've even finished ordering - and this is one of Melbourne's OG and best. Great for every low key celebration from workmate birthdays to visiting niece and nephews (note: kids love the 'dolphin' dumplings*) it's a novelty experience that never gets old. Stick to the dumplings, specifically the pillowy soft spicy wontons ($8.90 for eight) slick with thick and sticky red Sichuan chilli oil with just enough tingle. Come alone and slurp the lot or order multiples with a crew, there's no judgement here. And the free private room is one of the most fun, and best value, group dinner spots in town. *does not contain actual dolphin.

206 Bourke Street 03 9662 3688, china-red.com.au

Eat dumplings to your heart's content in the free private room at China Red.

Eat dumplings with your crew in the free private room at China Red. Photo: Craig Sillitoe