ShanDong MaMa

ShanDong MaMa's prawn dumplings.
ShanDong MaMa's prawn dumplings. Photo: Eddie Jim

Shop 7, 200 Bourke Street (inside Mid City Arcade) Melbourne, Victoria 3000

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Opening hours Daily 11am–10pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments Cash
Phone 03 9650 3818

WHERE AND WHAT

Sometimes you hear rumblings about a place before you learn of the substance. Rumours were swirling of a fabulous new dumpling house tucked down a city arcade. Which one? No one would say. Then the food bloggers started on about it, then the mainstream press got hold of the story.

And then the truth was well-and-truly out of the bag: ShanDong MaMa is a fabulous new dumpling house (with plenty more to offer) doing its all-day thing in the MidCity Arcade, one of the city's thriving homes of interesting, affordable regional Chinese and Asian food. Get there.

WHERE TO SIT

Waving lucky Chinese cat, check; wooden veneer panelling, check; pale, tiled floor, dark wooden tables and cutlery and crockery that's serviceable at best, check.

ShanDong MaMa in the MidCity Arcade.
ShanDong MaMa in the MidCity Arcade. Photo: Eddie Jim

ShanDong MaMa looks no different to a couple-of-hundred competitors within a square mile - but you're not here for the decor, you're here for the dumplings.

WHEN TO GO

Daily, 11am-9pm.

DRINK

There's no liquor licence yet but they say it won't be long. Hit the eight treasures tea, or less exotic soft drinks.

EAT

The eastern Chinese coastal province of Shandong is known for its seafood and the calling card of ShanDong MaMa (aka Meiyan Wang, aided and abetted by her daughter, Ying Hao) is the mackerel dumplings. Something new to jaded old Melbourne, these light and ethereal little numbers with house-made skins are whipped to a fine mousse-like texture with herbs and ginger. Delicious.

Pork and dill dumplings are also a winner, with a generous hand on the fresh herb; you can opt for pan-fried dumplings - taco-shaped (with open ends), so they might spill their minced herby chicken filling into your bowl.

Call me a gweilo wowser but I didn't like the Sichuan beef - big, ornery chunks of beef with a hard layer of yellow fat and the obligatory sprinkling of evil red chillies.

But I loved the spring onion pancakes. With their golden-crisp pull-apart lattice, they're the epitome of user-friendliness (and kid-friendliness - and while we're on the subject, the ShanDong staff are very kind to small children).

WHO'S THERE

Chinese students. Shoppers. The ShanDong MaMa family sitting down to a mighty feast.

WHY BOTHER?

It's a cut above your standard dumpling house.