It’s not like dumplings are a new phenomenon to hit Melbourne, but the way they reinvent themselves they still sometimes feel like the latest in thing. There was a time not that long ago that dumplings meant those delicate steamed little morsels that you get at yum cha, or some overly thick skinned steamed or fried pork or vegetarian parcels. Then, if you didn’t do Xiao Long Bao you were no one. There’s obviously more to dumplings than that though, and Foghorn Leghorn has waxed lyrical on the lamb dumplings he tried many years ago in Xian and how difficult it is to find dumplings here from that part of China. Well now there is a new option, dumplings by the Mama from Shandong.
And very nice dumplings they are too, as I can confirm from four visits over a one week period! Shandong is a coastal province, and other than the open sided fried dumplings the other things which stood out as being a bit different were the fish dumplings and the use of dried shrimp to boost the flavour in a number of the dumplings. There are other items on the menu, and from a few brief encounters these are pretty good too. However, for this visit it was all about the dumplings.
Catch of the day was undoubtedly the fish dumplings. With a delicate fish filling and the use of coriander and ginger, these were undoubtedly the best fish dumplings I’ve ever had. That’s probably not as big a complement as it might sound at first, because I’ve always found fish dumplings interesting in theory but lacking in practice, mushy in texture and lacking in flavour. These though had managed to keep a nice texture and the freshness of the fish used shone. This was probably helped by using mackerel rather than some cheap mystery fish.
The other boiled dumpling sampled was the prawn, black fungus and chives dumpling. Ruby Grapefruit was not such a fan of these, with more added pork mince (for texture and flavour) and less black fungus and prawn than she had been expecting. On the other hand I thought they were good, with obviously much fresher prawn than you normally get.
Unfortunately on this particular visit the fried dumplings weren’t as good as those previously tried. Apparently the pan fryer was playing up, resulting in over cooked skins and somewhat dry fillings. However, from previous visits I can confirm that the pan fried beef dumplings are very good. These are served open ended, so that some of the juice mixes with the oil and infuses into the dumpling skins, adding great flavour to the crispy skins.
Located in an arcade in a shop where previous businesses had failed to generate a profitable concern, Shandong Mama has managed to generate a bit of a buzz already to the extent you might be hard pressed to get a seat at lunch time. Staff are friendly and while you have to wait a few minutes for your dumplings, that’s because the'are often being made fresh behind the scenes. Mama is also obviously very keen about the image of customer service they give, and we were offered a discount because our fried dumplings weren’t up to their usual standard. Cost is a couple more dollars than usual, but it’s definitely worth it.
Food – 8.5
Service – 8
Ambience – 7
Price – 7.5
Shop 7, 200 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 3818