Planning a dinner with friends, my mate M suggested we try “her” dumpling place (she immediately sent me the address and phone number – which she has on speed dial). With a recommendation like that, we promptly headed to North East China Family in Flinders Lane.
Looking through the menu I was surprised to see that it included a range of dishes, not just the highly commended dumplings. Options included Kung Pao chicken, sweet potato in hot toffee (described as “very hot!”), the Aussie bastardisation lemon chicken and fermented soybean cartilage(!). It is worth noting that these dishes are advertised as “can only dinner”; presumably meaning that lunchtime is a dumpling only affair.
Our hungry table ordered a bevvy of food, with emphasis on the dumplings. We cracked open some beer and wine (its BYO!) and we waited. And waited. And waited.
On a positive note, it gave me time to photograph their crockery:
On a negative note, my mate C got so hungry she resorted to snacking on an apricot bar that appeared from the depths of her handbag
Eventually the food started to arrive. Firstly, the meat dumplings – we ordered fried beef and onion, fried pork and cabbage and fried pork and pickled cabbage. The fried dumplings were attractively crispy:
The pork and cabbage were absolutely delicious, upon spearing them a burst of pork juices spurted everywhere. Hearing us rave about them, my pseudo vegetarian friend M (who eats meat about twice a year) decided to tuck in. She was also impressed with the porky goodness and how flavoursome the dumplings were.
The fried beef and onion dumplings were pretty great as well. Many at the table argued that these were the best dumplings of the night. The flavour of the dumplings reminded me strongly of beef pho (the delicious Vietnamese noodle soup) – I think it was the combination of herbs and onion.
The last meat dumpling to try was the pork and pickled cabbage (pictured at the top of the post). These were (obviously) similar to the pork and cabbage dumplings, although the pickled cabbage added a sourness and punch. I preferred the regular pork and cabbage, although these were still popular.
In fact, everything was pretty popular.
Our vegetarian element arrived, looking very green:
The steamed vegetarian dumplings were an impressive shade of green and contained a mixture of carrot, celery and cabbage. These were much more delicate in flavour than the meaty dumplings and a good change from all the pan fried-ness. The broccolini was drowning in the sauce, which was heavy on the garlic (but in a good way).
Our final dish was an impressive plate of salt and pepper squid:
The squid was soft and not in the least bit chewy. The batter was hot, crisp and very very VERY salty. It is at this point that I should come clean – I am a salt lover – I love to add that bit of salt to a dish (though I do taste before I season, I promise!). Even with my love of salt, these were a serious salt-fest. The pieces of squid that I managed to locate that were not as heavily salt coated were absolutely delicious. The rest of them were way too salty, but this did not stop us from making our way through two whole plates of the stuff. It was still seriously good.
So all in all, a successful night out. We ordered way too much food, but it suspiciously all disappeared – definitely the sign of a good meal. As an added bonus, I didn’t walk out of the restaurant fearing some kind of gastric upset (the Health Department closure of one of my favourite dumpling haunts still strikes fear) – which is definitely a positive spin on dumpling eating in the City!
North East China Family
302 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Ph: 9629 9968
Dumplings $8-9 per plate.
Other dishes range from $12-20.