This week, I’ve selflessly accepted the task of comparing two of the best places to satisfy my perpetual dumpling craving in Montreal, and hot damn, it was a good weekend! LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!
Mai Xiang Yuan
On Saturday, I took a bunch of friends to Mai Xiang Yuan, one of the interwebs’ highest-praised Montreal dumpling houses. However, when we walked in, we realized that although noon was definitely very early morning for us, they were in the middle of a lunch rush and perhaps a reservation would have been wise. Much to our surprise, the hostess graciously sent us across the street to Delicieux Xiang, their sister restaurant to which they send their dumplings. It was excellent– huge empty dining room for the six of us, with the exact food we had gone to seek out.
The dumplings were divine. We tried, between all of us, steamed and the fried pork/coriander/shrimp, the steamed pork/mushroom/shrimp, the fried beef and curry onion, and the fried pork and Chinese cabbage. We greedily picked dumplings off each other’s plates, and everyone was thrilled.
The dumpling wrappers were delicate, but held together, and the fillings were juicy and perfectly seasoned. The portion:price ratio was unbeatable– 15 dumplings each for well under $10. The dumplings all tasted distinctly of what they were filled with, which is a rare treat. A few of us also ordered the spicy cucumber salad to start, a refreshing, spicy-savoury-sweet simple dish. It was a fantastic meal with no room for complaints, and we left in happy sodium comas.
Dumplings Taste: WONDERFUL.
Side Dishes: great.
Food Porn: ain’t nothing better than gazing at a table full of 90 dumplings, 3 salads, and chili oil and soy sauce.
Price: student-friendly as fuck. $6-10 per meal.
On Sunday, I brought a friend to Qing Hua, where I had come with my family a few weeks prior. It’s another well-praised dumpling house in Chinatown. It specializes in soup dumplings, which are filled meat, as well as homemade broth that provides a fantastic tidal wave of flavour. We were seated promptly, as the restaurant was not too busy.
The dumplings here are delicious, and there’s definitely a wider variety. We ordered the steamed pork and pickled cabbage dumplings, and last time, I’d tried the pork and coriander dumplings and the juicy crab buns– all really well seasoned, with liquidy filling concealed in the thick dumpling wrappers. The experience of drinking the broth from inside and then eating the dumplings is definitely a special one.
However, where Qing Hua fell short was on the side dishes and on the price. The cucumber salad cost $6.50– five dollars more than I’d paid the day before. I also found it far less bright and crunchy. The dumplings were also more expensive– 15 dumplings for $12-$14. I also tried the marinated beef and spicy tofu appetizers, which I unfortunately didn’t love either– both were served cold and lacked flavour. Bottom line: if you want amazing soup dumplings, definitely hit this place up, but stick to what they do best.
Dumplings Taste: MAGICAL.
Side dishes: sub-par.
Food porn rating: real real nice, with massive dumpling steamers right at the table.
Price: not as reasonable; $20+ per meal.
Though both places satisfied my dumpling desires, I’m gonna give the win to Mai Xiang Yuan/Delicieux Xiang. This shit is unbelievable, each dumpling better than the last, and it was a perfect place to share a big meal with friends all on student budgets. Happy dumpling-ing, everyone!