I love Asian dumplings of all types, but after having more than my fair share of the fried type, I’m looking to go less oily (and more healthy) in trying some steamed and boiled dumplings in the Seattle area. As with the fried dumplings, I’m seeking representatives from a variety of countries, with different types of wrappers, fillings, and dipping sauces.
While I consider all dumplings comfort food, there’s something especially soothing about a steamed or boiled dumpling. Maybe it’s the softer texture, or maybe it’s the lighter feeling that makes me feel like I can eat a ton of them.
Eat a ton I did, ranging inexpensive to elegant, from Din Tai Fung to Dim Sum King, and from Taiwanese to Tibetan. Read on to see ten destinations for dumplings of the steamed and boiled variety in the Seattle area.
It was big news when Taiwan-based Din Tai Fung opened its second North American restaurant across the lake from Seattle in Bellevue in 2010. (The first is in Los Angeles.) Fans flocked to the restaurant, often waiting two hours or more for baskets of Xiao Long Bao (called “Juicy Dumplings” on the menu, $9.50 for 10 for pork, and $11.00 for 10 for pork and crab). For the dipping sauce, you mix your own ratio of soy sauce and black vinegar, adding ginger slices, and then figure out your eating technique. While these are the best xiao long bao in the Seattle area, they pale in comparison to what you’ll find in Taiwan—where the dumplings have more delicate wrappers and more of a tell-tale droop, bursting with delicious hot broth.
Better at Din Tai Fung are the Shrimp & Pork Shao Mai ($11.25 for 10). These steamed dumplings have a unique shape that make them absolutely gorgeous in appearance, and carry the combined flavor of land and sea. They emulate the xiao long bao by having some broth inside—making them quite different than any other shao mai you’ll find in the area.
Bellevue is the place for the best Chinese food in the Seattle area, and it’s here you’ll find the Taiwanese restaurant Facing East. I recommend the Sweet Potato Flour Dumpling ($3.75), cut into six pieces and stuffed with pork, black bean, and bamboo shoots. The wrapper has a mochi-like texture that’s chewy and terrific, and the brown sauce, which they call “seafood sauce,” is reminiscent of a slightly sweet hoisin sauce.
A teriyaki joint isn’t what comes to mind immediately for dumplings, but look beyond the Japanese offerings (including sushi and bento boxes) at Joy Teriyaki and you’ll find a bit of a Mongolian menu. Included are Buuz ($8.00 for 10), steamed beef dumplings with onions, garlic, cabbage, black pepper (the spice of choice) and salt—proudly made with no MSG or sugar. They look a little like xiao long bao, but don’t have soup inside. If you’re more adventurous, order the Banshtai Tsai which nets you a bowl of beef dumplings cooked in traditional milk tea. The milk tea, also available from the beverage section of the menu, is salty and buttery and worth a try if you’ve never had it.
My fried dumpling roundup included crispy mandu from Ka Won, so here I include the steamed variety from Hae-Nam Kalbi & Calamari in Shoreline, just north of Seattle. Their spelling of the name Mah’n-Doo ($7.95 for 12) is almost as whimsical as their further description: “h&-made beef dumplings.” As with Joy Teriyaki’s Buuz, you can also get them in soup, here known as Gook, served with egg and vermicelli noodles.
Ping’s Dumpling House, aptly named, is the place to go for one of the largest variety of dumplings in the area. With over 20 varieties available to take home frozen, ask to find out what’s fresh beyond what you see on the menu. You’ll typically find Fish Dumplings ($7.99 for 12), filled with king mackerel and Chinese chives. While not my favorite of the flavors, a fish dumpling is unusual in these parts, so it’s worth a try, and the accompanying sauce of Shanxi Shuita Superior Mature Vinegar and garlic is intense. The owner will proudly tell you that her dumpling recipe comes from her hometown of Qingdao, in the northern part of China.
Another dumpling house worth visiting is Fu Man Dumpling House. Here you’ll find virtually every table enjoying an order of the simply named Boiled Dumplings ($8.35 for 12). These dumplings are plump with pork and a generous amount of green onions and chives, but since the filling is not densely packed, they’re a delight to eat. You’ll want to dip your dumplings in the house sauce, but don’t bother to ask what’s in it, as few beyond the owner know, and they’re not telling. Among the many ingredients, though, is garlic; you’re forewarned that you’ll have it strong on your breath for hours afterward.
Huong Binh is one of the many Vietnamese restaurants that has a substantial to-go section of prepared foods. Look on the sale tables and you might find Bánh Bot Loc ($6.25 for 9), but it’s better to eat them right in the restaurant. These dumplings are made with tapioca flour which creates a wrapper with chewy texture that’s typically more translucent than seen in this photo. Inside, you’ll find shrimp and pork, with the plate dusted with ground shrimp and green onions. What makes the dish complete, though, is the sweet, spicy, and pungent nuoc cham dipping sauce that’s savory and addictive.
When I want something to accompany my soup at Gourmet Noodle Bowl (where you’ll actually find the majority of people enjoying hot pots), Spicy Wontons ($6.25 for 10) do the trick. While perhaps not technically a dumpling, these wonton-wrapped beauties are filled with shrimp and pork, and are bathing in a flavorful chile sauce. Soft and spicy, delicate and delicious, this is complete comfort food.
Annapurna is a Capitol Hill neighborhood restaurant serving a combination of Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian food. And it’s here where you’ll find Spinach MoMo ($7.25 for 6). These Tibetan-style dumplings are vegan, filled with spinach and aromatic spices. Best of all, they’re served with bright and flavorful peanut (slightly spicy), sesame (slightly sweet), and tomato (slightly tangy) chutney sauces which will diversify your dining experience. Annapurna also offers Tensing MoMo, filled with chicken.
If you’re looking for a low-cost and quick fill of your dumpling fix without quest for highest quality, Dim Sum King in Seattle’s International District might hit the spot. Order at the counter and eat at one of the few tables, or take your dumplings home. The Shrimp Dumplings and Sui Mai (both 50 cents each) are an instant snack that’s affordable and available by the piece. (The egg tarts at 60 cents aren’t bad if you can catch them coming right out of the oven.)
(Originally published at Serious Eats on October 31.)