I usually let the regular stream of Melbourne blog posts raving about new Chinese places just wash over me - a great dumpling place doesn't mean a great vegetarian dumpling place, and it's often easier to just fall back on old mock-meat favourites. But when Carla singled out Shanghai Street as having Melbourne's best vego dumplings, it went straight onto our list of places to try.
We were fully aware of the steady queues that pop up at Shanghai Street, so turned up before 6:30 hoping to sneak straight in. We were fourth in line, which meant a 10 minute wait - not the worst outcome when we saw how things were on our way out around 7.
There's nothing stylish about Shanghai Street - it's a rudimentary dumpling place, with laminex tables, brusque and efficient service and a lack of charm. In exchange they offer low, low prices - think 15 vegetable dumplings for less than a tenner. It's a pretty fair trade-off. There are a reasonable number of vego dishes on the menu, with meat-free versions of the XLBs, fried and boiled dumplings, veggie buns and veggie fried noodles. Despite my enthusiasm (I was bafflingly keen for us to order 30 dumplings plus an entree!), Cindy convinced me to keep things under control - just a serve of the vegetable boiled dumplings (15 for $8.80) and the vegetarian spring onion pancake ($6.80). A sensible decision - we were both stuffed afterwards (for just a tick over $15!).
The dumplings were tremendous - tender little puff balls, filled with a mix of greens and garlic and best eaten with a generous mix of vinegar and hot chilli sauce, both of which were on hand. I think I had 10 of the 15 on the plate and, despite being full to the back teeth, wanted to keep eating more.
The pancake also benefited from the chilli sauce, but that was where the similarities ended - it was a disc of crispy goodness, stuffed with spring onions and gone in minutes.
Shanghai Street Dumplings is not somewhere you'd go for a leisurely evening meal - it's strictly about getting in, getting out and eating some excellent value food. Go early or grab takeaway - I'm not sure it's really worth a half hour wait. But if you've got a craving for vego dumplings, you could do a lot worse.
easy as (vegan) pie and Nouveau Potato have both given Shanghai Street the thumbs up from a vegetarian perspective, joining positive (and meaty) reviews from Gagwood Blog, The ragingcook, Gastrology, Ten Dollar Foodies, Petit Miamx, MEL: HOT OR NOT, A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words, Nurikko Visits, food.loves.my.mouth, Sweet and Sour Fork, eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die(t), I dream in chocolate, Footscray Food Blog, FoodsCrazy, he needs food, The Misadventures of MissC, mochii eats, angryaussiefood, egg tarts and apple pies, Missy Ness' Food Train of Thought, new international students and A Food Trail. A few bloggers have been a bit disappointed, with two munch, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, foodcautious, Barley Blog and Gastronomical ramblings having mixed experiences.
Shanghai Street Dumpling
342 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
veg dishes $6.80 - $9.80
Accessibility: There's a flat entry way, but the interior is pretty crammed with tables. Orders are taken at the table, but payment requires you to negotiate your way to the register at the front. We didn't check out the bathrooms.