The fact that we don’t spend our entire lives wearing T-shirts that say ‘Dim Sum Is Life’ is frankly, a miracle. We’re into dumplings in the way that other people are into sports. We have our favourite players (xiao long bao, wonton, siu mai), we have our best championship moments (a courageous third round of cheung fun at Royal China), and we have a beloved chant (it rhymes dim sum with ‘in my tum’ and, no, it’s not even remotely clever). If you have the same feelings about dumplings then check out this list for the ones we really can’t be without.
Dumpling Shack is most famous for its sheng jian bao Shanghai dumplings. They’re grenade-sized fried soup dumplings, made fresh daily, filled with pork and a molten broth that only the foolish bite into without piercing beforehand. They won’t come back to bite you so much as boil you and a tub of their buzzing chilli oil on the side is essential as well. They’re also not the only reason to make a trip to Spitalfields Market. The prawn wontons in chilli oil are, depending on the day, sometimes even better.
Does this place do some of the best dim sum in London? We think so. Now strap in, because here comes your order. You’re going to want the minced pork and shrimp dumplings, the roasted pork buns, the prawn cheung fun, the sesame prawn rolls, and the honey roast pork puffs. Around this point you’ll consider the shanghai pork dumplings and then think, well that’s a lot of pork. Ignore that voice, it also told you that emo-eye-patch-fringe was a good idea. Go ahead and lean into the pork offerings and please note, the Royal China classic cheung fun is essential.
FOMO (or fear of missing out) is understandable when it comes to dumplings. Especially ones as perfectly packed and glistening as Dimsum & Duck’s cheung fun. The box-sized Cantonese restaurant on the King’s Cross Road makes some of, if not the, finest dumplings in London. Both the char siu pork and prawn cheung fun are exemplary - shining, slippery and packed to the rafters - and the xiao long bao is tip top. All of them stand out, but it’s the bathing pork dumplings bobbing about in chilli oil that we think of more often than not.
The thing that makes us saddest in life isn’t taxes or the fact that Henry Cavill will never return our calls - it’s that Imperial Treasure’s dim sum isn’t available 24/7. Sure, our minds know that dim sum is a daytime tradition, but our hearts - well, they’re greedy and want it all the time. Their dim sum is expensive but you’re paying for some of the best in London. We’re really into the xiao long bao, prawn and pork siu mai, and huge prawn toast situation, but the prawn cheung fun is our number one priority here.
Just like all freelancers should know how to claim all margaritas as a business expense on their tax return, all Londoners should know that Jen Café in Chinatown is a quick spot for a great dumpling fix. They’re very generously filled, they’re of the Beijing-style, sticky minced pork variety, and don’t tell us dreams don’t come true, because they’re also only a fiver. Remember, there is no such thing as too much chilli oil here.
Seeing a stack of bamboo steamers appear before you at Beijing Dumpling is sort of like Christmas morning for adults with a real thing for pork xiao long bao. This unassuming little spot on Lisle Street is making big-deal dumplings. We’re talking seafood dumplings that are salty and sippable, pan fried pork dumplings that are totally simple in the best possible way, and those spicy soup dumplings that we’ll always return to. And the best part is this place is super affordable.
Har gau and siu mai are where you want to start at this kind-of cool, kind-of casual restaurant, with branches in Victoria Park and Clapton. The prawn and pork filled siu mai are juicy and a little salty, while the har gau are our idea of a prawn-packed bundle of joy. All they require is your love, attention, and some of MNTD’s deceptively oomph-filled chilli oil. Don’t forget a portion of crispy won ton and a plate of choy sum, but also, don’t reload too quickly. You’re going to want to leave space for the chocolate dumplings, little crispy rolls filled with gooey chocolate, served with vanilla ice cream, and caramel dipping sauce.
We have a very complicated relationship with Din Tai Fung. Our therapists are pretty sure it relates back to a traumatic queuing experience involving Thorpe Park and a melted ice cream when we were six. Or maybe, it’s just the fact that we just really, fucking love dumplings and have no patience. You see, to get to Din Tai Fung’s world-renowned soup dumplings you’re probably going to have to queue first. Is it worth it? Yes. Especially if you also get involved in the prawn and pork shao mai on top of the go-to xiao long bao order.
Listen carefully, there are a lot of dumplings on the menu at My Old Place. Distractions. Road bumps on your journey to excellent dumps. Because the best dumplings at this old school Chinese restaurant are at the bottom of the back pages of the menu. We repeat, bottom, back pages, and you’re looking for the words ‘pork’ and ‘chive’. You can thank us later. They’re some of our all-time favourites, especially once smothered in chilli oil.
Including Redfarm on this list was a tough call for us. It involved many sleepless nights. Okay, there weren’t any sleepless nights but the thing you should know, is that Redfarm dumplings are mostly tasty, but not exceptional. Why include them then? Because they are definitely amongst the most fun dumplings in London. From their little pac man shrimp dumplings to the pork and crab soup dumplings that come with a candy-stripe straw, this is where you should go when you want dumplings that’ll make you smile.