Passion for Pork

Happy Chinese New Year – 3 pork dumplings to eat during the new year!

Mijune - Thursday, February 26, 2015

Celebrate Chinese New Year’s with pork dumplings!


Oh man! I hate writing about Chinese New Year. Well, I don’t hate it, but I find it extremely difficult. The cuisine is so rich and deep in history and there are so many traditional foods to eat during this time. Simply making a list of three or five things barely scratches the surface, so I’m just sticking to dumplings – arguably one of the most important and popular things to eat during Chinese New Year. From perogies to gyoza to ravioli to matzah balls, dumplings take different shape and form in every city and culture. Even within China and Chinese culture there are hundreds of different dumplings depending on the region.

In Vancouver, we are lucky to have an abundance of excellent Cantonese style dumplings. This is what you would find at dim sum, although they can be eaten for dinner, and if so likely in the context of home.

Dumplings symbolize wealth because they are shaped like ancient Chinese gold ingots, which are boat shaped. Traditionally they are made together as a family and eaten on New Year’s Eve at midnight, but nowadays it’s common to just have them at dim sum. If making them at home, sometimes people will stuff one with a clean coin, and whoever gets the lucky dumpling will prosper in the new year.

If you plan on going the traditional route and don’t mind waiting a long time for a table (although Chinese service is usually fast, so it might be quicker than you think), I recommend trying the following pork dumplings.

Steamed Bun Filled with Pork Nanjiang Style at Top Shanghai in Richmond, BC

  • 6 pieces $4.99
  • Top Shanghai is one of the “top” places to have xiao long bao in Metro Vancouver.
  • Theses dumplings are the “tell all” and “test” of an excellent Shanghainese restaurant, and Top Shanghai was certainly off to a solid start!
  • The things they had to nail like the Malantou (above) and the Xiao Long Bao (XLB or Shanghainese soup dumplings) they did.
  • The folds were a bit rough, but nothing to be picky about.

  • They were served steaming hot and the skins were thin, yet strong enough that they didn’t rip.
  • The pork meatball was juicy and incredibly tender and it melted in my mouth with minimal chew.
  • The pork was creamy with a good amount of fat content and it was still slightly pink, but fully cooked.
  • The broth was clear with a good porky flavour and there were no green onions or other ingredients in the stuffing.
  • Although they didn’t hold the most soup I’ve had in an XLB, it was a good amount and it was well flavoured.
  • It wasn’t heavy with soy sauce, but of natural pork juices and I liked them better than the Shanghai Wonderful ones.
  • Suhang’s and the XLB’s here are my favourites so far, but the skins here were even thinner and better.

Steamed Pork Shui Mai Dumplings at Red Star Seafood Restaurant in Vancouver, BC and Richmond, BC

  • $4.25
  • These are a classic Chinese Cantonese style of dumpling served at dim sum.
  • These were fantastic and I honestly feel like they were different from the ones I tried at their Richmond location. I could taste some 5 spice powder sprinkled on top of the shui mai the last time I had them – see here.
  • They were about 75% prawn and I barely had any pork, which is quite amazing. Usually it’s the other way around to save costs.
  • I could have used more Shiitake mushrooms though because there were only 2 slivers and I couldn’t taste their sweet impact.
  • They were juicy and well flavoured with a nice crunch from fresh prawn, but the skins were a bit dry and sticky.

Gyoza at Nan Chuu Japanese Izakaya in Richmond, BC 

  • $5.25
  • Just because they’re not Chinese, doesn’t mean they should count!
  • Dumplings from any culture are good luck, and good is good! Fill up on as many from as many different cultures and cuisines.
  • The gyoza is signature to the restaurant brand, so it’s almost a must try.
  • As a gyoza, it was better than most gyoza, but it was still just a gyoza.
  • They were house made and fried pretty perfectly with nice crispy bottoms. However I think they sat a bit before serving because they weren’t as crispy as they looked.

  • The skins were nice and thin and not too chewy or doughy and they were stuffed with a good quality pork mixture and big pieces of chives.
  • The pork was lightly seasoned with soy, tender and moist, but not super juicy either.
  • It wasn’t strong with sesame oil or ginger and they were made with care and attention.