Photos by Rochelle Li, Words Natalie Goldberg
Some chilly Boston winter nights call for the warm, satisfying flavor of a bowl of wonton soup. Since trying pho noodle soup, I have been drawn away from the classic Chinese takeout version and more towards soups with light, but wholesome, shrimp and pork dumplings. While craving these unique asian flavors, I came across the concept of a soup dumpling. “What do you mean the soup is INSIDE the dumpling?” I asked my friend, perplexed at the idea of biting into a giant dumpling filled with all the savory flavors I craved from quality, umami-packed broth.
I ventured to Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown, anxious to experience it first-hand. This tiny, one room restaurant is constantly packed with bustling customers and wait staff, but we luckily got seated relatively quickly because we arrived at an off-time. The authenticity overwhelmed me as I stared at the menu without knowing how to start ordering, or even what many of the items on this multi-page menu even contained. Luckily, my friend knew exactly what to order; Xiao Long Bao, Mini Juicy Dumplings with Pork, or simply “soup dumplings.” The food came out so quickly that we hadn’t even had the chance to sip our green tea as waiters flew around the room taking orders and dropping them off in a matter of minutes.
The soup dumplings were definitely the star of the show. They arrive steaming hot in a tin as they sit there, 7 steamed bun pockets of molten-hot broth with a delicious pork filling bite. Eating these dumplings is an art; attempting to take a large bite of the entire thing will leave you with a burnt tongue and a splash of broth all over your lap. The key to eating these is to plop the entire thing onto the large, white spoon, nibble at one end of the dumpling, slowly slurp the umami soup broth out, and finish off the pork filling and delicate outside in a few bites. I definitely burnt my mouth on the steamy broth on the first bite, but the flavors were rich, salty, and complemented the savory pork morsel.
With the rest of the food calling my name, I struggled to finish half the soup dumplings, but could not get enough of the feel-good flavors that warmed me up on a chilly night. We also had to try Vegetarian Dumplings, Singapore noodles, and an order of Vegetarian Treasures. The vegetarian dumplings, filled with a combination of vegetables without the heavy broth, offered a light, flavorful contrast to the filling soup dumplings.
I am not one for spicy food, but the heaping, bright yellow plate of Singapore Noodles had a bold kick to them that I could not resist. Complemented by yellow curry, these thin, delicate noodles, paired with chicken and sliced onions, carried a punch in every bite. At first, I tasted the unique taste of the curry, which blasted my tongue with its hearty flavor. Then, the spice came in. It was not an overwhelming-mouth-on-fire kind of spice, but a gentle kick that my palate welcomed as a change from the rest of the food on the table. Despite the fiery aftermath, I could not get enough of the hearty curry flavor.
To balance the spice of the Singapore Noodles, we had an order of the Vegetarian Treasures, which combined small purple eggplant, green peppers, and sliced potatoes in a garlicky, rich brown sauce. This dish provided the typical Chinese flavors that I craved, while offering a more authentic flare with the vegetable combination and lightness of the sauce.
I would highly recommend taking the trip to Gourmet Dumpling House to experience a fast-paced, wholesome meal full of unique flavors that have an addictive quality to them. Though the complexity of asian food has intimidated me in the past, the more authentic restaurant experiences I encounter, the more foodie adventures I embark on in our vibrant city. Bring some friends, order a bunch of food off of the menu, delve into some soup dumplings, and try something new!
Gourmet Dumpling House
52 Beach Street
Boston, MA 02111
Open Daily 11:00am-11:30pm