Monday, March 11, 2013

Willoughby Dumpling House: Dedication to dumplings

I will go far and wide, north and south-west for the humble dumpling. There’s just something about thin circles of dough filled with meat and vegetables that have a hold of me.

In a quiet section near the Willoughby Hotel, the dumplings at Willoughby Dumpling House and their little Taiwanese menu friends get along extremely well with a BYO bottle of wine.

Taiwanese style shallot pancake from Willoughby Dumpling House,
Penshurst Road, Willoughby
The space is small but kitted out in a modern, nostalgic fashion that hipsters wouldn’t be uncomfortable with. The laminated menu breaks down into a number of equally tempting sections but dumplings and pancakes are a good place to start.

The shallot pancake is not your normal pan-fried, shallot-dotted flat dough – it’s deep fried and it’s better. Golden and crunchy, there’s still a soft, chewiness to the middle section and the plate is polished off hastily among the group.

Taiwanese style pancake wrap with pork floss, fried egg and house sauce
The soft, rolled egg pancake was a revelation to me – typical Taiwanese breakfast and street food, these pancakes filled with pork floss and egg omelette were pure comfort with pops of flavour from the dried and flavoured pork floss and sweet brown sauce.

Hand made steamed pork dumplings with garlic chives and shallots
I could see the steam coming off the simply steamed pork and chive dumplings, served with a chilli sauce. However, I skipped them, waiting instead for the pan fried versions which have my heart.

Hand made pan fried pork dumplings with garlic chives and shallots
The pork and chive dumplings were about as good and fresh as they get, with a real home-made flavour. The pan fried versions had a paper-thin layer of crisp nothing-ness around the dumpling bottoms that still amazes me.

Hand made pan fried prawn dumplings with bamboo shoot and coriander
Filled with a soft, white filling of minced prawn and bamboo shoot, the prawn dumplings were a lighter option than the pork but full of flavour and superb with the slow-burning chilli sauce.

Granny's rice dumpling with pork and shitake mushroom, wrapped in bamboo leaf
The glutinous rice 'Granny's rice dumpling' is one not something often seen on restaurant menus, despite its popularity in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines around festive times of the year.

Expertly pyramid-shaped and wrapped in lotus leaves, the sticky rice package is filled with pork pieces and shitake mushrooms, and seemed to have a delightful, five spice flavour through the rice. The sweet sauce and crushed peanuts atop were essentially the icing and decoration on the cake.

Steamed bun burger with pork belly, pickled mustard, coriander and peanut powder
The Chinese-style steamed man tou bun continues to have its time in the spotlight, and with winning filling combinations – like flavour-packed braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, sweet hoi sin sauce and crushed peanuts for texture – I see no reason for it to recede.

I thought the chopped pickled mustard greens really lifted the bun to enviable heights amid a city currently awash in pork buns.

Steamed bun burger with roast duck, shallot, cucumber and hoi sin sauce
There was also a version of the bun filled with roast duck, hoi sin sauce and shallots – Peking duck style with the fluffy white buns replacing the usual thin pancakes. By all accounts, it was better.

Taiwanese fried fish cake
There were double-takes as what looked like thick-cut potato chips arrived to the table. The fried fish cake that fooled us all had a decent, firm texture and was best had with the chilli.

Spicy beef noodle soup
The best spicy beef noodle places always seem to be Taiwanese. The broth in this rendition had great depth of flavour and a very noticeable spice kick, while the super-soft beef (brisket, I think) rather outshone the long white noodles.

Sung choi bao with roast duck, mushroom, onion and crispy wonton pastry
I rarely order sung choi bao when I’m eating out as they seem easily achievable in the home kitchen. But the finely diced filling here, with roast duck meat and bits of fried wonton pastry adding crispness, was spectacularly well-seasoned, giving me serious doubt that I could do similarly.

Fried rice
The Taiwanese style fried rice seemed a little more complex and substantial than the Chinese version I'm accustomed to. Tossed with dark soy sauce, egg and vegetables, the fried rice was an easy and satisfying dish to finish on.

We'd managed to completely clear a table covered in food: snack-sized plates, full-blown rice and noodle dishes, and of course, dear dumplings as the obsession continues.

Disclosure: Food, booze and shoes is acquainted with staff at Willoughby Dumpling House.

Willoughby Dumpling House on Urbanspoon


john | heneedsfood said...

Ooh yeah, I'd be holding off for the fried dumplings as well. Granny's rice dumplings looks awesome!

Jacq said...

Wow I had no idea this place existed. I thought that you guys ordered some thick cut chips before I read the caption haha. The fried dumplings look awesome with the crispy bits joining them all together!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We're saving this up for winter weather where we'll be right at home! :)

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I really thought those were hot chips, and was wondering when chinese restaurants had that on the menu! Haha. Love the deception.

milkteaxx said...

i too love a good dumplings feed and its often the tiny family run ones that produce excellent dumplings!

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

The Taiwainese pancakes with pork floss look awesome! Also loving the crispy layer on the bottom of those dumplings.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

I love those Taiwanese egg pancake rolls ^^ hehe love pork floss! Oh thoes fishcakes fooled me too! I was wondering why you ordered a plate of chips at a Taiwanese restaurant, felt a little disjointed :)

Tina said...

Hi John - Yep, they're just like Chinese 'zhong-zi'. Yummy but filling :)

Hi Jacq - Yeah, it's pretty new. I thought someone on our table ordered chips too... thought that was weird!

Hi Lorraine - Dumplings all year round for me!

Hi Tina - Yeah, felt weird/wrong at the time, but I suppose they're for eating, not looking at :D

Hi milkteaxx - Yup, love a dumpling session ;)

Hi Helen - The pancake was actually my favourite dish of the night :)

Hi Vivian - Yeah, pork floss is such a great ingredient :)


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