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Din Tai Fung at Centre Point Tottenham Court Road: Xiaolongbao dumplings on the menu at Din Tai Fung’s first London restaurant opening

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Where to Eat Chinese Dumplings in London

A guide for the dumpling completist, spanning plump wontons, exacting xiao long bao, and everything in between

Tomas Jivanda

As Chinese New Year approaches every twelve months, dozens of food guides will advise eating dumplings as a sign of prosperity for the coming new lunar year. The more someone eats, the richer they will be, or so it goes. The reasons for this may seem unclear, until realising that pretty much all Chinese food traditions were invented for ulterior motives — in this case, by greedy people who wanted an excuse to eat their whole weight in dumplings and didn’t have to concern themselves with the process of making them themselves. And why not? Is there a better, more auspicious way to start a new year than eating dumplings?

Ceremonial import aside, dumplings are perhaps China’s most profound mark on the history of food. First inventing them, turning what would otherwise be a boring dinner into a lavish treat by the simple act of wrapping a filling in dough, and then formalising the rules of the game with dim sum. Other cultures soon cottoned on to the trick, but there is still nowhere else in the world that comes close in terms of variety: from steamed to fried, boiled to souped, crimped, folded, spherical, oblong and moon shaped — every Chinese dumpling is a little ode to the joy of the small, to the joy of one perfect bite.

London has absorbed several waves of Cantonese immigration, as well as more recent arrivals from other Chinese areas, making it well placed to be the dumpling capital of Europe.

London’s restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars reopen for indoor service from 17 May, with the rule of six in place. Customers can check with individual venues to determine their availability and Covid-secure measures before deciding to visit.


London’s best Chinese dumplings include these wontons in soup with spring onion at Wong Kei
Pre-chilli oil
Wong Kei London

Wonton 雲吞

Ah, the wonton. In the alignment chart of dumplings this is the true neutral, at home in soups or in chilli oil, filled with a Schrödinger meat that resembles pork but has been skilfully engineered to have the sweetness of prawn. There are many places to get decent versions: at Cafe TPT it’s possible to have them drenched in chilli oil as a starter, where their long elephant ear flaps soak it up marvellously. At Reindeer Cafe in Cricklewood, the wonton soup is precise and clear, bobbing with fat prawn-sweet dumplings, but there’s something about the version at Wong Kei that defies explanation. Questionable dumplings, a broth that fizzes with MSG, piping hot, filled with chilli oil and less than £5, it’s the only truly irreplaceable wonton soup in London.

  • Cafe TPT | 21 Wardour Street, Soho W1D 6PN [T/A]
  • Reindeer Cafe | Wing Yip Business Centre, 395 Edgware Road, Cricklewood NW2 6LN
  • Wong Kei | 41 - 43 Wardour Street, Soho W1D 6PY

Dim sum at Michelin-starred A. Wong, the Chinese tasting menu restaurant in Victoria that forms part of the best 24 hour restaurant travel itinerary for London — where to eat with one day in the city
Xiao long bao and har gow at A. Wong
Ola Smit/Eater London

Siu Mai/Har Gow 燒賣/蝦餃

Ant and Dec, Morecambe and Wise, a chance to offer a contrarian take no-one asked for and Brendan O’Neill: where there is siu mai, there will always be har gow. These two dumplings exist in tandem with each other, the first true tests of any dim sum parlour. Therefore the recommendations for these go to the best dim sum places in London at every price point: Orient, Joy King Lau, Phoenix Palace and Yi-Ban for expansive venues on the cheap — the latter’s views of London City Airport are particularly stunning — Shikumen and Royal China at the mid-range; and Michelin-starred A. Wong at the high end, where the siu mai come with pork crackling (yes) and the har gow come with a rice vinegar ... Cloud?

  • Orient | 15 Wardour Street, Soho W1D 6PH
  • Joy King Lau | 3 Leicester Street, WC2H 7BL
  • Phoenix Palace | 5 Glentworth Street, Marylebone NW1 5PG
  • Yi-Ban | 1010 Dockside Road, E16 2QT
  • Shikumen | Various locations: Shepherd’s Bush; Aldgate; Finchley Road
  • Royal China Club | 40 - 42 Baker Street, Marylebone W1U 7AJ
  • A. Wong | 70 Wilton Road, Pimlico SW1V 1DE

Find London’s best Chinese dumplings at Orient, like these cheung fun
Cheung fun at Orient
Orient London [Official Photo]

Cheung Fun 腸粉

Is cheung fun a dumpling? Here’s its possible to justify its inclusion using a structure neutral policy which states that dumplings in Euclidian space do not necessarily have to be totally closed carb surfaces encasing a filling, and may in fact be semi enclosed. This guide takes a dim view on non-carb based wrappers and non-Euclidian dumplings.

Therefore, cheung fun is indeed a dumpling and some of the best are available at Orient in Chinatown — one of the few places that doesn’t get its dim sum in from the same wholesaler and instead makes them from scratch. The king prawn cheung fun here are paragons of the genre.

  • Orient | 15 Wardour Street, Soho W1D 6PH
  • Dim Sum and Duck | 124 King’s Cross Road, King’s Cross WC1X 9DS

Best restaurants in Chinatown London: Jen Cafe
Jiaozi at Jen Cafe — don’t miss those jianjiao
Cake + Whisky

Jiaozi 饺子

The chameleon of the dumpling world, jiaozi have different sub-genres depending on whether they have been boiled, steamed, fried or are in soup. However the standard usage of jiaozi usually refers to the steamed kind, which are best at the triangular, green-fronted specialist Jen Cafe. They come chubby and crimped, filled with pork mince and chive. A spartan dumpling to enjoy while watching other diners come in and order the instant noodles by mistake.

Jianjiao 煎餃

Having left Jen Cafe, turn around, and go back in to order the same again but this time fried, bronzed on one side and so transformed into jianjiao. The best extra £1 it’s possible to spend in London.

  • Jen Cafe | 4 - 8 Newport Place, WC2H 7JP

Din Tai Fung’s London restaurant menu, opening date, and dumplings
The fabled xiao long bao
Din Tai Fung [Official Photo]

Xiao Long Bao 小龙包

Xiao long bao emit an incredible amount of chaotic energy, attracting the worst kind of dumpling nerds who want skins the translucency of an amniotic sac and have strong opinions on how and whether to pierce the skin. Let people burn their mouths if they want to.

For years and years everyone was told there aren’t any great XLB in London, that Din Tai Fung need to come over. And then ... Din Tai Fung announced two restaurants and opened one restaurant, there were queues for a bit, and everyone went home, having moved on to whatever the new thing is. XLB may be the tonkotsu of dumplings but they can still be glorious in the right hands, so it’s unfortunate that those nerds are right and almost no one does them well. Din Tai Fung is still the best bet to avoid the saddest sight in all dining: an arid, desiccated xiao long bao.

  • Din Tai Fung | 5 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden WC2E 8PT
  • Dim Sum and Duck | 124 King’s Cross Road, King’s Cross WC1X 9DS

New York City restaurant RedFarm’s pastrami egg rolls and dumplings don’t impress Financial Times critic Tim Hayward
Slurp
Justin De Souza/Red Farm

Guan Tang Bao 灌汤包

The bigger, less interesting brother to the xiao long bao, the GTB takes the soup dumpling idea and crucially misses out the joyous mouth explosion of soup, instead opting for a gentle sucking approach by dint of a straw. A mutation exists at the roll out of BaoziInn where they unappealingly float in their own soup, but the dumpling completist can find more traditional versions at Beijing Dumplings in Chinatown or at Red Farm, where they are on the menu as “soup dumplings.”

  • BaoziInn | 34 - 36 Southwark Street, London Bridge SE1 1TU
  • Beijing Dumplings | 23 Lisle Street, Chinatown WC2H 7BA
  • Red Farm | 9 Russell Street, Covent Garden WC2B 5HZ

London’s best Chinese dumplings include sheng jian bao at Dumpling Shack
The finest in the city
Dumpling Shack [Official Photo]

Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包

The king of all dumplings, sheng jian bao are Shanghai’s greatest gift to the world, even more so than the xiao long bao which they surpass by virtue of being fried. Before Dumpling Shack in Spitalfields opened there was nowhere to get them, and since they opened there is still nowhere else that holds a candle. However, while not a restaurant, sheng jian bao can be picked up from Lillian of Shanghai Supper Club on certain days and times if ordered with her in advance.

Cafe TPT

21 Wardour Street, , England W1D 6PN 020 7734 7980 Visit Website

Dumpling Shack

Brushfield Street, , England E1 6BG Visit Website

Royal China Club

40-42 Baker Street, , England W1U 7AJ 020 7486 3898 Visit Website

Reindeer Cafe

395 Edgware Road, , England NW2 6LN 020 8450 3330

Jen Cafe

4-8 Newport Place, , England WC2H 7JP 07587 500959

Shikumen

58 Shepherd's Bush Green, , England W12 8QE 020 8749 9978 Visit Website

Old Spitalfields Market

16 Commercial Street, , England E1 6EW 020 7375 2963 Visit Website

A. Wong

70 Wilton Road, , England SW1V 1DE 020 7828 8931 Visit Website

Din Tai Fung

5 Henrietta Street, , England WC2E 8PT 020 3034 3888 Visit Website

Wong Kei

41-43 Wardour Street, , England W1D 6PY 020 7437 8408

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