Ten Steps to Picking a Good Dumpling Shop in Taiwan

26 05 2009
Uh-huh, that's what I'm talking about. This one's got the GOODS.

Uh-huh, that's what I'm talking about. This one's got the GOODS.

I’ve found the best dumpling place in Taiwan. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a top-ten list for at least the last decade, but I’m finally ready to commit. If you want to know which shop it is, you’ll need to read til the end.

First, how does one identify a good dumpling shop? There are ten sure-fire steps. The first five require surveying the shop itself. Then, if the shop passes muster on the visual front, move on to steps 6-10. After all, if you really want to know how they taste, you’re going to need to put some of them in your mouth. Duh.

First, what you need to look for before you enter the shop:

Dumpling Wrapping1.) It needs to be a total hole-in-the-wall. There should be no “door”, just an open storefront with no decor on the walls. Stools are a must, and air-con is optional.

2.) You need to see people actually wrapping the dumplings on the premises.

3.) The dumpling wrapping needs to be conducted at a frantic pace which would suggest they can barely keep up with the demand.

4.) The dumplings should be cooked in a big bubbling, steaming vat by the entrance. You can also tell how good the dumplings are by how smooth the dumpling cooker’s skin is (read: homemade facial).

5.) There should be ancient members of staff, possibly with an unplaceable regional accent from China, definitely with a bad attitude.

And if the shop possess 1-5, then move on to 6-10:

Hot + Sour Soup6.) The dumplings need to be fat, not too wet, and have nice chewy skins. Interesting varieties of dumplings aren’t necessary, but you need a good, solid filling with flavorful pork, and pieces of cabbage with its own distinct texture and flavor. Pureed fillings are NOT okay.

7.) Look around for a refrigerated glass case with little dishes (小菜) — maybe some chopped cucumber with garlic and peppers, or a nice dish of pickled cabbage.

8.) Even better, look for someone chopping up rings of green seaweed, spongey tofu and hard-boiled eggs.

9.) A good hot and sour soup always wins the shop some extra points.

10.) Look for fresh, whole cloves of garlic that you can peel yourself and eat raw with your dumplings, Shandong-style.

And my favorite dumpling shop in Taiwan (drumroll please)…

3-5-Homemade Dumpling Shop: 三五手工水餃生鮮專賣店
No. 17, Minsheng W. Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei
台北市中山區民生西路17號 /  (02) 2523-3132

Near Shuanglian MRT Station, Exit 2. There are two adjoining storefronts, but usually only one is open at any given time. And believe it or not, they now have a web site!

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13 responses

26 05 2009
Anne C.

Let’s meet at this dumpling shop next Sunday!

27 05 2009
taiwandroo

YEAH, baby! There are some other great places in the neighborhood that I’d love to take you, too!

27 05 2009
@MatthewHooper

You forgot to add that there should be a long line. Things in Taipei aren’t good unless there is a long line.

27 05 2009
taiwandroo

True, true, the long line is a good sign in Taipei — the whole “swarm of bees mentality”. But at a dumpling shop? I’ve yet to see that!

28 05 2009
Claire

There is a great guotie shack in Yonghe which people actually do queue for

28 05 2009
taiwandroo

Where? Where!!!??? You’re killin’ me with anticipation!

27 05 2009
Sarah

Yum! Can I join the Sunday dumpling date? Okay, you also have to come try the place in my neighborhood. They have the best shrimp and melon dumplings and the skins are so yummy soft. All other steps apply. : )

27 05 2009
taiwandroo

I’ll have dumplings with you any day! And what’s this about dumplings in your neighborhood? Why’m I always the last to know these things? 😉

11 07 2009
eastdragon

Hey, this is very near where I live! Let me know the next time u go, Andrew, & I’ll try to join u! 🙂

L

11 07 2009
taiwandroo

Really?! How did I not know this? Are you ever there at lunchtime?

11 07 2009
eastdragon

I could’ve sworn u knew that I lived by the Grand Hotel MRT Station… but yeah, it’s relatively near my place. Unsure if I’ve ever even been to this particular dumpling store (but I doubt I have). Lunchtime there on a weekend would work for me (lunchtime Mon-Fri I’m kind of stuck in the Zhongxiao / Dunhua area…)

L

6 10 2009
Shane

I disagree about the long-line thing. Until a few months ago I would have agreed, but a few days ago my very favorite dumpling shop closed down because they never had any customers. They easily had the best dumplings in Hsinchu that I ever ate (actually the best period).

Meanwhile the shiny joint down the road, selling dry, flavorless cardboard in the shape of dumplings, survives. F*** the long-line.

10 10 2009
taiwandroo

Wow. That sucks. I stand corrected!

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