Dumplings at Qingdao Garden

I’ve been mesmerized by Kenji’s tales from Serious Eats about his trip to China, and when he mentioned how the dumplings at Qingdao Garden were his gold standard (at least before he had them in China!), I knew I had to make a return trip the next time I was in Cambridge.

It had been several years since my last visit, and I was none too impressed by the dumplings then (I’ve been completely spoiled growing up with  my mom’s homemade dumplings!), but was eager to give them another shot.

It’s a fairly small space (6 tables of four seaters), and it’s not the most upscale ambiance. The floor is tile, the dishes are usually chipped, and the service is minimal – it’s mostly a takeout kind of place, and half the tables were full when I came in. Thankfully the space was cool since we’re currently in the middle of a heat wave!

Since I was alone (in town for business!) I was only able to order one order of dumplings (pork and cabbage) and an order of Lamb with Cumin.

The Cumin Lamb arrived with a side of requested brown rice (I figured I needed something that resembled something “healthy”) – and it was wonderfully cumin-y which I really enjoyed. My husband isn’t the biggest fan of cumin (he hates the smell and taste), so I don’t get to eat anything with cumin unless he’s not with me!

The cumin lamb was deliciously fatty and super tender – I had expected it to be more crispy than it was, and spicy – but it wasn’t spicy at all which was fine.

Then – the pièce de rèsistance – the dumplings!

The dumplings I had years ago had super thick chewy skins but these had thin skins that kept the juicy interior perfectly cocooned. And they’re obviously handmade which lends a rustic touch!

With some black vinegar, these were heavenly! SO juicy (as I bit into one, it squirted across the table), and so flavorful – I wished that I had ordered just an array of dumplings for dinner!

I devoured the entire plate of dumplings and left half of my lamb behind – they offered to wrap it up for me, but it would’ve just gone to waste at my hotel room.

I love hole-in-the-wall destinations that excel at a few of items, and Qingdao Garden did not disappoint! I will have to make a trip back to try other Northern Chinese cooking.


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