Opened by a Hong Kong transplant, relative newcomer Bess’s Cafe has put Brookline on the dumpling map. While most dumpling dishes are paired with a side sauce for dipping, Bess’s Chicken Dumplings with Sichuan Sauce (Spicy) come submerged in an oily, spicy sauce that gels perfectly with their starchy wrapping. But it’s not the only dumpling of renown served by this 14-seater: Pork enthusiasts will find a lot to love in those extra-fatty Pork Belly buns.
Dumplings may be as close as we get to a universally beloved food. Whether they’re filled with pork and pan-fried or full of vegetables and steamed, these stuffed starch packets are what comfort food dreams are made of. From Chinatown to Brookline, Greater Boston has no shortage of places to get your fill.
There’s no shortage of cuisine to explore at Myers + Chang, Joanne Chang’s South End spot inspired by Asian street food, but we keep coming back to the Mama Chang’s Pork + Chive dumplings. Porky, starchy, oh-so-crispy, and served with a savory sauce: They’re the perfect expression of dumplings as comfort food. If you’re eschewing pork, spring for the lighter Lemony Shrimp dumplings or the vegetarian-friendly Curry Sweet Potato dumplings.
Gourmet Dumpling House
Chinatown’s Gourmet Dumpling House—along with its newer, larger location in Cambridge—has earned a special place in dumpling-seekers’ hearts thanks to its soup dumplings. Labeled “Mini Juicy Dumplings with Pork” or “Mini Juicy Dumplings with Pork and Crabmeat” on the menu, these piping-hot folded wonders require a spoon and a generous cooling-off period. The garlicky Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings and the mighty Pan Fried Pork Buns are also worth a try. Expect to wait in line.
The 10 varieties of dumpling served at Chinatown’s Dumpling Cafe run the gamut from wontons to molten soup dumplings—look for “Mini Juicy Buns” on the menu—to mammoth duck buns that are almost a meal in themselves. Its 2 a.m. closing time has also made it a favorite among dumpling-loving night owls. For an even later option, make a dash toward Fenway to its sister restaurant Dumpling Palace, which doesn’t hang it up until 3 a.m.
Remixing traditional Chinese flavors is Mei Mei’s bread and butter, a philosophy that extends to their folded offerings. The counter-service Fenway spot is also vegetarian-friendly, serving the bean-squash-and-corn-stuffed Three Sisters Dumplings in pepper jelly sauce, plus the potato and cheese Pierogi Dumplings that look suspiciously like gyoza. But should you go the carnivorous route and opt for the Lemongrass Pork Dumplings, take satisfaction in the fact that the meat is pasture-raised and sourced within 250 miles of Boston.