“So where do you want to go for lunch?”
“Anywhere but Chinese. We have had it 5 times in a row!”
15 minutes later, pondering over the menu….
“Naaah…We had them last time…let’s see what else they have ”
Another 15 minutes later…
“These dumplings are THE best! But we are not eating Chinese again!!”
This seems to be a conversation we have every other week. And it surely will be one that we will continue to have every time we contemplate lunch.
Our first moments of gluttony induced self-realization happened over a bowl of Xiaolongbao (Soup Dumplings). We found a certain level of comradery that triggered our quest for hunting down the best bites in the Big D (Kidding! No one calls Dallas that!). The following are not just the 5 places we frequent. They are our Fab 5 Chinese hangouts where we can dwell in some good sriracha-dipped, soy-dripping laughter, fun and of course, some great food.
The reason why this off-beat gem drew the short end of the stick is for no fault of its own. We only recently came to know of its existence. With roots dating back to its flagship in Seattle, Sichuan Cuisine is a go-to place for spice worshipers (like us). One must have the Ma Po Tofu – ground pork and soft tofu in blistering hot sauce.
Fish lovers like yours truly, can’t stay away from Boiled fish on a bed of napa cabbage, generously sprinkled with huā jiāo (Sichuan peppers).
Vegetarians can be seen chomping on some Stir fried string beans and the MaPo Tofu minus the pork. The decor’s nothing to write home about but that doesn’t deter the likes of us, who are always welcomed with a smile.
Dallas isn’t the place to be if you love your noodles made, hand pulled, cooked and served right in front of you. But it is the place where you find just that. At Royal China, chefs magically procure strings of fresh Lanzhou Lamian (thin, round noodles) from thin air and turn them into their signature Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup.
Delicious as it may sound (and indeed, it is!) we come here to hit the bar. Dumpling bar to be precise. Here, they offer you a sampler of some of the best dumplings the city has to offer. Many also flock for their Xiaolongbao, but we go gaga over their Gwa-Bao (tender pork belly in buns with pickled vegetables).
This recent addition to the Dallas food scene is tucked away in a strip mall between a fitness center and a bank. Although a stop at the bank is not required to eat here (it’s quite affordable for the portion size), you may want to up the incline on that treadmill after a lunch here! The star of this show is their namesake – BBQ pork. Crispy and tender at the same time, you can feast your eyes on one hanging next to the cash register before you even dig into your first bite. Roast duck and pork are equally good and patrons are finding the dim sums here a close alternative to the crowded Kirin Court close by. Another one of our favorite is the Black Cod with bean curd hot pot. It comes on a sizzling metal plate – folded in a gravy of fried cod, bean curd and shiitake mushrooms. Have it with Chicken and salted fish fried rice and a bed of braised vegetables. Go on. That treadmill won’t run on its own!
In Deep Ellum, tucked away from all the artsy weekenders, you can find Maurice the monkey king, hard at work to get you your next batch of freshly made noodle soup. Monkey King Noodle may not be authentic Chinese (it’s a blend of Chinese and Taiwanese street food) and the limited seating could alter the convictions of a determined many. But one glance and you will see the line snake around the block like Maurice’s tail! Must.try. Xiaolongbao. Stuffed with pork in a medley of seafood and chicken broth – they just explode in your mouth! But, no matter how much you want to, DO NOT eat the whole thing at once! (For those new to Soup Dumplings, Red Farm’s Ed Schoenfeld has a couple of ways to do it right here.) Another must-eat at Monkey King are their DanDan Noodles. A sweet and spicy mix of ground pork and fresh noodles with a splash of chicken broth. Get one and you are done!
If you ever find yourself in this crown of Richardson’s Chinatown, order the dumplings. They have been a crowd favorite even before they moved into the current bigger and better location from down the complex. The dumplings are done 2 ways – steamed and boiled. Both equally scrumptious. The boiled ones have a thicker wrapper to keep all the juices within while the steamed ones are light as air. We have ordered each of these bite-sized marvels ( so you don’t have to!) – including the recently added boiled fish and juicy steamed ones. They get it right every single time. Their Green onion pancakes are the best we have had in the entire country (trust us, we have had our share!). If by some miracle you still want more, take your pick from their Soup noodles, Seasonal vegetables and Hot pots. The new location also boasts of a cafe that serves an array of Chinese and European desserts that round up a well-indulged dinner. Tip: They serve traditional Moon Cakes during Moon Festival. Perfect for gifting.
There you go! It’s our Fab 5 Chinese restaurants in the city. If you ever head to one, let us know about your experience. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tell us in person. We will be the 2 girls laughing away in a corner, trying (and failing miserably) to keep those dumplings in!
Don’t forget to check out more of our exploits on instagram