There are two good reasons to head to Shandong Mama Mini. Firstly the dumplings are not your typical Beijing or Shanghai offering, instead they are semi-wrapped morsels that have been pan fried only on one side in the Shandong style. Second is that they stay open from lunch through to dinner, so when you find yourself trapped at a desk and miss the lunch rush, Mama Mini is still open and ready for business.
The owners of Shandong Mama Mini also have a super busy restaurant off Bourke St called “Shandong Mama”, which does cause confusion for people looking for the little haunt on Centre Place. The mini menu is trimmed down, with a range of tempting fillings for the dumplings, a couple of steamed bun options and an ever changing choice of daily iced tea in the summer or hot tea in the winter.
The fish dumplings are what Mama is most famous for, but we like the “Melbourne” and chicken dumplings best for their perky flavours. A little trolley with vinegar and chilli completes the experience. Dip your hot dumplings into the cool vinegar to get the perfect balance of heat and meat.
It’s a small venue that fills up quickly in peak hour but settles down to a peaceful hum once the suits head back to their offices. Dumplings come in small servings for one, or large servings to be shared. The deep fried lotus root chips are lip smacking good, and offer a salty contrast to a tall glass of ice cold lemon tea.
We love this blend of China and Melbourne, right down to naming one of the best Shandong dumplings after our beloved city.