Cheap Eats 2015: Dumplings
571 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
Newly renovated and expanded, and busier than ever, Barilla is the beating heart of the Dominion Rd/Balmoral precinct. Why? Maybe it’s the big fat juicy pork-and-fennel dumplings, or maybe it’s those fried french beans with spicy salt. Don’t forget to take some frozen dumplings home with you.
39 Pearn Place, Northcote
The dumplings are very good in this little restaurant, but it’s the noodles that make the joint. The owners are from Shaanxi in China’s west, so you’ll find Sichuan-style chilli and hand-shaved noodles, which are a specialty of the area — thick and lumpy, they go well with a side of chicken “gizzards”, chargrilled and dusted with cumin and chilli powder. Yum.
105 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
One of our judges admits that in the middle of rushing round eating at other places, she just had to join the crowds at Eden Noodles and “get some of those dumplings ‘in spicy sauce’”. The hand-pulled dan dan noodles are magnificent, too, and they don’t skimp on the tongue-numbing Sichuan pepper. It’s not much to look at, this place, which makes it perfect for a first date. Assuming, that is, you’re only interested in other food lovers.
248 Dominion Rd, Mt Eden
Jolin is not the only restaurant in town to serve xiao long bao, the dumplings with soup in them, but we confess it’s still our favourite. Sweet, hot, so tasty, such a treat. We’re very partial to the lamb with cumin seeds, too, and the braised pork belly, served in a single large piece with bok choy, is magnificent.
205 Great South Rd, Greenlane
The menu here is similar to that of sister restaurant Selera (see below) but it has been tweaked to include customer requests such as beef noodle soup, steamed pork dumplings and some vegetarian options. Selera’s famous curry laksa is also on offer (chicken, seafood or vegetable). Extensive rice dishes — from fried to Mama village rice, pandan chicken rice, and dirty rice, as well as Hainanese chicken rice — are other popular options.
MR ZHOU’S DUMPLINGS
3130 Great North Rd, New Lynn
Mr Zhou used to own New Flavour, but when that got a bit tiring, he sold up and moved to New Lynn for the quiet life — at which point dumpling obsessives started heading west and Mr Zhou found himself as busy as ever. The classics are all there: lumpy handmade dumplings, cucumber salad, the shredded potato. Just go now.
541 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
A frontrunner in the Dominion Rd dumpling wars, New Flavour is always busy. Try the 20 different dumpling flavours, but don’t stop there. The salads are great: cucumber and sliced dried tofu; shredded potato; mixed vegetable with peanuts. Other dishes also beckon: a terrific fried eggplant with sticky toppings, the spring onion pancake, the deep-fried chicken strips with cumin. And for afters, there’s an excellent sweet bean paste pancake.
SHAOLIN KUNG FU NOODLES
636 Dominion Rd, Balmoral
The sound of noodle dough banging on the kitchen counter greets you at Shaolin: be sure to order something with “hand-pulled” noodles in it. The food is heavily influenced by the cuisine of Henan, which in turn is very Muslim — not what you think of as Chinese food. We’re pretty fond of the Xinjiang noodles fried with cumin and lamb and chilli; the kung fu soup, meanwhile, with chunks of lamb and those noodles, is brilliant. Also at 486 Queen St in the central city.
To determine Auckland’s top 100 cheap eats 2015, the Metro judges considered the claims of 314 places: restaurants, takeaway bars, holes in the wall, food trucks and pop-ups, where you can buy dinner for not much more than $20, not counting whatever you want to spend on drinks. The full list can be found in the September issue.