Food and Drink


Keeping it in the family

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Until about three months ago dumpling places were popping up almost as quickly as food trucks and Mexican restaurants. Does that officially make then retro now? I dunno, but I do know the dumplings at Northeast China Family taste just dandy.

Sitting near the busy corner of Elizabeth and Flinders Lane, Northeast China Family has long queues and a sign in the window declaring ‘traditional dumplings’. It’s enough for me, so last Friday I dragged a friend along to see what all the fuss was all about.

Inside the high-ceilinged space staff are uniformly dressed in green and gold ‘Australia’ rugby tops, I’m not sure if this is a casual Friday thing or the patriotic spirit beats strong at NECF.

On the menu there’s a dozen dumplings and wontons to choose from, with interesting fillings like pork and pickled Chinese cabbage (15 pcs/$9) and leek, shrimp and egg (15 pcs/$11). Getting your dumplings fried will set you back an extra dollar bill.

If dumplings aren’t your thing there’s the usual rice and noodle dishes, plus some intriguing entrees like cold sea weed and the enigmatic ‘sauced beef’.

We go with the pork and pickled Chinese cabbage dumplings and the good ol’ pork as our control dish. To mix things up we get the entrée of pancake stuffed with beef (2 for $7) and a pair of Tsingtao to wash it all down.

I don’t know how they do things in North East China, but I suspect it isn’t by halves. Our dumplings are the size of hefty nuggets and pancakes the size of large pies – a heart and belly-warming sight.

The pork and pickled dumplings are excellent – the the cabbage adds a slightly sour, almost kimchi streak. Less impressive are the fried pork dumplings. While the casing was pleasingly chewy, the filling wasn’t anything to write home about. Bringing up the mean is the beef pancake, which looks like a flattened meat pie and tastes like one too. Soft, buttery pastry filled with spiced discs of beef. Not the taste I was expecting in a dumpling joint, but a happy surprise.

But perhaps best of all is NECF’s hot sauce – somewhere between chilli oil and Sriracha. This stuff is like crack cocaine, I slap it over everything and would happily pay for it.

We roll out of Northeast China Family with our bellies and wallets full. It isn’t the finest dining in town, but if you want lots to eat, you want it tasty and you want it cheapish amble on over. Make sure you try the hot sauce.

Northeast China Family
302 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
9629 9968
Mon – Sun 11am – 9pm


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