Pizza has long dominated the conversation, we all scream for ice cream and tacos took over a full-on day of the week. But why on earth aren’t we talking more about dumplings?
Many cultures have a version of wrapping up delicious fillings inside a chewy dough, but China is the dumpling capital of the world, so let’s start there. And let’s narrow it down even further, to the crescent-shaped dumplings that have gained a following here in America, packed with stuffings like ginger-laced pork, steamed shrimp with chive and shitake mushrooms. These types of dumplings take up only a mere corner in the dumpling world, but it’s a very tasty corner, and one we’ll happily explore.
Here in Boulder, we’re lucky to have some outstanding dumplings representing this corner, from three restaurants that specialize in traditional Chinese cooking. Here, where to get your fill of the steamy, bursting pockets we should be talking about more.
Zoe Ma Ma
“Ma Ma” is Anna Zoe, and at Zoe Ma Ma she’s cooking the kind of comfort food that she’s fed her son, Edwin, all his life. When the Zoes opened just off Pearl Street more than a decade ago, eschewing the Americanized Chinese food so popular here was a big gamble. Spoiler alert: The gamble paid off.
You can’t grab a noodle or rice bowl without starting with an order of dumplings, and we’re partial to Ma Ma’s Potstickers. Described as a “top secret family recipe made with pork, shrimp, garlic, chive and vegetables,” these golden brown, juicy little suckers are downright addictive. Ma Ma also makes a soft vegan dumpling filled with tofu and shiitake mushrooms. 2010 10th St., 303.545.6262; ZoeMaMa.com
Mason’s Dumpling Shop
Mason’s originally got rolling in Los Angeles, California, but for their third and fourth locations, wife and husband team Michelle Wu and Ker Zhu moved out to Colorado. Following a successful Aurora opening at the height of the pandemic, they debuted a restaurant in Boulder this summer, and we’ve been gobbling up their vast menu of boiled, steamed and pan-fried dumplings since day one.
With a dozen dumplings on the menu, we don’t have the space to tell you about all of them (plus, we trust you’ll want to do a full taste testing yourself), but highlights include the pan-fried beef with cheese and onion, the hefty chive pockets with pork, egg and glass noodles and the boiled cabbage, pork and shrimp dumplings. 3060 Pearl St., 720.899.5618; MasonsDumplingShop.com/Boulder/
With a tagline of “authentic Chinese home cooking,” Flower Pepper’s home cooking was started by Jeff (Tao) Gao and then continued by longtime Beijing resident-turned-Boulderite Nancy Wang when Gao left the restaurant in 2016. Wang cooks up specialties from all over China, from Shanghai to the northern provinces to Yunnan.
There are six dumplings on Flower Pepper’s menu: pork and cabbage, garlicky Chinese leek and egg, chicken and shitake, pork and leek, steamed soup and pork wonton soup. They’re all handmade, imperfectly pleated or pinched together, then either boiled or steamed and served with an ideal dipping sauce. 2655 Broadway, 720.381.1594; FlowerPepperEats.com