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Five Of The Best Chinese Dumplings In Chicago

By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 13, 2013 4:00PM

Everyone loves dumplings. Whether steamed, pan fried, pot stickers, bao or even (as Rob Christopher argues below) crab rangoon, wrapping tasty things in tasty dough just makes them better. Plus, they are easier to eat.

Here are some of our favorite dumplings all over Chicago. The category is as broad as can be; if it's wrapped in dough, we think it counts. These aren't the most foodie-authentic, rare or highbrow doughballs, but they are the ones that we think are tastiest. Have more for us to try? Drop them in the comments.

Photo via Shutterstock.

XIAO LONG BAO: I fell for xiao long bao—thin-skinned dumplings stuffed with pork and a small amount of broth—when I was in Taiwan a couple of years ago. In Chicago, I've had them at Moon Palace, where the dumplings aren't as good as those I had in Asia (I think everyone says this about xiao long bao), but they'll fulfill my cravings until I can get back there. Order them first and eat them fast—xiao long bao are best hot and they don't travel well at all. - Amy Cavanaugh.
Moon Palace is located at 216 W. Cermak Road

CHENGDU DUMPLINGS: I ordered them randomly, as working my way through the entire Lao Szechuan menu was ranking high on my list of priorities at the time. I was 22 when I first had chengdu dumplings. The waitress (my favorite one, with the high ponytail and the ferocious protecting of the waiting list) warned me they would take extra time. She was managing my expectations, sure, but also making me hungrier. When the dish came out, I was reminded of pierogies. The silky little dumplings were bathed in a gritty bath of chilies in oil—a nod to the fiery cuisine of their namesake province—and the pork mixture inside was juicy and hot. I've never been a fan of the doughy dim-sum style dumpling, which has an overly high bread-to-meat ration. And potstickers are too infrequently done well (and often come frozen from bags) to be taken seriously as an art form. No, for me it's the chengdu dumplings at Lao Sze Chuan that are the best dumplings to be found anywhere in Chicago. Spring World (RIP) would be the runner-up. - Erin Drain
Lao Sze Chuan is located at 2172 S Archer Avenue

FRIED BUNS: They may be on the appetizer menu, but don't be fooled. The fried buns with condensed milk at Lao Hunan are really just an excuse to have dessert before dinner. These buns are like donut holes that you get to glaze yourself. Dainty eaters dip them in the milk, but I just pour the milk everywhere, Krispy Kreme assembly line style. They may not be stuffed with pork, but for me, they are stuffed with happiness. - Anthony Todd
Lao Hunan is at 2230 S. Wentworth Avenue

CRAB RANGOON: How long does it take a so-called "inauthentic" dish to become "authentic"? Crab Rangoon was supposedly invented by a chef at Trader Vic's in the mid-1950's; so even though it's not actually from Asia, the dish is more than 50 years old at this point. That's authentic enough for me. Lots of establishments do Crab Rangoon proud, but arguably my favorite rendition is from Joy's. Compact bundles of crab, cream cheese, and scallions stuffed into a wonton wrapper and deep fried until golden crispy, they're disarmingly delicate. I love how the crunchy exterior shell combines with the semi-molten filling. But what really makes Joy's Crab Rangoon stand out is the accompanying dipping sauce: a vinegary sweet and sour sauce with a hint of fire, thanks to flecks of chili. Faux-dumpling it may be, but Joy's Crab Rangoon is genuinely yummy. - Rob Christopher
Joy's is at 3257 N. Broadway Avenue

DONGBEI DUMPLINGS: Fans of comfort food will find there's plenty of solace in Dongbei cuisine from the northeast region of China. The dumplings in Dongbei cooking are denser and chewier than their cousins in the other parts of the country and are often filled with meats and hearty vegetables that manage to thrive in the region's winter climes. Northern City in Bridgeport is a new addition to the Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood (among them the iconic Ed's Potsticker House) and has a deep menu of Northern Chinese dishes including a Northern-style steamed dumpling that will send you to sleep once you've licked your plate clean. An order of nine dumplings will set you back $8.95; what you do with the nickel you save is your business. — Chuck Sudo
Northern City is located at 742 W. 31st Street; 312-842-9677.