Last week was Lunar New Year, traditionally celebrated by many Asian cultures with special foods and traditions, like giving red envelopes and visiting family. The pandemic complicated the celebrations but conveniently, last week was also The Oregonian and Travel Portland’s Dumpling Week in Portland. This annual tradition invites restaurants around the city to showcase a special dumpling for the week, or whatever dumpling is already on their menu. This seemed like the perfect way for us to celebrate Lunar New Year. Dumplings are a symbol of prosperity and fortune because they look like little money pouches. We tried five of the participating restaurants and most of them have dumplings on their regular menus, so hopefully you can still enjoy your own personalized dumpling week, even now that the official one is over!
Mama Chow’s Kitchen is a food cart in downtown specializing in wonton soup. I am Cantonese so wonton soup was my mac and cheese growing up. Mama Chow’s is legit; its pork and shrimp wontons hit the mark for what I want and its broth is reminiscent of the many bowls I consumed as a kid. I thought I could share one order with my two kids, but alas, I will have to get each of us our own next time to prevent tears and bickering.
SW 2nd Ave.
Khao Moo Dang is a cute northern Thai restaurant on SE Hawthorne. We ordered their dumpling soup with Chinese greens and roast pork. The triangular dumplings were dense and doughy but the flavor was good. Combined with the clean tasting broth, it made for a perfect winter dinner. My kids skipped the steamed dumplings with chili oil and cilantro but happily slurped up the dumpling soup.
3145 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Grassa is a family favorite so we knew we had to go try their chicken parm ravioli. It came with a spicy marinara and a dollop of lemon scented ricotta. This was a winner for all of us. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough. My younger son (age 5) was ready to lick the plate clean. The ravioli is a special for dumpling week, but perhaps they will bring it back.
1205 SW Washington St.
1506 NW 23rd Ave.
1375 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Chin’s Kitchen is a family owned Chinese restaurant, in the heart of Hollywood district. It has a long history in Portland, dating back more than 60 years. More recently under new ownership, the restaurant a menu that specializes in northeastern Chinese cuisine. They hand make their own dumplings and offer a large variety. We ordered the classic pork and chives, as well as the vegetarian ones. My older son probably ate 9 of these dumplings in one sitting. They are fresh, packed with flavor, and plentiful (my son especially wanted me to add that detail — he was still sad about only getting 1.5 ravioli at Grassa). Fun fact: Chin’s Kitchen was recently on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
4126 NE Broadway
Shanghais Best is a recently converted food cart to brick and mortar in the Pine Street Market in downtown. They specialize in sheng jian bao, a mix between a doughy bao and a potsticker with a crispy bottom. We ordered pork dumplings and vegetarian dumplings. The vegetarian one was a surprising favorite, filled with egg, chives, and bean thread noodles. My meat-loving kids preferred it to the pork one. Unfortunately the dumplings fell apart too easily, which made the pork dumplings dry. It’s supposed to have a burst of juice inside. Even with the mess, we ate it all — well, except for the slippery one that rolled off my younger son’s chopsticks to the ground.
126 SW 2nd Ave.
Our family had a great time getting to know the dumplings spots in town, and we have a couple of favorites we will be revisiting. Can’t wait for Portland Mercury‘s Pizza Week, typically in April, and Burger Week, usually in August.