In an old Angelakis warehouse on Field Street, Lili Sun and Yong Gao are serving up dumplings made fresh in-store every day, providing a hand-made point of difference in Adelaide's dumpling scene.
Good dumplings are an obsession at Dumpling City
Dumplings have been an obsession for Lili Sun and Yong Gao for the last 12 years.
The couple moved to Australia from China in 2009, and selected South Australia as their new home due to the “very good opportunities” the state offered to migrants.
“As long as we stay here for two or three years, then we can get a visa for permanent residence here,” Lili says.
“So we said, ‘Just two years, let’s go to South Australia. It doesn’t really matter.’ But after we arrived here, we fell in love with this place.”
Before coming to South Australia, neither Lili nor Yong worked in hospitality, but, due of a language barrier, starting up their own shop seemed like the easiest way to start earning a living.
This is where the dumpling obsession began.
They first started up Dumpling Box, a Chinese snack bar located inside the Southern Cross Arcade, before shutting the store down and taking work at Hot & Spicy Kitchen on Gouger Street.
All the while, Yong continued to work on perfecting his dumpling recipes.
The couple were eating at noted Korean dumpling establishment, Mandoo, one day, when the owner asked Lili if she knew of any good Chinese dumplings in Adelaide.
“I said to my husband, ‘I can’t even answer her question. I feel so sad that I can’t say yes, there is one,’” she recalls.
With this revelation, the duo decided to set up a new dumpling restaurant: Dumpling City, which they officially launched on Field Street last week (though it has been operating since September 2020).
“The dumpling, it’s traditional, very special in China, and I think a lot of culture is for the dumpling,” Yong says.
“I taste a lot of dumplings from Sydney, Melbourne, all the big cities have a favourite one. Only Adelaide we can’t find any dumpling like my hometown.
“We can’t find the mum-made dumpling, so I tried to.”
Dumpling City takes dumplings very seriously. Yong went back to China to train in dumpling-making with a famous chef, and unlike many dumpling restaurants, each delicious parcel is made in-house and on-site that day.
The tell of a quality dumpling, Lili says, is in the thinness of the skin.
“Dumplings is not that hard to make, to be honest. It looks hard… but, at the end of the day, it’s not that hard to make, as long as the ingredients are fresh and the skin is thin,” she says.
In Lili’s dumpling reconnaissance around the Adelaide CBD, she noticed thicker skin meant the dumplings had been made in bulk and then frozen, leading, in her opinion, to an inferior product.
“A frozen one, you have to make the skin thick so it can hold everything. So as long as ingredients are fresh and it’s make on the spot, that’s it,” she says.
The menu at Dumpling City is expansive, but there are many more recipes that Lili and Yong will introduce over time, as seasons change and less popular menu items get dropped.
“My mother told me, ‘You can put anything in a dumpling,’” Yong laughs.
Lili suggests the prawn, chive and pork dumpling, which is the dumpling most people have in their minds when they talk about dumplings, she says, but she and Yong both agree the fish dumplings are their favourite.
“The fish dumpling is something special too, because really people don’t eat fish, most of them are meat,” Lili says.
“But it depends, some people love it. If you’re not used to seafood, people hate it. I don’t know. We grew up seaside, so we love it.”
Dumpling City is located in a building on Field Street that was previously an Angelakis warehouse, and has been extensively refurbished. With exposed brick throughout the restaurant, the lower floor has a more casual dining hall feel, whereas upstairs is laid out in a more restaurant-style fit out.
The eatery is open seven days a week, from 10:30am ‘til 9:30pm Monday to Thursday, and 10:30am ‘til 10:30pm Friday through Sunday.