It's impossible to eat 20 dumplings and not end up stuffed like a dumpling yourself.
That's my verdict after attending the second annual Golden Dumpling Cook Off and Derby on Sunday (August 10) as a guest of the festival.
The festival sold out of its dumpling passports as eager eaters sampled from each of the 20 competing restaurants.
The creativity and diversity of dumplings on offer was impressive, as you'll see below. But in the end, the judges and festival-goers—who each cast ballots for the best dumpling—agreed on first and second place.
First place in both the judges' and People's Choice categories was Maenam chef Angus An's Thai seafood dumpling in Southern-style turmeric curry. This was a gorgeous creation stuffed with seafood and long beans and topped with salmon roe, coconut, and lime leaves.
Second place in both categories went to Winner Winner. Chefs Alain Chow, Chen-Wei Lee, and Stanley Yung made local crab and shellfish parcels with preserved duck egg yolks and seasoned vinegar.
The judges voted La Mezcaleria into third place. Chef Alejandro Cruz made a braised beef chicharrón in a guajillo chili sauce dumpling topped with queso fresco, salsa verde, and cream.
Third place in the People's Choice award went to Bestie. Chef Colin Johnson made a smoky bison wonton with chili jam and kohlrabi slaw.
Many of the dumplings veered from a typical Asian flavour profile. (The only requirement was that the dumpling be "something wrapped in something".)
Many chefs went with Italian dumplings. Cinara chefs Lucais Syme and Gill Book, for example, made a delicate pork and Swiss chard agnolotti. Cibo's chef Faizal Kassam made a braised pork and fig agnoli with taleggia and crispy sage.
Campagnolo chefs Nathan Lowey and Joachim Hayward did a ricotta and kale gnudi with local tomatoes and ricotta salata.
And chef Vikram Vij's showed off Indian dumplings with a large chicken samosa.
I needed a break after 11 dumplings but soldiered on to the finish line of 20 over a few hours. My favourite was Maenam's lovely creation (above), and Winner Winner also deserved recognition. Some other favourites?
Bearfoot Bistro's chef Jimmy Stewart's duck and shrimp dumplings with lemongrass and fried garlic.
Homer Street Cafe and Bar's chef Tret Jordan's chicken and leek dumpling, which was like chicken à la king in a tiny parcel, with a velvety, buttery sauce.
Merchant's Oyster Bar chef David Jackman's braised duck dumpling was tart and delicious with smoked plum and a house buttermilk and shiso sauce.
Guu chef Yuki Ota gets bonus points in my book for creativity with a dumpling wrapped in a dumpling: his pork and shrimp dumpling came encased in a tofu-bag wrapper.
Pidgin chef Makoto Ono was the only participant to make a sweet dumpling: a candy-shaped sweet potato and chocolate creation with a light goji-berry sauce that put a nice finish on the afternoon.