No matter when you visit Portland, you can enjoy a variety of dumplings at these terrific eateries. Every February, Portland celebrates its love for dough-wrapped delights with Dumpling Week, a citywide celebration featuring inventive dumpling creations that you won’t find anywhere (or anytime) else.
Pure Spice Restaurant
For fresh, handmade Chinese dumplings at a wallet-friendly price, head to Pure Spice, an unassuming restaurant hidden in a strip mall on Southeast 87th Avenue in the Jade District. The generous dim sum menu is peppered with classic Cantonese small plates, including gossamer-wrapped shrimp or pork and chive dumplings served from a steaming basket. And with their reasonable prices, you can afford to eat to your heart’s content.
All hail the soup dumpling! Chinese soup dumplings, called xiaolongbao (or “XLB” for short), were lamentably scarce in Portland until XLB appeared in January 2017. Pockets of paper-thin dough surrounding a bite of meat and piping-hot broth, XLB are notoriously tricky to make — and eat. (Treat that steaming broth with care.) This laid-back North Williams Avenue spot serves up these treasures along with steamed buns, stir-fries and other authentic Chinese street food.
Head to the heart of Southeast Portland’s Jade District to find Master Kong, a Chinese spot offering no-frills fare in a casual, diner-style setting. Enjoy noodles, congee (rice porridge), buns, veggies, soup — and, of course, dumplings. Their handmade dumplings are tender and flavorful. They also serve soup dumplings and potstickers (with a perfect contrast of tender tops and crispy bottoms). Their house-made sauces — including chili, soy, peanut and garlic — give each dish an extra kick.
The same family who brought you the beloved Portland restaurant Han Oak also owns and operates this sister restaurant — Toki offers similar flavors and high-quality ingredients in a friendly, casual setting. The mandu are Korean dumplings stuffed with tender beef and pork, then steamed and smothered in a tangy sauce. Be sure to save your leftover sauce for dipping the other dishes (which include comforting favorites like chicken wings, short ribs and pork chops).
The Portland ramen scene has exploded in recent years, spurred by the arrival of two authentic eateries straight from Tokyo.
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For one of the most popular Polish pierogis in town, you’ll need a membership to the Polish Library Building Association. But don’t worry: a one-day membership will only set you back one dollar. Once you’re official, you’ll have access to Grandpa’s Cafe and their handmade potato and cheese dumplings. Topped with caramelized onions and plenty of sour cream, they’re even better when washed down with an imported Polish brew. The café is open infrequently, so check ahead and plan your visit accordingly.
Blaring Russian pop ballads and sporting a globe-trotting vodka list, Soviet-inspired Kachka is a Portland dining experience not to be missed. The dumplings here are chewy and petite and can be ordered panfried or swimming in a decadent broth. The meaty pelmeni (dumplings with thin, unleavened dough) are stuffed with beef, veal and pork, while the vareniki (half-moon-shaped dumplings) come with farmer’s cheese —think the Russian version of a pierogi — or sour cherry. Wash it down with a curated vodka flight and a pickleback.
For a quick dumpling fix in Southeast Portland, visit the crisp white Pelmeni Pelmeni food cart, where locals line up for dumplings packed with chicken, beef or potato and topped with sour cream, Russian ketchup, onions and dill (consider a bowl of borsch soup on the side). They offer dumpling orders in two sizes, so you can tailor your order to your appetite. For those who prefer their dumpling dough wrapped around something sweet, the farmer’s cheese dumplings (with jam and condensed milk) provide a dessert option.
Afuri started life as a popular izakaya (a casual Japanese bar) and noodle shop in Japan. Fortunately for Portlanders, when the time came to expand, founder and owner Hiroto Nakamura chose Portland as the site of Afuri’s first American outpost — today there are several locations across the city. Though it’s often thought of as a ramen shop first, Afuri’s dumplings shine. The pork gyoza feature a tender core in a delicate wrapper, fried to crispy perfection. Try the miso-cashew gyoza for a vegetarian take, boosted by a flavorful blend of garlic, cabbage and kimchi.
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