In this three part series I travel Christchurch in search of the best vegetarian dumplings, assisted by guest expert (and real vegetarian) Netta Egoz.
Our first stop is Welcome in Upper Riccarton. The lighting is bright and the music is soft enough that you can hear the conversations at the surrounding tables. They’re known for fresh vegetables and bubbling sauces in the hotplates and clay pots. No one comes to Welcome for the dumplings. Neither of us had ever had them, this was uncharted territory.
Netta Egoz: We should go to a proper Chinese restaurant next.
Taste Transfixed: This isn’t?
NE: No, this is a Chinese style vegetarian restaurant. I used to come here in Uni. It’s full of academic types. Vegan gothic science professors.
The dumplings were small and doughy. The dough to filling ratio was about 1:1, whereas we agree that an ideal dump has far more filling than dough. We rip one in half, there’s no green inside. Presentation is not a priority with these dumplings. They looked suspiciously like the bottom tier pre-packaged frozen variety that I once bought by accident from the Korean grocery down the street.
TT: What’s in the dumplings? Mushy cabbage?
NE: And a carrot.
TT: A carrot? Just one?
NE: Not much carrot.
We ordered Tasty Siew Mai (moneybags) and counted them as dumplings in hopes that they would be better. Although the interior didn’t look very appetising, we agreed that the Siew Mai were tastier than the dumplings. Netta pointed out that looks aren’t everything.
NE: I would say they’re full of tofu or some sort of miscellaneous vegetable matter. Or as I call it, MVM.
NE: I just made that up.
TT: You’re the expert!
They have a variety of sauces that help to make up for the lacklustre dumps. Black bean, chilli, tomato sauce, vinegar, sweet and sour, soy. The sauces are in plastic bottles reminiscent of diner condiments and labeled with felt marker on masking tape. We had to dock points for the lack of a bowl, it’s just not as effective to mix the sauces on a plate.
NE: One of my co-workers got sent a box of wine, and I was like, that’s nothing, one of my clients is naming a sheep after me. I thought she was kidding, but then she sent me a photo of Netta the sheep.
At least the conversation was better than the dumplings. The truth is that we didn’t even know whether Welcome had dumplings or not, we just wanted the hotplates. That’s where the excitement is, this is all you need.
Hotplate Sambal Lemon Eggplant Tofu. Madonna – Like A Prayer (Z-Trip remix).
NE: I made the mistake of getting the Mexican Cube here once.
TT: What is it?
NE: I couldn’t tell you what it is, actually.
She changes the subject, not wanting to talk about the Mexican Cube anymore.
NE: This is really grizzly, but I like the idea of you getting robbed on the way home and all they find in your bag is dumpling tasting notes.
TT: Well, they’d also find wine tasting notes. And this….
We highly recommend Welcome for the hotplate and the clay pot. Just don’t get the dumplings, or under any circumstances, the Mexican Cube.